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Louis Timmerman Bowring: Piloting the “Hereafter 727″

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 02, 2014

Ten years into his 20-year career in the U.S. Army, Capt. Louis Timmerman (“Tim”) Bowring began his first tour of duty in Vietnam. That was in 1967.

Service in the combat zone must have provided every reason for becoming discouraged and thinking the worst of people, but that is not what his service did to Capt. Bowing. “There has not been one day that I have been in Vietnam that has not been an inspiration,” he said once. “I am convinced more strongly than ever that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true. We have baptisms in the Mekong River in a grove of trees that could not be more beautiful or filled with the Spirit if it were the Sacred Grove. We have seen young men just in from the field of combat with full packs, weapons, and clothes all tattered, attend testimony meeting and bear such fervent witness of the gospel that not an eye in the group would be dry.”

Tim Bowing was born in Salt Lake City in 1937. He had married his high school sweetheart Annette, and five of their six children had been born by 1967. Tim Bowring became President Bowring in his 20s, when he was called to serve as president of the Ozark Branch in Coffee County, Alabama, in the Southern States Mission. Although he was released from that calling when, as Capt. Bowring he went to Vietnam in January 1967 as part of the 4th Transportation Command, he did not abandon the title of “president” for very long – he was soon sustained as president of the Church’s Southern District in Vietnam.

As president of that District, he supervised 17 servicemen’s groups scattered about South Vietnam. He also presided over the Saigon Branch of 350 members, which included Americans, Europeans, Vietnamese, and Chinese. The mission averaged three baptisms per month during Captain Bowring’s tenure.

Much of President Bowring’s attention was given to his servicemen’s groups. Individual groups ranged from 3 to 125 members, with about 700 in all, scattered throughout South Vietnam. Each of his groups tried to meet weekly for at least a priesthood and an sacrament meeting, and as regularly as possible they held weekly MIA study sessions. President Bowring was a great believer in personal study – he was himself taking a BYU correspondence course, and would eventually earn an advanced degree in communications from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Captain Bowring was normally on duty 12 hours per day, seven days per week – how did that leave him any time to attend to his Church duties??

One tool that helped him was that he had access to a helicopter besides the one he flew for his military missions. Somehow – and I don’t know how – Church leaders in Vietnam had access to a helicopter they dubbed the “Hereafter 727,” which they could use for Church purposes. Capt. Bowring listed the kinds of missions he performed in 1967 while using the “Hereafter 727″: to visit “soldiers in the field and servicemen’s groups; to attend a memorial service aboard a Navy LST for a young LDS man killed by the Viet Cong; for dropping off priesthood manuals to member groups, enabling them to carry on Church programs; to take care of priesthood ordinations; and for organizing and reorganizing servicemen’s groups.”

All of President Bowring’s church-related travel had to be done by air, not by ground, because roads were too insecure. Even so, “We in the district presidency have been in such peril as we were doing the work of the Lord that had we not been protected and guided by our Father in heaven it is doubtful that we would be here today. Prayers have been answered so dramatically there is no doubt that the Lord is truly guiding and directing His Kingdom in this portion of the world.” (And what we wouldn’t give to hear the details of even one such event! Diarists and biographers, take note!)

“It has been a testimony to me,” he said, “to see the government of the Church function in complete love and unity of faith under some of the most adverse conditions.” That BYU correspondence course may have helped in this regard – he was studying “Priesthood and Church Government.” “It’s a real test to minister the needs of the Church while striving to follow the procedures as set forth.”

Tim Bowring retired from the military 10 years later, in 1977. He finished that degree in Omaha, and much of the remainder of his life was spent in Overland Park, Kansas. He and Annette served a church service mission, too.

And then he became ill, diagnosed with Lewy Body Disease, a disease which combines the worst features of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. He passed away in 2005, at age 68, and is buried in the National Cemetery at Leavenworth, Kansas.

Photo: L.T. Bowring on right, with one of his counselors, D.B. Roberts. Roberts is holding a stack of Church manuals on their way to servicemen’s groups somewhere in South Vietnam.



7 Comments »

  1. What a great story, Ardis. Thanks.

    Comment by Gary Bergera — July 2, 2014 @ 7:49 am

  2. What an amazing person! With this being a Vietnam story my brain read the acronym MIA in a way I could not reconcile in that sentence. Had to pause a moment to make the shift in meaning.

    Comment by Carl C. — July 2, 2014 @ 8:06 am

  3. If he presided over the “Southern District,” I wonder if there was also a “Northern District.” South Vietnam was nearly 600 miles long, north to south. The most common helicopter used during the Vietnam War, the Bell UH-1 (“Huey”) had a top speed of 135 mph and a range of just over 300 miles. So a trip from Saigon to, say, Danang, would have required almost four hours each way, plus a refueling stop.

