As the magnitude of the attack on Pearl Harbor became apparent in December 1941, men eager to defend the country flocked to military recruitment offices. On December 8, newspapers reported that lines formed nationwide as men waited to enlist. Some recruitment offices stayed open around the clock to accommodate demand. In many cases, brothers enlisted together, and sometimes fathers and sons. We searched our archives to discover more about some early enlistees. Here are a few of their stories:
The same day Pearl Harbor was attacked, 21-year-old Roland “Rolly” Bumpus, Jr. of Massachusetts, announced to his family, “Tomorrow, I’m going to enlist in the Navy,” he said. “O.K., son,” said his father. I’ll join up again with you.” Roland Bumpus, Sr. had served in the Navy during WWI. They both applied for enlistment, and Rolly, Jr. was accepted. He was assigned to serve on the USS Ingraham (DD-444). The ship served as an escort for convoys bringing supplies to Europe. On August 22, 1942, in heavy fog, the USS Ingraham collided with the oil tanker Chemung off the coast of Nova Scotia. Depth charges in the ship exploded, and the Ingraham sank quickly, killing more than 200 men. Rolly, Jr. died in the incident. He had served for just eight months.
In Philadelphia, Navy officials announced on December 10 that four brothers from the Irion family had enlisted. The boys were Frederick, 25, Edward, 23, Perry, 20, and James, 18. Their mother, Louise Irion, said she just had one regret. “I had wanted to have the boys home with me for Christmas, she said, “but I guess they will be needed sooner than that…I’m glad for the opportunity to give my sons,” she said. Muster rolls show that at one point, all four boys served aboard the USS Tuscaloosa. The Irion brothers served throughout the entire war and returned home safely.
Benjamin Kuroki was the 22-year-old son of Japanese immigrants from Hershey, Nebraska. On December 10, 1941, he and his brother Fred went to a recruitment office and tried to enlist. The official said he had to check with his superiors before allowing the boys to join. They were given permission and enlisted in the US Army but faced constant prejudice. Ben was passionate about flying and became a decorated gunner in the 93rd Bombardment Group. He flew 58 bombing missions (including some over Japan) and received three Distinguished Flying Crosses. Ben Kuroki passed away in 2015 at age 98.
Prince H. Wilson enlisted in the US Marines on December 8, 1941. The Montana native’s brothers John and Fabian also served during WWII. Prince fought in the Battle of Bougainville and reunited with his brother John in November 1943 while fighting on the island. Prince was a Paramarine and served in the 1st Parachute Battalion, 1st Marine Parachute Regiment, Company B. On November 29, 1943, just two days after reuniting with his brother, Prince was killed in action on Bougainville.
These stories represent a small fraction of the many families impacted when the United States entered WWII. Do you have ancestors who enlisted early on during WWII? Share your experiences in the comments below and search our collection of military records today on Fold3®.