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December 1941: Patriotism Prevails as Enlistees Flock to Recruitment Offices Following Pearl Harbor

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:

Roland Bumpus, Jr.

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.

Muster roll for the USS Tuscaloosa

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.

Benjamin Kuroki

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.

Paramarines jump during WWII

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®.


  1. Candace Payne says:

    This is so amazing because my Dad was best friends with Roland Bumpus. Dad was assigned to go to Key West just 5 days before the USS Ingraham sank so he wasn’t on the ship. But he told us all while growing up about how he was supposed to be on that ship.


    Benjamin Kuroki was awarded three Distinguished FLYING Crosses, not Distinguished SERVICE Crosses. The DSC is the second highest award for valor, just below the Medal of Honor. He was later awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 2005, recognizing his service above and beyond the call of duty.

  3. Many great Patriots joined our Military with the shock of the Pearl Harbor attack. My father was already stationed in the Philippines, he joined the Army on May 8th , 1941 . Clyde Andrew Coats was on Bataan in the 31st Infantry when they ran out of ammunition and surrendered on April 9th, 1942 against overwhelming Japanese troops.

  4. Jerry Lambertson says:

    My father, Floyd R Lambertson, served on the LST 779 during the invasion of Iwo Jima.
    His job as a coxswain was to transport the marines to the beach on an lcm. He made many trips back and forth dropping off marines and was often shot at but fortunately survived the war. The flag raised by the marines on the hilltop was from his ship.

  5. EJ McConaughy says:

    I was 3 weeks old on Dec 7. My dad was 32 and overweight – he lost the weight and joined the Naval Reserve as an ensign. He served on troop carriers in the Pacific to the end of the war, & retired as a Lt.Commander.

  6. Ken Hutton says:

    My dad heard the radio report about the attack on Pearl Harbor after he had Sunday dinner while at Marine boot camp. He ended up fighting in the battle on Guadalcanal.

  7. Jim Jacobson says:

    My great uncle came from Denmark and served in WWI. My father served in England, France, and Germany with the OSS, forerunner to the CIA. His brother was a second year law student at the University of Iowa and quit to enlist in the Army Air Corps. He was KIA over Germany during his 57th mission flying a P47 with the 78th Fighter Group. His father, my grandfather, also immigrated from Denmark and never got over his son’s death. He died six months after the body was laid to rest in the family plot in Iowa at the young age of 67. I served in the Army, a year in the states and a year in Vietnam. I then went on to serve 30 years in the Navy.

  8. Over all these year, Fold 3 has ownered our fallem and living hero’s. My dad served in the Army, a cook, during WW!. My step dad, 8th Air Force, supply Sgt., England. My cousin, William McVey, Navy, South Pacific. Myself, German occupation after WWII ended. Thank Fold 3 for never forgetting our fighting men and women of all of the conflicts we have been in. God Bless each and everyone who’s put on a uniform.

  9. My uncle, Henry M. Ward, Jr., enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1939. On 8 Dec 1941, he was at Clark Field in the Philippines. He survived the Bataan Death March in April 1942, but the Japanese did not notify the US of who they’d taken prisoner for over six months. So in June 1942, his father, Henry M. Ward, Sr., enlisted in the Navy and was assigned to the CBs due to his age and background. He joined to “find my son.” He served through the war in the Pacific and returned home safely. In early 1943, he learned his son was a prisoner in the Philippines. His son was later taken to Japan on one of the “hell ships” and mined coal until war’s end. He returned home safely, as well.

  10. This is excellent information.

    My father-in-law, Elmer Burye, fought in Germany in WWII in the “Century Division”. He saw very heavy fighting, lost most of his fellow-soldiers, saw the concentration camps, and had at least two conversations with General Patton. The one conversation took place toward the end of the war as he was assigned to check the I.D.s of those who passed through a certain area. General Patton happened to come through and my father-in-law asked for his I.D.. The general said, “Soldier, do you know who I am?!”. My father-in-law replied, “Yes sir, but I have orders to check everyone’s I.D.”. Patton was initially angry with him but later spoke to his commanding officer and said, “You have a good man there. He did exactly what he was supposed to do.”

  11. My father served as a turret captain on the cruiser USS Chicago stationed at Pearl Harbor the day of the attack. That morning he was aboard his ship was at sea on escort duty to Midway Island, but his wife and two small children, my brother and I, were living at Pearl Harbor in the new Navy housing next to Hickam Field. We rode out the attack in a sugar cane field with other Navy families. My father survived the war unscathed through some of the early fierce fighting in the Pacific, Guadalcanal, the Coral Sea, Savo Island, and New Guinea. The Chicago was torpedoed and sunk in 1943 off Rennell Island.

