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Profiles from the Archives: Henry L. Graves

Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist

Henry Louis (or Lewis) Graves was born in the town of Carthage in Moore County, N.C., on May 20, 1893, to George Calvin and Margaret Hamilton McNeill Graves. Henry’s father was a merchant in dry goods, owning his own grocery company in Carthage named the Graves Company. By 1913, Henry Graves was attending college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At the time of his draft registration for World War I, Henry Graves was working as a merchant for his father’s grocery company.

On September 12, 1917, Henry Graves enlisted in the Enlisted Reserve Corps (ERC) at Atlanta, Georgia. He was assigned as a private to the Aviation Section Signal Corps in Atlanta through April 1918. On April 23, 1918, Graves was discharged from the Reserve Corps in order to accept a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps as of April 24, 1918. Graves was sent to the Signal Corps’ aviation school at Park Field, Tennessee, after which he was transferred to Camp Dick in Dallas, Texas.


Sometime during this period, he was assigned to the 609th Aero Squadron. Next, Graves was assigned to Taliaferro Field in Fort Worth, Texas. Graves was attached to a newly-formed 278th Aero Squadron, which was under the IV Corps Observation Group in the U.S. Second Army Air Service. The 278th Aero Squadron was sent to Garden City, New Jersey, in preparation for being sent overseas to Europe at what would prove to be the tail-end of major hostilities in World War I.


On August 18, 1918, the 278th Aero Squadron left the port of New York City for Brest, France. After arriving in France, the unit moved to the town of Autreville in November 1918, where it was involved in 18 hours of operations over enemy lines. On November 10, 1918, the 278th Aero Squadron moved to the Aerodrome at Toul, France.

Once the Armistice was instituted, from November 11, 1918, to August 30, 1919, Henry Graves served in the 278th Aero Squadron as a pilot, helping to conduct aerial observation photography of French cities (including bombing damage), German trench lines, bomb and artillery damaged roads and buildings, and other reconnaissance operations from the air until a final peace was negotiated to end World War I officially. Graves would visit several French towns while he was stationed there. Henry Graves returned to the United States from Europe on August 30, 1919, and was honorably discharged from active military service on October 21, 1919.

After the war, he returned home to Carthage, N.C., to work as a salesman for his father’s grocery store. On January 26, 1923, Henry Graves married Gladys C. Dunlap of Wisconsin in Moore County, N.C. By 1930, the Graves were living in Moore County, and Henry was working as a salesman. By 1935, the couple had relocated to Greensboro, N.C. By 1940, Henry Graves and his wife had moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he worked as an agent for a life insurance company, while his wife Gladys worked as an office manager.

Henry L. Graves died on June 14, 1980, in Southern Pines, N.C., and was buried in his family’s plot at Cross Hill Cemetery in Carthage, N.C.

To view Graves’ WWI photographs, check out the album of his photographs on the State Archives of North Carolina’s Flickr page.

To learn more about Henry Graves’ WWI service, check out the Henry L. Graves Papers (WWI 55) in the WWI Papers of the Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina in Raleigh, N.C.

This blog post is part of the State Archives of North Carolina’s World War I Social Media Project, an effort to bring original WWI archival materials to the public through the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ (NCDNCR) various social media platforms, in order to increase access to the items during the WWI centennial celebration by the state of North Carolina.

Between February 2017 and June 2019, the State Archives of North Carolina will be posting blog articles, Facebook posts, and Twitter posts, featuring WWI archival materials which are posted on the exact 100th anniversary of their creation during the war. Blog posts will feature interpretations of the content of WWI documents, photographs, diary entries, posters, and other records, including scans of the original archival materials, held by the State Archives of North Carolina, and will be featured in NCDNCR’s WWI centennial blog.