Skip Navigation
John Nacil Bowling
John Nacil Bowling´┐Żs military portrait
was taken at Fort Bragg, North Carolina,
in 1941. Find A Grave photo courtesy Frederic Blais

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

Remember...

John Nacil Bowling
1922-1944

"It was a different world then. It was a world that required young men like myself to be prepared to die for a civilization that was worth living in."

Harry Read, British D-Day veteran

John Nelson Bowling married his second wife, Charlotte (also known as Lottie) Tolliver, in 1903, when he was 35 and she was 16. The marriage took place after Mr. Bowling's first wife, Sallie, died. To the five living children born to his first wife, John Bowling added eight more with Charlotte, though only six of her eight children were alive when John Nacil Bowling was born in Flat Top, West Virginia, in Mercer County on June 16, 1922.

The 1910 and 1920 Federal Census records list the children living with Mr. and Mrs. Bowling, and Mr. Bowling is noted as a farmer in both documents. In 1926, Mr. Bowling died at the age of 59 due to injuries received in a vehicle accident. In the 1930 census, Mrs. Bowling was listed as head of the household and son Nelson was listed as a laborer. Mrs. Bowling's occupation was listed as farming, and she lived with children Nelson, Sallie, Alva, John Nacil, and Clemis Archie.

The 1940 census was recorded in April in Mercer County. At that time, Mrs. Bowling was 51 and had no occupation of record. With her was her son Nelson, her daughter-in-law Lula, and sons John and Clemis (who was sometimes known by his middle name Archie). Nelson worked as a coal loader, and the other sons were farmers.

On August 29, 1940, John Bowling enlisted in the U.S. Army at Fort Thomas, Kentucky. He was single, without dependents, according to the enlistment record, and had a grammar school education. In the states, he was trained at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and he eventually rose to the rank of technical sergeant. Though the enlistment information says that the terms of enlistment were for the Philippine Department, John Bowling was headed for France as a member of Company K of the 39th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division.

An article in the Raleigh Register ("John Bowling Advises All Young Men To Join the Army," 26 April 1942) reported that John Bowling attained the rank of sergeant after 18 months in the army. John Bowling wrote a statement for the article indicating that he'd been home on furlough over Christmas, saying that "he likes the army, and he advises all young men to join."

According to a later article in the Raleigh Register ("Sgt. Bowling Is Wounded," 17 August 1944), John Bowling was a veteran of the North African and Sicily campaign. He'd been deployed first to England, in October of 1942, later joining campaigns in North Africa and Sicily. Then he was sent to England again to be among those staging and training for the invasion of France. The article also reported that John Bowling's brother, Charles Nelson Bowling, was also serving at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.

In fact, the information in the Raleigh Register article matches the movements of the 39th Infantry Regiment in World War II. The regiment became a part of the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 1940. During WWII, the mission of the 39th was to secure the northern coast of Africa, where they landed on November 8, 1942. From there, the 39th moved on to Sicily and adopted the slogan "Triple A Bar Nothing," which meant "Anything, Anytime, Anywhere Bar Nothing." They lived up to the slogan when they moved to England to train and prepare for the Normandy invasion. The regiment landed on Utah Beach and continued the fight for Cherbourg Peninsula, the Contentin Peninsula, and Anderville. According to the unit history, the Battle of the Hedgerows followed, beginning after July 1, which marked the fall of Anderville.

Next followed the famous "Battle of the Hedgerows", the large earth walls covered with large bushes and trees, dividing the many farming fields in Normandy. For 25 days the men of the Fighting Falcons fought, bled and died in of the bloodiest battles of all time. After the St. Lo breakthrough, the 39th Regiment raced across France, tangling with the retreating Germans at every town and crossroads where the Germans choose to stand and fight. ("39th Infantry Regiment," www.9thinfantrydivision.net, accessed 21 January 2020, https://9thinfantrydivision.net/39th-infantry-regiment/.)

Headstone for T/Sgt. John N. Bowling at Arlington National Cemetery. Find A Grave photo courtesy John Evans

Headstone for T/Sgt. John N. Bowling at Arlington National Cemetery. Find A Grave photo courtesy John Evans

In October, the Raleigh Register reported that John N. Bowling had been killed in action. In fact, he'd died July 19, 1944, in France, which would have been during the Battle of the Hedgerows. Another article reported that John Bowling's body was returned to the states (May 1949) after having been interred in temporary military graveyards in Europe. Interment records indicate that John Bowling is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. A cenotaph was found in Flat Top Cemetery, where a headstone sits bearing both John Nacil and John Nelson Bowling's names. T/Sgt. Bowling was awarded a Good Conduct Medal, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart.
The grave marker for John Nelson Bowling in Flat Top Cemetery, Mercer County, West Virginia, honors his son John Nacil Bowling as well. Courtesy Emily Mullens

The grave marker for John Nelson Bowling in Flat Top Cemetery, Mercer County, West Virginia, honors his son John Nacil Bowling as well. Courtesy Emily Mullens

Article prepared by Cynthia Mullens
January 2020

Honor...

John Nacil Bowling

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.


Veterans Memorial Database

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

West Virginia Archives and History

West Virginia Archives and History