Skip to content

The Boward Family Find – Part Two

In today’s post, we shall continue our story about Eugene B. Boward and his Maryland fish and game stamps. Growing up, Eugene was an avid sportsman and spent much of his time hunting, fishing and trapping. Soon after the outbreak of WWII, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corp and eventually found himself in Italy, at the Battle of Anzio. When we last checked in with SSGT Boward, on November 11, 1944, he had been shot down behind enemy lines.


The 51st and Final Mission

On that day, the 86th Squadron had been assigned the mission of taking out the last bridge over the Po River, in northern Italy (see Figure 1), thereby blocking Kesselring’s escape route in the face of the allied advance.



Figure 1. The Po River runs eastward across the whole of northern Italy. Map courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica.



His aircraft took off shortly after midnight with a crew of four: LT Wright – the pilot was on his 5th mission; LT Dowdell – an experienced bombardier; Corporal Schultz – the top gunner and Boward, the belly gunner.

After an hour into the fight they started taking flak. The pilot radioed over the intercom that they were losing altitude fast. The bombardier then announced he was jettisoning their bombs to lighten the load so they could return home.

The plane lurched upward as the bombardier jettisoned the entire bomb load at once. This was followed by a steep banking turn as LT Wright turned the aircraft around in an attempt to to head back toward friendly lines. Minutes went by, every one of which took them closer to home, but the plane was still losing altitude.

Just as SSGT Boward thought they might make it home safely, Lt Dowdell blared over the intercom “Bail out, bail out, bail out”. After he pulled his rip cord, Boward watched the A-20 crash and light up the sky. Upon landing, he hid his parachute and began to make his way south.

Dawn Broke. Then, very much like in a scene from the movie Anzio, he spied a farm in the valley below him. After spending the better part of the day observing to make sure no Germans were in the area, he descended and made contact with a young Italian girl. In broken Italian and English he explained his situation. The girl somehow understood and took him into her parent’s house where he was fed and allowed to spend the night.

By this time, their plane had been reported as shot down behind enemy lines and 86th Headquarters released an official statement (see Figure 2).



Figure 2. Statement released by 86th Squadron Headquarters on November 12, 1944. Note the rather cryptic last line.



Evasion and Escape

Early the next morning he was awakened and hurriedly taken outside to meet a young Italian partisan who would take him on a long trek to link up with a British commando team who had been dropped behind enemy lines to help the downed airmen escape.

After moving all day, he finally met the commando team which was led by a Major “Wilky”. There were several downed Americans already with the Major, including CPL Schultz. LT Dowdell would join them the next day. It was here that he learned LT Wright did not survive the bail out.

SSGT Boward, CPL Schultz and LT Dowdell were assigned to an allied-friendly Italian family to stay with while the Major assembled an escape team. It was comprised of Italian partisans, escaped POWs, downed airmen and German Defectors. They spent the next several days continuing to make their way south while being pursued by German patrols.

Upon reaching No-Man’s land, SSGT Boward was asked to make first contact with the U.S. soldiers as he was still wearing his complete enlisted uniform – including his personally painted brown leather A-20 jacket.

It was at this point that Boward was nearly shot by his own men. It seems the 86th Squadron patch was “The Grim Reaper”, a skull thumbing its nose (see Figures 3 and 4). From a distance, it was initially thought Boward was a German SS officer as the SS also wore a skull insignia.



Figure 3. SSGT Boward (right) wearing his jacket with the skull insignia. This photo was taken shortly after he returned back to the States. Courtesy of the Boward Family.



Figure 4. Drawing of an A-20. Note the “Grim Reaper” squadron insignia in front of the propeller.



After being convinced he was not SS, Boward was taken to the Command Post where he advised the commander, a Lieutenant Colonel, to be prepared for for the large group of personnel who would be coming through the lines.

He was eventually reunited with with CPL Schultz and LT Dowdell and, following interrogation and other administrative functions, placed on a truck bound for the 12th Air Force. In all, the three men had avoided capture behind enemy lines for nine days (see Figure 5).



Figure 5. From left to right: SSGT Boward, LT Dowdell and SSGT Shultz. This photo was taken in December of 1944, just after returning to their unit. Courtesy of the Boward Family.



