“The Last Man to Die in WWII” Leipzig, Germany April 18, 1945
War photographer Robert Capa took this iconic photo of an American soldier shot and killed by a German soldier in the battle for Leipzig on April 18, 1945. The soldier became known as the ′′ last man to die′′ in WWII after the picture appeared in Life’s Victory Parade magazine.
During the final days of the war, a machine gun squad entered a Leipzig building in search of positions to establish cover points that protected soldiers from the 2th U.S. Infantry advancing across the bridge. Two squad members found an open balcony that commanded an unobstructed view of the bridge, and set up their firing position there. It was there that a German bullet found the GI.
War photographer Robert Capa climbed the apartment through a window of the balcony to photograph the dead, who was lying on the open door, with a luftwaffe lamb skin helmet on his head.
′′It was a very clean death, somehow very beautiful and I think it’s what I remember most about the war”, Capa recalled two years later in a radio interview.
The soldier has been identified as Raymond J. Bowman, 21, born in Rochester, New York. In January 1944, he was sent abroad to the UK in preparation for Operation Overlord. Bowman served in France where he was injured in action on 3 August 1944, and later in Belgium and Germany.
Life magazine article did not identify the soldiers in photos by name, although Bowman’s family recognized him by the small pin (which featured his initials) that he always wore on his collar.
The images were published in the Victory edition of Life magazine on May 14 with the caption ′′The Picture of the Last Man to Die”. It would become one of the most memorable images from World War II.
In July 2015, Leipzig, Germany voted to name the street (formerly called Jahnallee 61) in front of the building where Bowman was killed as ′′Bowmanstraße′′ in his honor. The name change took place on April 17, 2016. The building now contains a small memorial with Cover photos and information about Bowman.