photograph of gunsight with u.s. flag in background

World War II U.S. Navy Armed Guard
World War II U.S. Merchant Marine

In Memory of Tom Bowerman



The Men

The Ships

The Stories

And More...



Obtain Military Records

Contact Us


u.s. navy armed guard logo

u.s. merchant marine logo

Merchant Marine seal courtesy of American Merchant Marine at War,

Photograph at top of page
© 2009-2014 Dale E. Carlson

In Memory of Tom Bowerman

Thomas R. "Tom" Bowerman, founder and original webmaster of this website, died December 16, 2007, after a long illness. He was 85 years old. Rest in peace, sailor.

This website was founded and for many years was maintained by Tom Bowerman of Anniston, Alabama. An Armed Guard veteran, his goal was to honor the men of the Armed Guard and the merchant marine by finding, collecting and bringing together their stories on this website. In that effort he succeeded magnificently. The World War II U.S. Navy Armed Guard and World War II Merchant Marine website is dedicated to his memory.

An Appreciation

In a foreword to the story of his life, he said, "I am not an interesting person. However, I lived during an interesting period." He could not have been more wrong, nor more right. Thomas R. Bowerman was not only an interesting person. He was a lot more than that. And he lived in a time that was also beyond interesting.

Like many of his contemporaries, Tom knew the depths of poverty and the uncertainty of war at sea. But he refused to be whipped by adversity and managed to make a mark for himself in a world that often seemed to be against him. More than anything else, as many see it, Tom rescued from obscurity the history of the U.S. Naval Armed Guard Service and placed it on the Internet for the world to see.

Tom was a gunner's mate with the Armed Guard, which, as anyone who visits this web site knows, manned the guns installed on merchant ships during the second world war. But his personal history goes far beyond his wartime service. He was born in 1922, in Pensacola, Florida, and spent his boyhood moving from town to town in the South -- to Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas.

"We were poor," he would write later, "and not just poor. We were dirt poor, the kind of poor that lets you weigh just 122 pounds when you're six feet tall."

He went to school wherever his family happened to be living, and graduated from high school in 1940, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The country was still mired in the Great Depression at that time, and Tom looked in vain for work. He soon joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, which among other things assigned out-of-work young men to building roads and planting trees. Soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Tom enlisted in the Navy.

He served on five different ships, including Liberties and tankers, and by war's end was a gunner's mate second class. Civilian life called for an adjustment he found difficult to make, so Tom enlisted in the Army and then the Air Force, and finally enrolled at the University of Alabama, which in 1955 granted him a degree in accounting. For a quarter of a century he worked at the Anniston (Alabama) Army Depot, retiring in 1984 as Director of Management Information Systems.

In retirement, he put his computer skills to work on behalf of Armed Guard veterans. He created a web site and searched the Internet for others who had served in this little-known arm of the Navy. He rounded up pictures and personal histories and put old former sailors in touch with onetime shipmates they had neither seen nor heard of for decades.

Tom was still at it until mid-June of 2007, when failing health forced him to step down as webmaster. And he was still looking in on the site he had created when death caught up with him on December 16, 2007.

All who were touched by the work of this gentle and generous man will surely join me in wishing him a fair wind and a following sea in the Hereafter, along with shipmates who are good friends as well as good sailors.

Francis B. Kent
Armed Guard veteran

Farewell from Tom Bowerman, Webmaster 1992 - 15 June 2007

I depart as webmaster of this site with mixed emotions. I have built and maintained what started as a dream and very often spent 18 to 20 hours daily working on it. I met and became friends with hundreds of the best people on Planet Earth.

I realized I had two options, die and let the site die with me or make an orderly transition to a new owner and a new webmaster. I found Project Liberty Ship and Ron Carlson and soon learned they are ideal for this site.

Thanks for the memories, thank you so much. I will be around and will be a frequent poster in the Message Board of this site.

Tom Bowerman

Tom's obituary from The Anniston (Alabama) Star

Messages of Condolence

Tom's thank you message to his supporters

Webmaster Tom Bowerman presents
The World War II US Navy Armed Guard Veterans
The World War II Merchant Marine Veterans
With Special Thanks to:
Mike Janson, Tug Boat First Mate, for a new legal size scanner.
Louis Cafiero and Dean and Patty Tackitt
Rhode Island & Eastern Massachusetts Armed Guard Chapter
St. John's River Chapter of AMMV
Michigan Chapter US Navy Armed Guard World War II Veterans
North Atlantic Chapter of AMMV - Massapequa, NY
USN Armed Guard World War II - IA - MN Chapter
SFV USN AG World War II Vets - Phone 818-367-7763
Metra Electronics Corp in honor of William H Jones
Fran Kent and Ben Reid and Alex Lombardi

A new Dell Dimension 4600C computer was purchased by the son of Merchant Marine Veteran Kent L. Sanborn to help assure continuation of this web site.
The Lord moves in mysterious ways!

Tom's honor page, created on Father's Day, June 17, 2007, at the request of his son Barry.

Another page about Tom, created by Tom himself.

Read Tom's autobiography, titled Fireclay.

Tom's statement of principle about this website:

"No man owns history, therefore you should feel free to use anything in this web site that is not credited to someone other than myself or the current webmaster for any purpose you see fit. The only important thing is that the actions by my US Navy and merchant marine comrades shall not be forgotten." -- Tom Bowerman, Webmaster emeritus

© 2007-2014 Project Liberty Ship

Contact the Webmaster