Category Archives: Back From Tobruk

Back From Tobruk Q & A

By TOM ATWELL, Special to the Maine Sunday Telegram

Croswell Bowen, a successful magazine and book photographer, signed up to take photographs for the American Field Service in 1941, before the United States entered World War II.

 He was assigned to a unit serving alongside British forces in North Africa. By the time he reached Cairo, the United States had entered the war, although there were few Americans in Egypt.

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Liberalism, Tobruk, and a Shared Woodbine

IMG_0118.JPG New Zealanders eating in Libyan desert 11588 - 1A LCIn food memories we store our autobiographies. In food memories, too, we find material for biography. Memories of empathy among former enemies reinforced my father’s liberalism: his hope for world peace; for the social safety net.

Born in the last months of WWII, by 1948 I was a strapping four-year-old in a country farmhouse kitchen oblivious of the food rationing that had ended two years earlier. Continue reading Liberalism, Tobruk, and a Shared Woodbine

Palestine, the Arab Spring, and World Peace



The year was 1942; Croswell Bowen was returning to wartime New York. From the ferry’s deck he watched as the Statue of Liberty grew small and blurry in the morning mist. He pondered what he had seen. He had huddled in foxholes as Rommel’s bombs rained down on Tobruk; had lain in stretcher lines and hospital beds alongside soldiers of many nations.  What would give all that suffering meaning? Continue reading Palestine, the Arab Spring, and World Peace

Back From Tobruk: Daughter, Editor, Biographer?



Croswell Bowen was my father. He began writing and taking photographs for Back from Tobruk in 1941 while en route with his unit of American Field Service volunteer ambulance drivers to serve alongside the British Eighth Army in North Africa. Armed with camera and notebook, war was an assignment he could finally sink his teeth into — until the bombs dropped and the story began.

I began editing the manuscript of this book back in 2006, spurred on by the questions a nephew asked about what had happened to his grandfather in the war. Continue reading Back From Tobruk: Daughter, Editor, Biographer?