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John Lowry


Date and Place of Birth: August 29, 1915 Arnold, PA
Date and Place of Death:    May 23, 1943 Silver Lake, CA
Baseball Experience: Semi-Pro
Position: Shortstop
Rank: Sergeant
Military Unit: 523rd Bombardier Training Squadron USAAF
Area Served: United States

John A. Lowry, the son of Ancil and Verda Lowry, was born on August 29, 1915 in Arnold, Pennsylvania. He attended Arnold High School where the fleet-footed athlete played varsity football for two years and varsity basketball for four years, and was a member of the 1934 Allegheny-Kiski Tournament champions.

After graduating from high school in 1934, Lowry worked in the Arnold shipping department of the Aluminum Company of America and played semi-pro baseball, basketball and football in Arnold, New Kensington and Allegheny County. He entered military service on February 23, 1942 and trained at Biloxi, Mississippi, before being assigned to Victorville Army Air Base in California, where he served as a mechanic with the 523rd Bombardier Training Squadron. Not surprisingly, he was quickly chosen for the basketball and baseball teams. On October 3, 1942, he married the former Janet Jones of Pasadena, California, in her hometown.

The Victorville Bombers baseball team got off to a good start in 1943, winning their first four games, although Janet was asked to stay away from the ballpark. "John let a grounder get by him," she recently recalled, "and after the game his team asked me not to come to any more games because John was too aware of me watching him!"

On Sunday, May 23, 1943, the team was scheduled to play a game in Las Vegas. The flight ended in tragedy.

The official story released by the military claimed the Beechcraft AT-11 Kansan, in which Lowry was travelling, was struck by another AT-11 while on a bombardier training exercise. Lowry’s plane crashed at Silver Lake, California, about 90 miles from Victorville, while the other plane, which suffered minimal damage, managed to land safely back at the airfield. In truth, the two planes were heading to Las Vegas for a baseball game; on board the AT-11 with Lowry were Second Lieutenant Hal Dobson, a former minor league pitcher from Lincoln, Nebraska, and Sgt. William E. Thomas, a former semi-pro player also from the Pittsburgh area, who was only on the plane because he switched places to ride with his friend, John. The pilots of the two planes were playing games with each other and one plane cut the tail off Lowry’s plane. All on board the crippled AT-11 – Lowry, Dobson, Thomas and the pilot, 2/Lt. William S. Barnes, were killed.

John Lowry’s widow, Janet (who was four months pregnant at the time of his death) accompanied the body as it was escorted East with a military escort from Victorville. He is buried at Cochran Cemetery in Templeton, Pennsylvania.

John Lowry's son, John A.E. Lowry, excelled at sports just like his father and was scouted by the Pittsburgh Pirates aged 15. At 19, he was invited to spring training by the Chicago White Sox, but his mother, Janet, was injured in a car crash, and young John returned home to help her with her two young children by her second husband.

In May 2017, John Lowry's widow, Janet, was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of her brother, 2/Lt. Aden E. Jones, who had taken part in the Doolittle Raid on April 18, 1942. Although John Lowry and Janet's brother had never met, they had exchanged letters while John was at Victorville and Aden was serving in the Pacific Theater.

John A. Lowry

Sgt. John A. Lowry's grave at Cochran Cemetery in Templeton, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh Press - May 26, 1943
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - May 26, 1943

Special thanks to John Lowry's widow, Janet Davidson, who kindly shared her personal memories of her late husband.

Date Added April 30, 2013 Updated July 1, 2017

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