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Memorial Honors 1945 Navy Crash Victims, including Greensboro

Seventy years ago this week, a Navy plane crashed on Mount Beacon in Fishkill, N.Y., killing six.

One of those men was 22-year-old aviation machinist Clarence Hooper of Greensboro, who was posthumously awarded the World War II Victory Medal.

He was the only African American on the crew, the youngest and the only one who was married, said David Rocco, a Yorktown Heights, N.Y., man who organized a memorial event this weekend.

"He had gotten married the 26th of October, and 11 days later, he was killed," Rocco said.

The memorial ceremony to honor the Mount Beacon Eight -- those six men, plus two killed in a 1935 crash there -- will be held on Saturday at Fishkill's Veterans Memorial Park. Fishkill is 50 miles north of New York City.

Hooper's family isn't expected to attend. Organizers couldn't track down any family members: mother Lucille Turner Hooper; brother, Bernard Hooper; wife, Doris Marie Griffin Hooper, who had lived in Lynchburg and Greensboro; daughter Patsy Ann Hooper or son, Robert Lee Miles.

Among those killed Nov. 11, 1945, was the legendary Commodore Dixie Kiefer, 49, commanding officer of the first district naval air bases. Kiefer flew the first plane to be catapulted from a battleship at night and was featured in the 1944 documentary "The Fighting Lady," filmed on an aircraft carrier.

Kiefer had survived getting hit 65 times by shrapnel when his aircraft carrier, the Ticonderoga, was struck by Japanese suicide planes in January of 1945 but often declared "I'm no hero," according to news reports.

Kiefer was also a pioneer when it came to staffing and integration, said Rocco, who has copies of the personnel files for the eight men.

"He accepted people for who they were," Rocco said.

The twin-engine plane was on a routine flight from Caldwell, N.J., to Quonset, R.I., where the men where stationed, when it crashed near the mountain's peak in heavy rain and fog.

Rocco got involved with the memorial because of his interest in historic preservation.

"These are men that were serving our country who were totally forgotten," he said.

A hike to the crash site will take place following Saturday's memorial ceremony. There will be another hike to the site June 20 as part of the I Love NY's Path Through History Weekend.

Rocco still hopes to connect will Hooper's family. If you have contact information for a family member, email him at coyoteroc@optonline.net.

Contact Cindy Loman at (336) 373-7212. ___

(c)2015 the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.)

Visit the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.) at www.news-record.com

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This article was written by Cindy Loman from News & Record, Greensboro, N.C. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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