By Mid December 1944, Eugene was on a transport ship bound for the U.S. It was on the trip home that he would hear of the German offensive in the Ardennes, the Battle of the Bulge had begun. This was the same battle Gilbert D. Cooper, also from the Maryland area, was captured in.


A Return to Civilian Life

Due to the number of points he had accrued from his awards and service, SSGT Boward was discharged from the service in October of 1945. Wanting to take advantage of the new GI Bill, he enrolled at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Eugene graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in three years. He later worked as an engineer for a leading paper cup manufacturer in Baltimore. After returning to Maryland, Eugene resumed hunting and fishing. At this point in his life, he developed a new interest – collecting.

He began to collect a variety of different items, such as Civil War guns and artifacts, fishing rods, traps, hunting and fishing magazines, coins and, of course, fish and game stamps.

According to his son Gary, who was born in 1964 and who co-wrote this series of posts with me, his dad liked to buy multiples of the various things he collected and the Maryland big game and trout stamps were an example. “When he bought a current stamp for his license, at first he bought a few extras –  then he started buying complete panes”.


Maryland Trout Stamps Issued

On April 30, 1963, the Maryland Legislature approved House Bill 941:


An Act to Add new Section 207a to Article 66c of the Annotated Code of Maryland, title “Natural Resources”, subtitle “Birds, Game and Inland Water Fish” to follow immediately after Section 207 thereof, providing that it is illegal, with certain exceptions, to fish in any of the “designated” trout streams of the State without obtaining Special Trout Stamp or Special Non Residents’ Trout Stamp and providing penalties for violation.


(a)  It shall be illegal for any resident of Maryland, who normally is required to obtain fishing license, to fish in any of the “designated” trout streams of the State without first obtaining a Special Trout Stamp in addition to the regular fishing license. Said Stamp shall be obtained from the Game and Inland Fish Commission at a cost of $1.00.

(b)  It shall be illegal for any non-resident of the State, 12 years of age or older, to fish in any of the “designated” trout streams of the State without first obtaining a Special Non-residents Trout Stamp in addition to the regular non residents’ fishing license. Said Stamp shall be obtained from the Game and Inland Fish Commission at a cost of $5.00 (crossed out) $1.00.

(c) Any person convicted of violating this section shall be subject to the penalties provided in Section 217 of this subtitle.

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That this Act shall take effect June 1, 1963.


The above is of interest for a couple of reasons. First, it states that the new trout stamps were only required to take trout in certain “designated Trout streams” (in certain counties) and not state-wide. Some additional research indicated the stamps were not available at the county clerks’ office. Rather, they were sold at locally owned shops and stores.

Second, the Act suggests that (at least initially) separate $5.00 stamps were to be printed for non-residents. The fact the $5.00 was crossed out and replaced with $1.00 implies the decision was made to print only one kind of stamp – to be sold to residents and non-residents alike. This is almost certainly the case, as I have never heard of a separate Maryland trout stamp for non residents.

The 1963 Maryland Angler’s Guide makes no mention of trout stamps at all. The regulations were likely printed prior to June 1st effective date and this undoubtedly contributed to the small number of 1963 stamps sold.

The 1964 Anger’s Guide lists the $1.00 trout stamp, only, under “LICENSE FEES” and it is assumed that by the time the 1964 regulations were printed the decision had been made to require resident and non resident anglers to purchase the same trout stamp and affix it to their license (see Figure 6).



Figure 6. 1964 Maryland Angler’s Guide. Note only the $1.00 trout stamp is listed under license fees.



Eugene Boward bought A large Multiple

At the time Maryland issued their first trout stamp, Eugene was an avid trout fisherman and had caught the collecting bug. To show you how much he was into trout fishing, he even started making his own fly rods. On each handle, he drew maps to all of his favorite fishing holes (see Figure 7).



Figure 7. One of Eugene’s custom fly rod handles.




When Eugene went to buy one of the new trout stamps for his license, he took an immediate liking to them. Initially, he bought one extra unused stamp (the single shown in Part One). Then he decided he wanted to buy some more. He located another store that still had a partial pane of six stamps  – so he bought all six.

He kept the extra stamp and the intact multiple in a document protector in the upper portion of a suit case, where he also kept his coin collection.

He added to this multiple in succeeding years and the collection remained in the suitcase until Eugene passed away in 2002. At that time, his son, Gary, started going through his dad’s possessions and slowly started to sell things – often on Ebay.

