Papers (1933–1987 [Bulk: 1941–1945]) of an American Red Cross volunteer who served on Guadalcanal, New Caledonia, and New Zealand, during World War II, including three drafts of her manuscript memoir of her service entitled Red Cross Adventure that was later published as No Drums, No Trumpets: Red Cross Adventure; Invitations, 1933, 1939, to Mary Ferebee Howard to attend the inauguration ceremonies for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Vice President John N. Garner, with portraits of Roosevelt and Garner; Inauguration Ceremonies Program, 4 March 1933; Official Inaugural Concert Program, National Symphony Orchestra, Constitution Hall, Washington, 4 March 1933; Inaugural information envelope addressed to Mary Ferebee Howard; Invitations to Presidential Palace, Managua, Nicaragua, 12, 19 December 1939; also photographs, programs, memos, instruction, clippings, original art, ephemera relating to her wartime service.
Mary Ferebee Howard was born on 22 June 1913 in Tarboro, North Carolina. In 1942, when World War II broke out, she volunteered for the American Red Cross. After training she was assigned to the South Pacific, where she split most of her time between Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands, New Zealand, and New Caledonia. She served in the South Pacific from 1943 to 1945. During her time with the American Red Cross, Howard helped to open service clubs and planned social events for the military units stationed in the South Pacific. She and her co-workers also helped make life easier for the many wounded or sick servicemen in the base hospitals. Her memoirs are filled with personal details and accounts of her meetings with individuals, ranging from Admiral William "Bull" Halsey, to lower ranked officers like Lt Col. Evans F. Carlson who commanded the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, to visiting entertainment and movie stars like Ray Milland, Lanny Ross, Ray Bolger and Bob Sarnoff of NBC, to political leaders like Eleanor Roosevelt, "Happy" Chandler, the ex-governor of Kentucky, and Senator Richard Russell of Georgia, to individual sailors, servicemen, fellow Red Cross volunteers both males and females, French inhabitants, New Zealanders, and Australians, and Melanesian natives. She recounts daily life in great and colorful detail, including the weather, geography, insects, endemic diseases, entertainments, food, housing, living and working conditions, treatment of Japanese prisoners, drinking and alcoholism, and personal and sexual relationships among and between the disparate individuals assembled in the war zone.
One person she met socially was James Michener, who was a Senior Historical Officer during the war, who was also doing research for his 1947 book, Tales of the South Pacific, that won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for literature. The plot focuses on the romantic relationship between an American nurse and a native plantation owner. Howard may have served as one of the inspirations for the American nurse.
After her service, she returned to Eastern North Carolina and attended East Carolina University, where she received her Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees, before becoming a teacher in the Edgecombe County, N.C., public schools. She never married but lived an adventurous life traveling the world, and devoting her time, energy, and resources to education. Her impact is felt today, as part of the funds from her endowment are allotted for scholarships in Eastern North Carolina, including at East Carolina University.
She kept meticulously detailed journals, which formed the basis of her memoir entitled No Drums, No Trumpets (Rocky Mount, North Carolina Wesleyan College Press, 1992), the original manuscripts of which are maintained at East Carolina University.
She died in Tarboro, N.C., in 2005.
Mary Ferebee Howard: adventurer, philanthropist, North Carolina Community Foundation
The Mary F. Howard Papers are arranged according to material format in original order except as indicated.
The bulk of the materials in this collection consist of three drafts of her published memoir of her wartime service with the American Red Cross, and a variety of publications, official documents, photographic prints, newsletters, invitations, brochures, and programs related to Howard's service with the American Red Cross in the South Pacific between 1941 and 1945. The drafts of the memoir are filed together. The publications include newsletters, newspapers, brochures, and pamphlets that with two exceptions were published entirely in the South Pacific during Howard's time there. The exceptions are New York Daily Mirror (September 1941), Reader's Digest (August 1946), and The ECU Report (July 1987). Her papers also include official documents relating to the military and American Red Cross and the bases at which Howard was stationed. These include financial documents, speech regulations, calendars, licenses, security information, passenger regulations, and travel information from her time traveling to different bases and islands throughout the South Pacific. All of the brochures, invitations, and event programs are filed together. They are all from events that Howard helped to organized as part of the American Red Cross. In addition, the collection includes invitations to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1933 inauguration events in Washington, D.C., and invitations to Nicaraguan President Anastasio Somoza's 1939 Christmas parties in Managua, Nicaragua.
Among the most interesting and useful items in the colleciton are 145 black and white photographic prints documenting Ferebee's life in the South Pacific during World War II. Mainly they record the events hosted by the Red Cross for the Army, Navy and Marine units stationed in the Solomon Islands. They are kept in the original order in which they were received. Among the photographic prints are South Pacific natives, damaged ships from the Imperial Japanese Navy, and crashed Japanese airplanes. Most of the photographic prints are 3"x 5" and a few are 4" x 6."
Gift of Miss Mary F. Howard
Gift of William E. "Mickey" Elmore
Encoded by Apex Data Services, 2002; Processing, Preliminary inventory by Amy Fenton, 4/25/2013; Final inventory by Amy Fenton, 5/2/2013; Container List by Jonathan Dembo, 7/1/2013; Encoding updated by Jonathan Dembo, 7/2/2013
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.
English; Spanish; French