Jeff Edward Jowers
|HOME OF RECORD:
Haines City, FL
|NEXT OF KIN:
Mother, Mrs. Ida Jowers
|DATE OF BIRTH:
10/12/1942 – 1945
|DATE OF DEATH:
|LAST KNOWN RANK:
Jeff Jowers – Edward to his family – was born in January, 1916, to Walter and Ida Jowers of Polk County, Florida. When Walter died in 1921, Ida was left to raise Edith, Talmadge, Edward, and Ernestine on her own. The boys left school early to work; the girls married and for a time the Jowers house at 423 North 8th Street contained Haskin (Edith) and Boyd (Ernestine) in-laws.
Jowers found a job as a truck driver for a local canning plant, where he worked with his brother-in-law Bennie Boyd. As his siblings moved away to start families, Edward seems to have taken it upon himself to watch out for his mother – that is, until the attack on Pearl Harbor. With his older brother Talmadge joining the Army, it was hard for Edward to stay out of the military, mother or no mother. He traveled to Orlando to join the Marines on October 12, 1942; ahead of him in line was his future squadmate, Raymond Jordan of Tampa. Both Jowers and Jordan were big men, and both were immediately christened “Tiny” – the stock Marine joke – though his Southern roots also earned Jowers the nickname of “Rebel.”
After completing training with the Fourth Recruit Battalion at Parris Island, the Tinys transferred to Company A, First Separate Battalion, at New River. Both were assigned to the weapons platoon commanded by Second Lieutenant Philip E. Wood, Jr; Jowers was promoted to Private First Class on January 15, and became the leader of the first machine gun squad.
Although older than most of his comrades at the age of 26, Tiny Jowers quickly proved to be a popular figure in the platoon. He was particular friends with gunner George Smith, a teenager from Philadelphia. “He took a liking to me, don’t ask me why,” said Smith. “He had a saying – instead of ‘come here’ he’d say ‘COME-AH HEAH’ and the sucker would grab me and scream in my ear, I guess as a sign of affection or something!”
Jowers with his friends at New River in 1942.
In the spring of 1943, the First Separate Battalion transferred out to Camp Pendleton, California, where they were re-designated as First Battalion, 24th Marines. On his first day in the boondocks, Tiny Jowers made an unpleasant discovery.
One of thousands of snakes in Camp Pendeton’s backcountry.
At some point during training in 1943, Jowers was offered a change of position. His background as a trucker had been noticed, and the company was in need of jeep drivers. Despite transferring out of the machine guns, Jowers stayed close with his former platoon, and was often seen palling around with George Smith, Tom Hurley, and Amedeo Izzo. They often went on liberty together, and Tiny’s marked success with the fairer sex was the subject of much conversation. “He had a face that looked like an alligator, he looked so rough, but he’d go on liberty and women would fall all over the guy,” remarked Smith. “I said to him once, ‘Tiny, what the hell do you do?’ And he said, ‘I treat ’em like a lady. As long as you do that, you’ll never have any trouble.’ And I never forgot that – he was certainly the epitome of that.”
When the battalion shipped out for the invasion of Namur in January 1944, Jowers was left behind. He and two dozen other Marines – mostly clerks and administrators – had been chosen to sail for Hawaii, where they would help to establish the Fourth Marine Division’s base of operations at Camp Maui. When his company arrived, bloodied and battered from their first fight against the Japanese, Tiny Jowers could be found hovering around his machine-gunner friends, pressing them for stories, admiring their scars, and mourning the loss of PFCs Steve Hopkins and Paul Southerland, the platoon’s first casualties.
Jowers would get his turn to fight in the summer of 1944. He made the Saipan landing on June 15; there wasn’t much driving to be done in the first few days, so Jowers spent most of his time on security for Captain Irving Schechter‘s company headquarters. As the Marine advance gained more ground, the vehicles could be brought up to bring supplies to the front; Jowers and Corporal Virgil Cawood spent hours making shuttle runs each day. With this freedom of movement, the two pals (Cawood, like Jowers, was a former machine gunner) had a little time to explore – on one of their adventures, they “liberated” a decent supply of Japanese wine. Rather than going on a spree, they decided to save their treasure for the right moment.
That moment came on June 22. The battalion’s Company C was ambushed by a strong Japanese force; as Company A raced up Hill 700 to help, they were caught by flanking fire from hidden enemy guns. From the relative safety of company headquarters, Jowers could hear the roar of artillery and machine guns – he kept an ear out for the distinctive chatter of the .30 caliber Brownings manned by his friends. Soon the wounded began streaming back towards the aid station. Jowers was startled to see his friend George Smith, bloodied and wide-eyed with shock, leading three other wounded gunners, including Tiny Jordan. Jordan had been hit in the face and blinded, “Cease” Stafford’s arm was hanging on by a shred, and Prentis Parsons had a punctured lung. Without a word, Jowers and Cawood went to their jeep, broke out their supply of wine, and started passing the bottles out to their wounded friends. (For his part, Smith drank two bottles and “felt no pain” on his way back to the hospital ship.) It was the last time Tiny and Smith would meet during the war.
Jowers survived the remainder of Saipan and the following invasion of Tinian. He was promoted to corporal in the fall of 1944, but in October was sent up to the casual battalion of the Fleet Marine Force. The reasons for this are unclear, but he was evidently ill or injured–Jowers was released from “convalescent camp” in January 1945, and raced to meet his company aboard the USS Hendry at Oahu. He arrived only two days before the ship departed for Iwo Jima.
On February 2, Corporal Jowers was attached to the battalion’s Headquarters Company. He survived the fighting on Iwo, and joined his comrades of Company A for a photograph at the very end of the battle.
Although he survived three battles unwounded, Jowers would not end the war with his battalion. He was promoted to sergeant, but fell sick in July, 1945, and was hospitalized once again. Upon his release, Jowers was sent to a safe rear-echelon job with the 17th Service Battalion, and was driving for a supply depot when the war ended in September. He returned to the United States with the Fourth Motor Transport Battalion, and was honorably discharged in the winter of 1945.
Jowers collected his separation papers and returned to Florida to see his mother. He met a war widow named Doris Sloat, consoled her in the loss of her husband, treated her “like a lady,” and married her in 1947. They had no children by the time of their divorce in 1971, but “Uncle Edward” was adored by his nieces and nephews. His voyages through the Pacific did not dim his love of traveling, and he remained a committed voyager until his death in October, 1986.
Tiny Jowers is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, Kissimmee, Florida.