  12. My father served as a turret captain on the cruiser USS Chicago stationed at Pearl Harbor the day of the attack. That morning he was aboard his ship at sea on escort duty to Midway Island, but his wife and two small children, my brother and I, were living at Pearl Harbor in the new Navy housing next to Hickam Field. We rode out the attack in a sugar cane field with other Navy families. My father survived the war unscathed through some of the early fierce fighting in the Pacific around the Solomon Islands, Guadalcanal, the Coral Sea, and Savo Island. The Chicago was torpedoed and sunk in 1943 off Rennell Island.

  13. Edwin Bills says:

    My maternal grandfather served in the Navy and was at Vera Cruz in 1915 in the Mexican War. His son, my uncle joined the Navy with his cousin in 1937 at the height of the Depression. My uncle was on USS Raleigh CL-7 on one side of Ford Island on December 7th and his cousin was on the other side of Ford Island on the USS West Virginia. Both ships were heavily damaged, but both survived the attack and the war.

    My uncle worked to recover those lost on the USS Utah tied up behind the Raleigh, until Christmas. My uncle’s ship was raised, went to Mare Island Shipyard in California for overhaul and repairs and was sent to the Aleutian Islands to fight the Japanese there for the war and he was discharged in 1945. His cousin was transferred to destroyers in the Pacific and he served until 1948.

    I joined the Navy in 1962, right after the Cuban Missile Crisis and served in Submarines. My second sub was built at Mare Island, the same place my uncle’ ship was repaired. After completion of construction we went to Pearl Harbor and tied up at the same berth that my uncle’s ship was when they were attacked. The hulk of the USS Utah remained there and is today one of the three ship memorials at Pearl Harbor, the first being the USS Arizona, the second is the USS Oklahoma. The Utah is not accessible to the public as it is still at the berth on Ford Island Navy Base, but there is a memorial there.

  14. Kevin says:

    My dad and his best buddy went down to the USMC Recruiting office in Mishawaka IN on Dec 8th and were told they would both need written consent to enlist due to their age. They both agreed to meet at the recruitment office the next morning with the signed forms. Dad signed up and was on train to Parris Is by Christmas while his buddys mother refused to sign the form. Dad went into the 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division and fought at Guadalcanal and throughout the Pacific for 36 mos. He met my mother in a Melbourne AUS field hospital in Feb 43′ recovering from malaria. She became a warbride and agreed to move to Indiana. I miss them both terribly and think about them everyday. Truly the greatest generation

  15. Richard Baynes says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t have a story about an American WWII hero…my American mother married an Aussie…They lived in Hong Kong. On December 8th the Japanese bombed and invaded Hong Kong. Dad fought with the Hong Kong Volunteer Defense Corps…not unlike our US Reserves or National Guard. He was captured Christmas Day 1941 and spent the remainder of the war in POW camps in China and Japan…my mother was interned for about 8 months and then was repatriated to the states. Dad suffered from what we call PTSD today.

  16. John F. Connolly says:

    My uncle that I never met signed up in the army National guard at age 19,during WWII, his father served in WWI in France. He was slightly under weight and told to go home and eat a bunch of bananas come back and weight in again. He did and passed. Assigned to the Massachusets National guard engineering unit which was activated by the president and he was trained and shipped to Guadalcanal PFC George Fulkerson.(My moms brother) He was assigned to the 57th Engineers. Once on the island he was assigned to dig up land mines along with 5 other men. Once the truck was fully loaded with an estimated 250 mines. the commander told them to dump them on the other side of the island. On the way they struck another mine all 7 men including PFC Fulkerson were killed. Empty caskets were sent home with very little remains and burried at Chattanoga National cemetery in Tennessee. The DOD stated that thier remains were intermingled. The mine that was struck was along a river bed. Never to be forgotten. I believe that his remain and those of the others are still on the island. Hoping one day to give my DNA to locate them.

  17. My father had joined the Army not long before 7 Dec 1941 and was at Pearl Harbor that day:

    As to high profile signups during the bond selling and recruitment campaigns, here’s this:

  18. I had 3 Uncles that served in the Pacific in the Navy as Seebees. D.C. (David Charles), Raymond and Thomas Colston. They were my heroes because they served, no models that they were awarded.

