Elon University / Today in Elon / Elon launches online exhibit of WWII pilot Dewey Hooper ’40
Curated by Archivist and Assistant Librarian Randall Bowman, the exhibit documents Hooper’s life, his death in a plane crash during the war, and artifacts from his life and the crash given to Elon.
This Memorial Day, Elon University’s Carol Grotnes Belk Library launched a new online exhibit documenting the life and untimely death of former student Dewey Hooper ’40, a World War II pilot who crashed off the Australian coast in 1942.
The exhibit, titled “He Knew the Dangers Ahead: Dewey Hooper, Elon’s Graduate in World War II,” was curated by Assistant Archivist and Librarian Randall Bowman and includes artifacts from Hooper’s life that were donated in college by Hooper’s family, including his Elon class ring. thought lost but recovered in 1990. Among the items on display in the digital exhibit with his class ring are his second lieutenant bars and flight wings, parts of his plane – “The Texas Terror” – and artifacts from when he was a student at Elon.
Bowman began researching Hooper for the exhibit after learning his story while exploring the impact news of the Pearl Harbor attacks had on Elon. “In 1942, we didn’t know if we were going to win the war,” Bowman said. “Things were dire and young men like Dewey Hooper were thrown into it.”
One of 10 children, Hooper grew up in Alamance County near Mebane and studied to be a teacher in Elon. After teaching high school for a year, Hooper joined the U.S. Army, eventually landing in the Air Corps and completing his pilot training at Turner Field in Albany, Georgia in the summer of 1942.
It was on Dec. 18 while piloting the B-24 Liberator named “The Texas Terror” during a tropical storm that Hooper and his crew veered off course and crashed into the side of Mount Straloch on the island. from Hinchinbrook near the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Due to the location of the crash, the wreckage was not found until 1943, and Hooper’s remains were not recovered and returned to the United States for burial until 1949.
Miraculously, an Australian named Ron Deering who was living in Texas at the time made the trip to explore the wreckage in 1990 and discovered Hooper’s Elon College ring. Thanks to Elon, he was able to connect with Hooper’s family. Deering returned the ring and other items to them the following year, with these and other items subsequently donated to the university.
“Deering could have kept the ring and done nothing with it, but he did everything he could to connect with Elon and find Dewey’s family,” Bowman said. “It’s all a great story. When I found this collection and started reading it, I knew I wanted to put it in an online format where a lot of people could access it and see the whole story in a narrative form.