Gary recalled his dad opening the suitcase and showing him the attractive fish and game stamps on several occasions while he was growing up, so he saved the stamps, for himself, for nearly 15 years. He was finally getting ready to place the stamps on Ebay, when he decided to do his due diligence and that is what led him to contact me.

Before we see the stamps, I would like to say that this story is truly wonderful for many reasons, not the least of which is that it proves there are still new finds of scarce to rare fish and game stamps out there to be made today. Stamps that collectors don’t know about – it is like hidden treasure!

Very few of the 1963 Maryland trout stamps were sold, about 2,400 total. Of these, E.L. Vanderford told me that the Maryland License Supervisor told him that only eight unused examples were purchased by collectors. Obviously, the Supervisor could not know that Eugene Boward walked into a local store and bought almost that many by himself.


The Boward Family Find

Are you ready to finally see the stamps? I’m guessing yes. First, we have the unused block of six 1963 trout stamps (see Figure 8). The gummed edge at the top of the upper right stamp indicates that more than one pane was originally attached together.



Figure 8. 1963 Maryland Trout stamp, unused block of six. Note the gummed edge along the upper right stamp.



The next year, in 1964, Eugene bought a block of six stamps and a complete unused pane of ten. After removing a stamp from the block for his license, it left an irregular block of five. I separated a single from the block of five to create a more pleasing (in my opinion) block of four and a corner single ( see Figures 9 and 10).



Figure 9. 1964 Maryland Trout stamp, bottom left corner single.



Figure 10. 1964 Maryland Trout stamp, block of four.



Aside from being the earliest Maryland trout complete pane recorded, the 1964 pane provides evidence that the 1960s panes were gummed along the top edge and placed between covers to form a booklet. The back cover is still attached to the pane along the top edge (see Figure 11).



Figure 11. 1964 Maryland Trout stamp, complete pane of ten with back cover.



Starting in 1964, Eugene began to add Maryland Big Game stamps to his growing stamp collection. At first, he purchase an extra block of four of both the stamp for archers and the one for firearms (see Figures 12 and 13). The 1964-65 firearms block is important for it clearly show the 1966 void date in position one, only.



Figure 12. 1964-65 Maryland Big Game Hunting stamp for Archers Only, block of four.



Figure 13. 1964-65 Maryland Big Game Hunting stamp for Firearms Only, block of four. Note the void after date in position one reads “1966”, in error.



This typesetting error, which I have designated as Type II, was recently discovered by revenue stamp dealer Eric Jackson. He pointed it out me at a show last year. At he time, we did not know if the Type II stamps were from a second printing, or if they were a constant variety due to a typesetting error. Now we know.



Continue to Part Three



  1. Michele Becchi on August 13, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    Hello, my name is Michele Becchi, i’m an italian amateur historian. The A-20 of Sgt. Boward is only one of more than 70 planes crashed in my province in the WWII. Sgt Boward was very lucky: his plane crashed near Sonareto, a mountain village near Villa Minozzo, province of Reggio Emilia. Sonareto lies only 2 kms south of the Secchia River (by the way, full of trouts…) that at the time was the front line between the German Held area (more than 600 german in the northern bank of the river, around the village of Gatta) and the Partisan Held Area in the southern banks. The British mission among the partisan was lead by Major Wilcockson (Wilky), other nearby missions (one of the american OSS) was used to send ex pow, deserters and airmens to Major Wilcockson and his local guides. More than 5000 persons crossed the front (from Civago to Barga) thanks to the Civago’s guides. In wartime metal was so precious that in only one night, the wreck of Sgt Boward disappear, thanks to the villagers of the 3 villages near the crash site (Poiano, Carniana and Sonareto). I will be happy to get in touch with sgt. Boward relatives, many thanks in advance.

  2. Gary D Boward on August 13, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    Hello Michele,

    I am the son of Eugene Boward and am very happy you found this site and posted this comment. My father mentioned MAJ Wilcockson and we have a few books at home that mention the Major and his role in helping allied airman return to their own lines.

    I would be very interested in chatting with you about my father’s experiences and hearing about any information you might have.

    Several years ago someone contacted me and told me they had located the area where the wreckage was. Would you happen to have any pieces of the plane?

    Gary D. Boward

Leave a Comment

Scroll To Top
Verified by ExactMetrics