Local News

Rocky Mount woman recalls WWII Navy days

Posted April 17, 2012

— When the final Triangle Flight of Honor takes off Wednesday, it will carry veterans such as 90-year-old Janice Gravely, who was the only woman to hold her position in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Gravely, of Rocky Mount, served on board a Naval Air Station in Olathe, Kan., and Dallas, Texas.

"My duty was to carry a sidearm," she recalled. "Here I was, a 22-year-old pip squeak with authority."

Gravely was an aide to an executive officer and the official hostess in charge of visiting dignitaries.

When a planeload of Russian officers came to visit, she was their hostess, even though she couldn't speak their language. "All these Russians following me around like chickens," she remembered.

Life magazine did a story on Gravely and captured her good looks in glamour shots. But there was another reason the magazine covered her story.

"No other enlisted woman had this job. In the whole of the U.S., just I had this authority, but I didn't know it then," Gravely said.

Maybe the best thing to happen to her, though, Gravely says, was meeting her husband, naval aviator Ed. After the war, they moved to Rocky Mount, where he worked in the tobacco business. WWII vet Janice Gravely Rocky Mount vet joins last Flight of Honor

"We were married until he died in 1982," she said.

Gravely said she has had a rich, full life and has no regrets. She is a great-grandmother, an author and a new painter. Her work hangs in a local art gallery.

On Wednesday, she will be on the last Triangle Flight of Honor, which takes veterans on a day trip to visit monuments in Washington, D.C. The trip is free to veterans and paid for by donations.

"WWII vets are dying, 50,000 a day. So many of my friends have died. This is the last trip they are going to create," Gravely said.

The public is invited to welcome the veterans home when the Flight of Honor returns to Raleigh-Durham International Airport at 8 p.m. Wednesday.


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  • r u crazy too Apr 18, 2012

    emailastro: the sound worked fine when I played the video, maybe its a problem on your end.

  • emailastro Apr 17, 2012

    Of coarse like almost always the video has no sound. You would think if the videos didn't have sound, they would not post them.

  • SFSOLDIER Apr 17, 2012

    Thank you for your service and wonderful story. Enjoy your trip.

  • lwalaway Apr 17, 2012

    Thank you for your service and enjoy your trip. I always cry when I watch the homecomings on the news and the Triangle Flight of Honor is one of a very few that I contribute too. Tomorrow is your day, enjoy it and may God Bless.

  • hedgy_one Apr 17, 2012

    My pastor will be joining you on the trip, Mrs. Gravely. I hope you all have a wonderful time. I wish we could all do more to honor you, "the greatest generation!"

  • YaNot Apr 17, 2012

    What a great story!

  • SFSOLDIER Apr 17, 2012

    Thank you for your service. BTW, I see from your WWII photo why those Russians were following you around like chickens, you were quite striking in that photo. Enjoy your trip.

  • rrains1 Apr 17, 2012

    My dad and his 1st cousin will be on the flight with you, Mrs. Gravely. I'll bet they didn't realize they'll be flying with a celebrity! Heroes are made by their valor, but also by the lives they've led if they managed to come home. My daughter & I are looking forward to the homecoming tomorrow PM! Godspeed!

  • awood2 Apr 17, 2012

    glad she is getting to go on the trip. Thank you for what you have done Ms. Gravely.

  • pat7 Apr 17, 2012

    Thank you