Skip to main content

Samuel Robert Rickman Owens Collection

Identifier: MSS 16-05

Content Description

The Samuel Robert Rickman Owens Collection pertains chiefly to Owens' service in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and contains correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, a variety of documents, and some artifacts. Of note among the documents is a 33-page list of names, subdivided into Prisoner-of-War camps, entitled "Disposition of Naval Personnel Taken Prisoner in the Philippines" (1944).

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.


  • 1935 - 2000

Condition Description

Fair/fragile to good.

Conditions Governing Use

No publication fee is made for use of Western Carolina University Library special collections material in scholarly publications. The Library retains sole right to judge what constitutes a non-scholarly or commercial publication. Permission to publish commercially, in circumstances where the Library is qualified to grant it, requires proper authorization. Please contact Special Collections at for more information.


2 Linear Feet