  19. My grandfather was 15 when he ran away from home in Monroe, LA to join the Marines in 1915. He fought at Belau Wood’s outside of Paris; he described that time as his witnessing terrible deaths and battles. During the end of that siege he was sent back home as his mother had complained to the USMC. At age 17 he ran away and joined the Merchant Marines then joined to the US Navy in 1919 till after WWII. He was on the USS Arizona but transferred stateside two weeks before Pearl Harbor on 11/23/ 1941. He retired after WWII, became a professional gambler in Las Vegas, sending $900 a month to my grandmother, who had divorced him in 1936. He died young in 1957; shortly after he was with my sister and myself for an afternoon at a community pool. For his service in WWI, he is interred at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery on Point Loma, CA.

  20. Joseph A. Godec says:

    My uncle, Joseph J. Godec, was overage at the time of Pearl Harbor (he was 40 on Sept. 6, 1941) but in that spate of patriotism after Dec.7, he joined the Seabees as they accepted overage men who were journeymen in the trades and crafts. As he was a millwright at the Colo. Fuel & Iron steel mill in Pueblo, CO, the navy made him a Shipfitter, 1/C which at that time was just one grade below that of the highest enlisted rank Chief Petty Officer. Uncle Joe was training in one of the desert areas of California for the anticipated invasion of North Africa when the Japanese attached the Aleutians. In response, his Seabee battalion was sent up to Dutch Harbor, Attu, and Kiska initially in summer khaki uniform (with pith helmets, no less). From just below the Arctic Circle, he was later sent south of the Equator to New Guinea and the Admiralties. When the war ended, he was in the Philippines.
    Incidentally, the marines had a saying in those days: “Never hit a Seabee; he may be a marine’s grandfather.”

  21. My name is Patricia Lassalle Pilgrim. My Dad, Billy Lassalle, was a boat builder in Higgins Boats in New Orleans. They were building yachts when he first started but quickly changed to building the landing boats that were known as the “boats that won the war” at Normandy. When the war started, he also went through the “banana eating” routine before he would go to the enlistment center. He was 5′ 2″ and weighed 100 pounds. My aunt told me they would all get sick watching him eat so many bananas at once. It took several trips but he was finally accepted into the navy. My aunt said she remembered the man at the desk tell my Dad, “son, you are so persistent, I’m going to let you in.” My Dad wanted to fly, but they told him he was too small, and they needed him in San Diego to repair the boats when they came in and send them right out again. He wasn’t happy, but after the war, he decided he was perfect for a helicopter pilot. His light weight offset the weight of each load. So, he went to school and found his niche. He flew for many years as such. Then the Viet Nam war ramped up and Dad and our family moved to Mineral Wells, Texas at the Fort Wolter military base. He trained all the young men who were going off to Viet Nam to fly helicopters. He never really got over that; it was a mental burden for him that so many he came to know well, would not return. He lived to be 87 years old, passing away in 2005. We were all very proud of him for serving his country so well and I learned my patriotism from him.

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  23. Ed Foyle says:

    My dad was a member of the Naval Armed Guard enlisting right after December 7th. Joe survived the PQ-17 convoy to Russia disaster in July 1942 and was torpedoed in February 1943 as a gunner on the Army Troop Transport Henry Mallory. He survived a few hours on a raft in the North Atlantic.

  24. Douglas L. Decker DDS says:

    My father enlisted in the Army Air Corps in February 1942. I asked him if he was hit by the patriotic fever. He said that since he was single and 22 years old, he knew he would get drafted. He did not want to end up in a foxhole in No. Europe or the Pacific. He was a mechanic sort of guy so he figured airplanes would be good. He was assigned to be flight engineer on a B-24 in England. They did offer to send him to OCS but he declined—-same reason—figured they wanted 2nd Lt’s for the infantry and he wanted to avoid foxholes! On his 15th mission bombing Friedrichhausen in So. Germany they got shot up so badly they could not make it back to England so they crashed landed in Switzerland and were interned the rest of the war.

  25. Connie Gustafson says:

    My dad enlisted in the U S Navy in 1939, and was stationed in Pearl Harbor. On December 7, he was at sea on escort duty, thus missing the attack. He was a medical corpsman and went ashore with the Marines on Tulagi and Guadalcanal. Due to malaria infection he was sent to the Naval hospital in Sun Valley Idaho, where he met my mother. He was back with the Marines for the invasion of many Pacific Islands including the Philippines, and left the Navy after the armistice in 1945. I believe he suffered from what we now call PTSD when he returned. He will always be a hero to me.

  26. GREGORY MORSE says:

    December 7, 1941 My most precious dad was running the key on the submarine tender USS Chester headed into Pearl Harbor with several other vessels – about 10 miles out. He said he could see a lot of black smoke up ahead as the order came through to turn around and head back out to sea! Dad said they almost got involved had the timing been a little different.

