For the overwhelming majority of us, we are too young to know what existed on the land that is now Cherry Point.
For the overwhelming majority of us, we are too young to know what existed on the land that is now Cherry Point. We’re also too young to know the feeling of a nation as the world around it erupted into war.
Residents of eastern Craven County — near an old train stop called Havelock — were just trying to squeeze together a life coming off a decade of depression during the 1930s. War had broken out in Europe and in the Pacific, and the United States was attempting to stay out of it, but many in this area were more focused on their farms and raising their children rather than what was going on continents away.
But the leaders of this nation saw trouble ahead and began a buildup of military forces that would impact this area for 75 years — and most likely will for decades to come.
The Marine Corps wanted an East Coast air base and found all it wanted on the shores of the Neuse River between Slocum Creek and Hancock Creek.
Cherry Point was born in 1941, and though property owners of the day lost their land, construction of the new base brought in new people with the promise of good-paying jobs. Little did they realize their work would pave the way for victory in World War II. The base they would build would eventually be where thousands of military pilots trained before going off to war, mostly in the Pacific to fight Japan, which had attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Cherry Point was in its infancy at the time, but with the United States now at war, the air station was more important than ever, and less than four months later, the first plane landed on Cherry Point’s runway.
In the 75 years since Lt. Thomas J. Cushman was first assigned as Cherry Point’s commanding officer on Aug. 18, 1941, the base has played an important role in defense of this country. Cherry Point proved essential during World War II, and pilots here took part in the fight against North Korea. In 1962, Cherry Point’s Marines provided crucial surveillance during the Cuban Missile Crisis, an incident that put Russia and the United States on the brink of nuclear war.
Cherry Point’s electronic warfare aircraft proved vital in the fight against the Vietnamese, and the air station’s Harriers have proven themselves in the fight against Iraq and the war on terrorism.
That’s Cherry Point’s past. But as we mark Cherry Point’s 75th anniversary today, we stand on the brink of its future. Soon, the Marine Corps’ latest aircraft, the F-35B Lightning II, will be seen in the skies over Havelock and Cherry Point. Called a fifth-generation aircraft, it will usher the Marine Corps and the United States into a new era and set the stage — we hope — of 75 more successful years of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.
We hope that these next 75 years are more peaceful than the previous 75. We have mourned the loss of far too many of our Cherry Point service members in far too many conflicts. We can’t measure our appreciation for their sacrifice and for the sacrifices of their families.
While we hope there are peaceful times ahead, we do know that, if called upon, Marine Corps pilots will rely on the excellent training they received at Cherry Point to win the day.
Happy 75th anniversary, Cherry Point, and we thank you for your service.