Setting aside that debate, today we’re going to look at the history of the name, Gowen Field.
At first, military officials didn’t think the air base could be named at all, because it was leased property not owned by the military. A new interpretation of regulations set those concerns aside, and in June of 1941 the Field Naming Board in Washington, D.C. began deliberating.
There were three names under consideration, each to potentially honor Air Corps members from Idaho who had lost their lives. They were Col. Lawrence F. Stone, who was killed may 25, 1940; First Lt. Paul R. Gowen, who was killed July 11 1938; and Second Lt. R. W. Merrick, who was killed Nov. 20, 1932.
Speculation at the time was that it would be named Stone Field, because he was the highest-ranking officer of the three under consideration.
When the Field Naming Board announced their selection, it was Lt. Gowen who was honored. Gowen was a native of Caldwell who had spent two years at the University of Idaho before transferring to the Military Academy a West Point in 1929. He was a Rhodes Scholar candidate and once applied for a patent for a fuel consumption indicator. The patent was awarded after his death.
Gowen was a flight instructor who had one aerial brush with death in Louisiana in 1937. He and a student were flying a BT-2 Army Trainer when a dust storm kicked up. They circled looking for a place to land without success. When their fuel ran out Gowen ordered his student to parachute from the plane. The student jumped and Gowen followed. Neither was hurt.
It was a dead engine in a twin-engine B-10B that cost Gowen his life. He tried to bring the damage airplane back to Albrook Field in the Panama Canal Zone but couldn’t keep it in the air long enough. The plane crashed into the jungle, killing Lt. Gowen. Two passengers were injured, but survived. Lt. Paul R. Gowen was buried with full military honors at the Canyon Hill Cemetery in Caldwell. He was 29.
The military Gowen Field was officially named in 1941. In September of 1970, the Boise Air Terminal also officially adopted the name.