Inside the Cockpit: Idaho World War II hero recalls flying

NAMPA, Idaho (KBOI) - The minute you start talking with retired Captain Chet Bowers, you realize they don't make them like they use to.

"We'd get up and be like... having a new pony.. boy we'd wanto to get on that horse and fly," Bowers said.

We caught up with Bowers at the Warhawk Museum in Nampa. He's right at home here.

"The crank would be right here and the mechanic would be up there.. rar rar rar rar rar..", Bowsers described starting the plane he learned on with enthusiasm.

Back in 1942 while serving in the Army Air Corps... Bowers learned to fly in a PT-17.

"What a sweet old girl, as far as aircraft go, it's the love of my life. You could do everything... snap rolls, slow rolls, loops, spins it would stand on its tail. It would do everything," Bowers said.

Not all memories are so fond. Bowers almost didn't make it back from the war. He recalls a mission where a German fighter almost took his bomber out.

"He knocked out our No. 3 engine. We lost our supercharger on another engine so we dropped out of the stream. We were in complete silence, just the sound of the two and a half good engines still running and clear skies. We kept hoping and praying the Luftwaffe didn't find us because we were dead meat."

"We spotted two specs off in the distance and kept watching them and they came into us and they were two P-47's. Those are Thunderbolts which I've flown. Bless them; they flew circles patterns all the way back to the English coast and we landed at an emergency airstrip," Bowers said.

Bowers lived to fight another day. A display case at the Warhawk museum is filled with his personal effects. You can see his flight logs, flight suit, helmet and goggles. But you have to talk with him to get the real story on the horrors of war.

"The worst thing would be aircraft in our group going down... spinning down and blowing up. Knowing that a crew you knew is no longer there. After a couple of German pilots got lost and laid a couple of bombs in London, Harris (English Commander) went to indiscriminate bombing. They would just hit the whole area When we went over.. carpet! The whole load went out. I think that was probably the worst thought in the war... of all those civilians down there being burned to death or blown up. That's probably the most depressing aspect I had of World War II," Bowers said.