    How’d they get the chopper? Probably just “borrowed” it. The 4th Transportation Command was responsible for operating ports in Vietnam (Cam Ranh Bay and Qui Nhon and others–those names ring up some distant memories) for landing troops and war materiel, and also operated an air cargo facility in Saigon. Which suggests that they had access to a lot of “stuff.” And likely had responsibilities for moving some of that stuff to other parts of South Vietnam. Piggybacking a church delivery or assignment on top of other delivery duties was probably not too difficult.

    Comment by Mark B. — July 2, 2014 @ 8:52 am

  4. I found this article today and couldn’t wait to respond. My name is Sidney E. Whitt and I was baptized on 23 Dec 1966 on my way to South Viet Nam. I served with CPT Bowring during his tour as his crewchief and door gunner. Not a day goes by that I do not think about 1967 and my experiences in Vietnam and I value each of them still. Hereafter 727 was the radio call sign for my helicopter, a UH-1B and our other ship was Hereafter 733, the three numbers were the last three numbers in our helicopters serial numbers. We were the Aviation Detachment for the 4th Transportation Command and were based at Tan Son Nhut airbase. Our area of operations from Jan – Sep 67 was the southern part of the country and later we moved our operations to Qui Nhon and flew in the northern part of the country. I can provide additional information on the missions we flew for the Church if interested.

    Comment by Sid Whitt — October 4, 2014 @ 8:31 pm

  5. Sid, I may be nearly as excited to hear from you as you were to find this post! Thank you for taking the time to comment.

    This blog has a number of readers who are very interested in Mormon military history, and we’d love to hear more. I’m going to write to you at the address you’ve left with your comment.

    How wonderful to hear from you!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 4, 2014 @ 8:38 pm

  6. I am Mrs, Sidney Whitt and I have a story about Capt. Bowering as well! We were young, newly married knowing Sid was going to Viet Nam shortly after our marriage. I was baptized in Feb of 1966 and Sid in December, just before he went over. I, myself, felt my husband would be safe and would return to me. I just felt that comfort when he left. Of course I was scared when he left and not looking forward to the next year of unknown. I had a brother over there in the Marines who I was not as confident of his return. He did return, but badly scarred. His service was on the ground with a lot of horror stories.

    I was so gratified to hear that Sid met Capt Bowering almost the moment he arrived in Viet Nam. Right off the bat he invited him to church, not even knowing he was a new member! They did wonderful things that year for the Church and I know that the memory of what they did will live forever in my husband’s heart as well as mine. He was a positive influence in my husband’s life and growth of his testimony.

    During our R & R in Hawaii, I first met “the man”.

    I had never flown before and I got the inaugural flight of the Pacific on the Super DC-8! Anyway, I made it. I got to Ft. Durussey and awaited the bus bearing my sweetheart. He was the LAST one off the bus; I was thinking he was not coming because something had happened.

    We got into the gathering room, we were holding on to each other for dear life, when this guy comes across the room with a smile a mile wide, hand out stretched and took my hand, clasped his other hand over mine and said “You must be Janie”. It was as if I knew him my whole life! There was something special about this guy. I also met his wife, who was amazing in her own right! I believe Capt. Bowering could do all he did because of his support of family. I was already trying to do a good job of supporting my husband, but I learned a few new lessons that made me a better “military wife”.

    They came back at the same time. They were separated at one point as their flight schedules were different. Sid had to fly into Seattle and take a plane to Fresno, CA which was the nearest airport to us. It was cold and snowing in Seattle and Sid has no outer jacket. Capt. Bowering took off his flight jacket and gave it to Sid to wear home. He had Capt. Bowering’s home address so he could ship it home after he was thru with it.

    That is just the kind of guy he was and I am sure IS. Sid kept getting saluted which he did not understand until he realized that the Captain Bars were still on the jacket!

    Viet Nam was difficult for both the military participant and the families left at home. I know without a doubt that the calming reassurance I felt during that year was partially due to the positive influence of this man.

    Thank you, Capt. Bowering,

    Comment by Janie Whitt — October 6, 2014 @ 11:19 am

  7. While searching this morning for information about LDS Chaplains in the U.S. military services during World War II, I came across the following statement:

    Elder Ezra Taft Benson lamented the drop in the number of full-time missionaries, but was convinced that Latter-day Saint servicemen were responsible for “more total missionary work today than we have ever done in the history of the Church.”

    Men like Capt. Tim Bowring helped make that happen. Thanks to Sid and Janie Whitt for helping us know more about this good man.

    Comment by Mark B. — October 6, 2014 @ 1:47 pm

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