Lt. Colonel John Boeman was a pilot, author & philosopher

10608 Lake Shore Boulevard
1st Lieutenant John Bowman
1st Lieutenant John Bowman

John Bowman was a pilot, author, and philosopher.

It is doubtful that John Bowman's thirty-four-year career in the U.S. Airforce during the Korean War, the Cold War, and the Vietnam war can match the intensity of his time spent as a World War II bomber pilot in the South Pacific. He was based on Morotai Island, a significant Japanese military base captured by Allied forces in 1944 and developed into a strategic airbase.

He flew twenty-two missions as a B-24 pilot. The single most crucial moment of his life occurred on May 28, 1945, when the B-24 he piloted crashed on takeoff. Boeman was never quite sure what happened. The plane came off the ground, airspeed hit 120, and Boeman ordered the landing gear retracted. “A tremendous scraping, rending screech jarred my consciousness,” Boeman wrote. “I jammed my feet against the brake pedals. FOOL . . . You’ve already called for gear up . . . The B-24 was sliding down the coral strip on its belly.”

The plane veered left, and Boeman tried to throw it into a loop by opening the left throttles to full power, forcing the aircraft to pivot on its belly and hopefully circle to a stop. It almost worked. Unfortunately, Boeman ran out of runway; the plane crashed and exploded.

Boeman crawled out through the pilot's side window just in time to see his navigator, stunned or unconscious, still sitting at his station. Flames consumed him. Two other members of the plane's ten-member crew died in the crash and fire.

For those that survived, the physical wounds healed, but other wounds did not. Four men had died, and their commander had no good reason why. John Boeman continued to feel the pain of guilt.

The plane crash ended the war for Boeman; shortly before Hiroshima ended the war for everybody, he went home to Illinois, where he met Lucille, his wife-to-be.

“I was just 21 when the war ended. I’d lived a lot of life in 20 months. Before I enlisted in the war, my greatest ambition was to go to college, play football, go back to my hometown, coach football, and teach mathematics.”

“The war made me a lot more serious for the rest of my life. I guess you’d call it loss of innocence.” The idea of playing football in college after what I’d gone through seemed plain silly, childish.”

He attended the University of Illinois, graduating with a major in psychology and philosophy. "I started reading about Socrates and Marxism and communism and all that," he recounted. “I wanted to study how to solve world problems without war.”

Four years of civilian life netted him two college degrees and a job in Tampa, Florida selling hardware at Sears. So his decision to return to the U.S. Airforce is easy to understand.

John became a C-54 pilot in Korea from 1950 to 1952 and a transport pilot from 1952 to 1954 with the Military Air Transport Command. He flew B-47s and B-52s during the cold war for the Strategic Air Command and was inspector general of the Military Assistance Command during Vietnam. His final assignment was as commander of the Northeast Ohio Recruiting Detachment at the Federal Office building in Cleveland.

In 1962, he earned a master's degree from George Washington University in public administration and graduated from Air Command and Staff College in 1963.

When he came to Cleveland as commander of an Air Force recruiting detachment in 1970, Colonel Boeman found himself pelted with angry words from civilians who objected to the American involvement in the Vietnam War.

John Boeman
John Boeman

The Bowmans met Mayor William Klein at a party at Gwinn. When Klein heard that they were house-hunting, he wasted no time introducing them to a real estate agent in the community. They looked at five homes before choosing to purchase 10608 Lake Shoe Boulevard on November 27, 1971.

Shortly after his 1972 retirement that capped thirty-five years in the military, and after half-hearted attempts at making a living in real estate and employment agencies, John Boeman stayed in Bratenahl.

He got the idea that he could educate others and study himself by writing about himself and his experiences. So Boeman decided to tell of his first twenty-one years in a detached way. He planned to document that portion of the truth that he had personally observed: that pilots were not devil-may-care flyboys, nor were they blithe mass murderers. Mostly, they were just very young men, quickly trained until they were very green pilots.

He began writing his first book about his experiences and views on war, peace, and life. "I started reading about Socrates and Marxism and communism and all that," he said. "I wanted to study how to solve world problems without war."

Morotai, A Memoir of War was the result of four years' worth of writing and rewriting and was published by Doubleday in 1981. When it finally came out, and I started getting my royalties, I figured out that on an hourly basis, I could have made more money if I'd gone down to Public Square and sold pencils."

He next wrote Peace from War to War, printed by Sunflower University Press in 1991.  He also wrote articles for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “So far, what I’ve figured out is we learned a lot from the war, but we came up short on learning all we need to learn.”

John Sigler Boeman was born December 4, 1923, in Kempton, Illinois, the son of George and Winifred Boeman. He received his education at Kempton High School.

He married Lucille Weller, who was born in 1922. They had nine children: Vicki (Jones), George, Mary (Casstevens), and Norman. In addition, Suzanne (Koporc), Raymond, Melanie, Thomas, and Christopher attended Bratenahl School.

John was president of the Cleveland and Ohio chapters of the Air Force Association and the Retired Officers Association. In addition, he belonged to Boy Scout Leaders and the Cleveland Minority Engineering Foundation.

On August 16, 1998, John died at his Bratenahl home while working on his third book. Lucille died in May 2014. Both are buried in Lake View Cemetery.