Miss Gertrude Carraway and Cherry Point’s Flying Marines

Miss Gertrude Carraway and Cherry Point’s Flying Marines

21:08 25 June in History
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Cover of The Flying Marines, 1946

The Flying Marine is a 1946 time capsule of MCAS Cherry Point written by journalist and skilled historian Gertrude S. Carraway.

The Flying Marines was published by Gertrude S. Carraway in 1946. More a power-packed pamphlet than a book, its compelling content paint a portrait of the Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station at the ripe old age of five. Miss Carraway’s 44 pages of detailed copy and documentary photographs are a time capsule of the early days of the largest Marine Corps air station in the world.

We’re providing a link to a digital copy here of The Flying Marines. We think you should absolutely take a look. Flip through the virtual pages and you’ll see a great aerial photo of the base just after World War II and shots of newly built structures like the mammoth Assembly and Repair building, the gleeming white control tower, the fire station, drill hall and the Naval Dispensary, among many others. There are photographs of primarily bomber aircraft on runways and biographies and portraits of early commanding officers. There’s a section on Women Marines and an article about Cherry Point during the Second World War. And an “interesting personages” section showcases entertainment and sports stars and military heroes who served at Cherry Point.

Miss Carraway had been a newspaper reporter and editor earlier in life so both the writing and the specific details are excellent. Today, The Flying Marines: United States Marine Corps Cherry Point, N.C. is a magnificent piece of history.   

My book New Bern History 101 is dedicated to Gertrude Carraway’s memory. Although I’d known of her most of my life, I got to know her personally in the 1980s through my membership in the East Carolina Genealogical Society. She was a true lady in the finest Southern sense of the word. She was kind to me and supportive of my efforts to study and understand our local heritage. I, like many others, became a great admirer.  

Oval portrait of Gertrude Carraway.

Miss Gertrude S. Carraway        

One of the many things she told me about was her publication of The Flying Marines. She was rightfully pleased and proud of it. It had been a great idea and a big success. The 8.5 by 5.5 inch soft cover pamphlet actually ran to 84 pages counting the cover so nearly half of it was advertising. And revenue from the ads she sold, as she told it, allowed her to travel all over the world. The advertising also serves now as a time capsule of the mercantile community of 1946 from New Bern to Atlantic Beach. To some extent the ads and what they record and preserve are as interesting as the information about the Marine Corps.

Since I was then in the newspaper business, we discussed the possibility of a re-issue of the booklet. We thought it could be reprinted as an historical document with the old ads intact. Copies would be sold to the interested public for a few dollars. Her sister Rose sent me a letter in 1993 stating that Gertrude had asked her to write and say she was excited about the idea of her booklet remaining in print. Rose indicated she was writing since Gertrude hadn’t been feeling well. Not long afterwards, and before we took any action on the booklet, Miss Carraway passed away. I later considered ways to keep the book in publication, but advisers suggested I lacked the affirmative legal right to do so. Although I was disappointed it couldn’t be done at the time, I have no doubt that Miss Carraway would be pleased to know that her booklet is now preserved and available at the Internet Archive’s Way Back Machine and several other places as well.

My only other connection worth mentioning is that through a curious set of circumstances I wound up with her childhood Bible. Although well-thumbed, it was still in good condition and her signature appears inside the cover in a loopy, youthful script. As you’ll read below, she was eminently important to the restoration of Tryon Palace. Folks up there think the world of her to this day. For that reason I donated the little testament for safe keeping there.

Miss Carraway is well-represented in New Bern History 101. She appears in the chapter on Tryon Palace and is credited with a list of toasts in the chapter on George Washington. A couple of the other historical lists she loved to keep are printed therein. The following biographical sketch of Miss Carraway is from Chapter 16, Some Essential People of New Bern:

Miss Gertrude S. Carraway (1896-1993)

Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life. Revelations 2:10

She’s been called the “first citizen” of New Bern, the premier historian of the city, and, in her time, one of its most well-known and beloved people in town. Gertrude Carraway—“Miss Carraway” to many—was all that and more. And without her motivation and organizational savvy, there may not be a Tryon Palace Restoration today.

A New Bern native, she was a newspaper woman, a publisher, and a historical researcher of such note that the Sun Journal once said she “made history while studying history.”She discovered John Hawks’s original early-1700s architectural drawing for Tryon Palace gathering dust in a New York archive. She created the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program. She was a tireless speaker, writer and promoter of all things New Bernian.

She was the daughter of John R. and Louise E. Carraway. The family lived at 207 Broad Street in the home where Miss Carraway was born and would occupy her entire life. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, she studied at Columbia University in New York City. She taught history, English and French, became a feature writer, and authored hundreds of articles, news stories, dozens of booklets and six books. For her achievements over the years, she was awarded three honorary doctorates.

Therefore, we can say Dr. Carraway received the keys to eight cities, was named a Kentucky Colonel, an Arkansas Traveler, a North Carolina Admiral, an Honorary Citizen of New Orleans, New Bern’s Woman of the Year, North Carolina Citizen of the Year, Tar Heel of the Week by The News & Observer, and received awards for historical preservation, enhancement, promotion, knowledge and research too numerous to mention. She was listed in Who’s Who in the United States and in about two dozen other national and international volumes of biography.

She was editor of the city’s newspaper, the Sun Journal, from 1924-37.  Miss Carraway is said to have used personal money to keep the paper from failing during the Great Depression. During World War II, she conducted bond drives, served in the Red Cross, christened a Liberty ship and received twelve awards for patriotic service. 

She was a diligent proponent of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She served as state regent, and on the national level as President General. During her three-year terms in Washington, D.C., she “invented” Constitution Week. According to the DAR’s website, “In 1955, the President General of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Gertrude S. Carraway, adopted a project to promote the observance of the U.S. Constitution with a memorial week beginning on the anniversary of the signing of this document, September 17. She asked DAR chapters, committees, and members to study, teach, and discuss the U.S. Constitution. Carraway also encouraged members to invite their governors and mayors to issue proclamations celebrating the Constitution. Constitution Week was officially declared by President Eisenhower on August 2, 1956.”

And, after all that, her friends would say that “Gertrude didn’t think she was doing anything out of the ordinary.”

But there was one cause for which she put forth the most effort. She is repeatedly pointed to as one of the key people in the success of the Tryon Palace restoration. She was among a small group promoting the idea for three decades. From its inception in 1945 until the palace restoration was complete, she was diligent in her duties as secretary of the state-appointed Tryon Palace Commission. In 1956, she became the first director of the Tryon Palace Restoration, crafting the image and working the day-to-day machinery via a disciplined system that came naturally to her. She continued to put both the palace and New Bern on the map in big bold letter by industriously promoting tourism and history until her retirement in 1971. Even after retirement the governor of North Carolina re-appointed her to the commission and she served as vice chair of the Kellenberger Historical Foundation. Tryon Palace’s four thousand volume research library is named in her honor. Among the books she authored are histories of St. John’s Lodge, No. 3, entitled Years of Light, and Christ Episcopal Church called Crown of Life. She also published The Flying Marines at Cherry Point and the Historic New Bern Guide Book. She said the profits allowed her to travel to many countries of the world.

Miss Carraway passed away May 7, 1993 in the New Bern home at 207 Broad Street where she had been born ninety-six years before.

 Miss Gertrude S. Carraway (1896-1993) article excerpted from New Bern History 101 by Edward Barnes Ellis, Jr. © 2017

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