World War II Sea Bag

Tank you very much

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by Tom Wancho, Exhibit Planner

The first tank rolled off a London assembly line on September 6, 1915. It has been a staple of wars across the world ever since, a century of grunting, growling plated armor that is not necessarily smooth but is extremely effective.

Operating the 30+ ton vehicle took a coordinated effort. Typically the crew on an M5 Sherman tank (named after Civil War Union General William Tecumseh Sherman) consisted of a five man crew. Inside the tank, the driver sat at the left front with only a slit to see through, thus operating the vehicle with limited vision of his outside surroundings. The driver took orders from the commander who could look through the tank’s opened hatch or through a periscope. The compact quarters inside the tank also hosted the gunner, a shell loader, and a machinist.

Jack Bowman, born in Ranger, Texas, spent his formative years in Penwell. After graduating from Odessa High School in May 1942, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) and completed Tank School at the Tank Battalion Training Center at Camp Elliott, California, in March 1943.

Private First Class (PFC) Bowman served with B Company, 4th Medium Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division and engaged in action against Japanese forces at Roi-Namur in the Marshall Islands as well as assaults on Saipan and Tinian, both in the Marianas Islands. He then rotated back to Maui, Hawaii to train other tank crews, and was honorably discharged on October 27, 1945, two months after the war ended. 

Though making drawings on military-issued equipment was not encouraged by the Marines, Bowman stenciled this Sherman tank on his sea bag. Because the Marines were amphibious, they preferred the term “sea bag” over “duffel bag.” The number 913 indicates his unit’s number. PFC Bowman was issued this license authorizing him to drive any wheeled or tracked (tank) military vehicle on October 28, 1944.

Following the war, Bowman attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock, receiving his degree in geology in 1951. He was employed as an exploration geologist and later worked at Forest Oil Corporation in Midland until his death in December 1970.

See this and other artifacts on the Interactive Texas Map

World War II Sea Bag Artifact from San Antonio, Texas
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