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Becoming a paratrooper

Heroes Remember

Becoming a paratrooper

In the army, parachuting is just another means of transportation basically. But because of the fact that once you were on the ground you’d probably be able to function for maybe 48 hours at the most, by that time somebody had to relieve you because, you know, you could only carry so much stuff. But the training for it was tough, oh it was tough. You ran all the time and we had sergeants who were absolutely merciless, but good fellows, and if you failed, you know, you had to give them so many pushups, etc. I think when I left the parachute school I probably owed them about a thousand pushups or something. But they worked on you, you started from the ground practising exits out of a mock fuselage. You went to a tower, where you practised exits which was very difficult because that thing is only 28 feet off the ground so when you stood there, you know, you knew it, and you had to launch yourself out, you were hooked to cables and slid down. And we went to the high tower over in Shiloh, that was 250 feet up, you were taken up in an open chute and released and drifted down, we liked that. But they built you up physically and mentally so that when you did your first paradrop out of an aircraft, it was a glorious feeling.Of course, it’s not natural to jump out of an airplane at a couple thousand feet, you know, so you have to bring yourself up to a certain degree. And we used to register the effectiveness of a jumper by what he could do when he got on the ground because some fellas it took every bit of energy they had and will power to exit that plane and when they got on the ground they were, “Ugh”, you know, and they couldn’t fight. So we used to say, you know, getting down is one thing but being able to pick yourself up and go on and do your job is different so when you thrust yourself out of that airplane and the canopy opened... “aaahhh” a wonderful feeling, you know.

Mr. Bowen discusses in detail the physical training necessary to become a paratrooper, and describes the emotional turmoil that sometimes resulted from jumping out of an aircraft.

Gerald Bowen

Gerald R. Bowen was born in Ottawa, Ontario on October 13, 1925. He attended Lisgard High School, and was a paperboy. His family had prior military experience. His uncle had served in the Air Force and his father in the Army, later becoming an historian with the Department of National Defence. Mr. Bowen enlisted in the Navy where he became a telegrapher, serving aboard a Royal Canadian Navy frigate on convoy duty in the North Atlantic until the war ended. He left the service for a brief time and re-enlisted in the Canadian Army, where he became a paratrooper and a specialist in sabotage. He later served as a peacekeeper in Cyprus. Mr. Bowen’s extensive experience in the Canadian military offers us some very informative and perceptive anecdotes.

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Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Gerald Bowen
War, Conflict or Mission:
Canadian Armed Forces

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