Southern Appalachian Digital Collections

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Western Carolina University

World War II in Southern Appalachia

Group of U.S. Navy chief petty officers posing for a photograph

World War II affected the residents of WNC both home and abroad. This collection highlights some of these experiences, including Carr and Ruth Hooper who were interred at the Santo Tomas internment camp in Manila; Robert Venoy Reed, an army medic who was captured by German forces; and Samuel Owens, who was captured at the fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942 and remained a Japanese P.O.W. until the end of the war.


Carr and Ruth Hooper Papers

Carr Hooper was born in the Cowarts community of Jackson County, North Carolina and he received a degree from Western Carolina Teachers College in August 1931. Hooper met Ruth Williams of Fayetteville, Tennessee, while studying at the George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, Tennessee, and the couple married on August 20, 1931. In 1932, Carr Hooper accepted a position with the department of education in the Philippines where he taught English. After the beginning of war between the United States and Japan on December 7, 1941, the Philippine Islands were occupied by Japanese forces. In January 1942, the Hoopers were sent to the Santo Tomas internment camp in Manila and they remained there until February 1945. After liberation, the Hoopers returned to the United States. Carr Hooper returned to teaching in western North Carolina. In 1956, he accepted the position as principal at the Sylva High School and later, in 1960, at Sylva-Webster High School. He retired from the profession in 1969. The football stadium at Sylva-Webster High School, now Smoky Mountain High School, in Sylva, is named in his honor.


Venoy Reed Collection

Robert Venoy Reed was born in Sylva, North Carolina on May 28, 1915. He graduated from Sylva High School in 1936 and worked as a sales clerk at the Sylva Pharmacy before joining the military in October of 1942. Reed enlisted as a private in the United States Army at Camp Croft, South Carolina, and trained as a medic for the army. Reed was captured by German forces on January 19, 1945, and was assigned to work with a German doctor caring for German civilians and American prisoners-of-war. At the time of his separation and honorable discharge from the U.S. Army on October 12th, 1945, Reed was a Technician, 4th grade, Medical Aidman. After being discharged from the Army, Reed returned to Sylva and resided there for the rest of their lives. Reed was awarded the Silver Star Medal for heroic action in Cherbourg, France.


Samuel Robert Owens Collection

Samuel Robert Owens was born April 10, 1918, in Glenville, NC, to Steven John Owens and Frances Elvira Alexander Owens, the ninth of eleven children. The Owens family relocated to Webster, NC, where Samuel Owens attended school at the Webster School. He was named salutatorian of the Class of 1936. Upon graduation, Owens enrolled in the U.S. Navy. Owens was stationed at Cavite Naval Yard in the Philippines when the United States entered World War II, following the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan. He was a member of the crew of USS Canopus, a submarine tender attached to Submarine Squadron 20. The Canopus received direct bomb hits twice during her service, but remained actively involved in the defense of the Bataan peninsula until the fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942. The Canopus was scuttled by her crew on April 10, 1942. A detailed account of her role in the war in the Philippines, written by Captain E.L. Sackett, can be found in this collection. The majority of the crew of Canopus, including Samuel Robert Owens, were captured by the Japanese, and became prisoners of war. Owens was listed by the Navy as Missing in Action until word came of his P.O.W. status via a Red Cross list of P.O.W.'s some 13 months after his capture. He remained a P.O.W. until the end of the war, spending much of his time as a captive in the Japanese camp of Fukouaka. Owens received a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for his service. Owens remained in the Navy following the war until 1958. Upon his honorable discharge, he returned to his native Jackson County, NC, and enrolled in classes at Western Carolina College (later Western Carolina University), and graduated in 1961. He became a teacher, teaching math and science in western North Carolina and on the Qualla Boundary. He later worked in Walhalla, SC, before retiring in 1980. Samuel Robert Rickman Owens died on May 31, 1995.