  27. Steven Harris says:

    WW2 my Father, Milton Harris (Navy) serverd on the USS Steelhead, a submarine. An uncle Samuel Smith was a Navy diver. Another uncle Albert Stoops was a Marine who part of the invasion of Saipan. They lost half their Company during the beach landing. Ten days later he was next to a blockhouse that exploded. He went in and out of consciousness and was aware of a poncho placed over him. When the burial detail checked him they found a pulse. Dirt was cleared from his mouth and sent to an aid station. He would be in two hospitals over eight months before being released to return home. They truly showed us what service to our country is. All went on to find careers and raise a family. My brother joined the Air Force and I the Army. I spent 18 months in Vietnam. This seems to be where it ends.

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  29. Constance "Connie" May says:

    My dad, Robert Blomberg Sr. enlisted in the Army Air Corp two weeks before Pearl Harbor. Perhaps he saw the war coming. He initially tried to join the the Canadian Air Force from Wisconsin, but they declined him….he didn’t live in Canada I guess. He served throughout the war but not in combat. He worked with the electrical systems on the B-29’s through the end of the war. He had a cousin Edwin Blomberg who served along with several brothers during WWII. Edwin was in the “Marine Raiders” in the South Pacific, and while in combat in the islands of New Georgia, was shot in the upper arm and nearly bled to death before being evacuated. A book by that name “Marine Raiders” written by Carole Engle Avriett was published in 2021, shortly before Edwin’s death in Feb. 2022. Edwin and his wife went on to become missionaries in British Honduras now known as Belize, and dedicated their lives to that cause. Amazing man all his life!

  30. Laura Shaver says:

    My brother, George Richard Hackett Jr, asked Mom to sign for him to joint the USN, he was only 17.
    He trained as a signalman and was off the coast of Omaha Beach on D Day sending messages to the guys on the beach when the man reading the message he was sending was cut open by enemy fire. He swore at that time he would join the sub service so if they were hit they would all die together.
    He spent his career in the Navy and was on the USN sub the Sargo when it went under the North Pole (the second sub to do that). He served as an investigator of accidents of subs for the rest of his career. In retirement, he worked for the Navy as a civilian.
    He passed away at 70 years of age in Scotland, married to Helen, the love of his life.
    His name is in the book D Day, by the way, is a great book about the war.

  31. My dad, Warren Houte Edwards was in Day, and made it to the Huertgen Forest where was killed.

  32. papuwa 14 says:

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  33. I continue to pray everyday for our brave men and women out there fighting for our freedom.
    I am blessed because these brave men and women continue to enlist and fight for us.
    The prayers of their friends and family, and others.
    God Bless you all.One nation under GOD.

  34. Rich says:

    I’m a bit late in reading these wonderful recognitions and want to add that of a still living WW II veteran and Japanese POW camp survivor:

    While serving with the Chanute AFB 3345th CE Group I met its then civilian Fire Chief Leland Duane Chandler. He was born 3 Jan 1923, enlisted in the US Army 4 Feb 1941 (16003919), was sent to San Francisco the same day for immediate deployment to the Philippines, received basic training in-country, and was stationed on Corregidor Island. He was on Corregidor for the Japanese attack which began 29 Dec 1941 and ended with the American surrender on 9 April 1942. He became a Japanese POW working for 3½ years in a steel mill on the Japanese mainland until being liberated in 1945. He remains living (Galesburg, IL) and will celebrate his 101st birthday 3 Jan 2024. His wife Ruth recently passed away 8 Dec 2023 just 4 days after their 75th wedding anniversary. More can be found at

  35. Rich says:

    I also must add one of my first cousins who was part of the big patriotic response after the Pearl Harbor attack:

    John Ivan Buljan (19 Oct 1924 – 25 Jan 2005) had just turned 17 a month and a half before Pearl Harbor, enlisted in the US Navy on 15 Dec 1941, and immediately was sent to boot camp at USNTS San Diego where he was in the Navy’s briefly tried 3 week boot camp, then shipped to Pearl Harbor on the USS President Hayes (APA-20) where on 3 Feb 1942 he immediately was assigned to the sea plane tender USS Curtiss (AV-4). He served on Curtis in the Pacific until leaving it in Funafuti to become a Plank Owner on USS San Carlos (AVP-51) on its 21 March 1944 commissioning at the Lake Washington Shipyard. He served on San Carlos in the Philippines until the war ended.

  36. Sharon Lightner-Barrie says:

    I must say how proud I was to read some of the stories people have shared. My father joined the navy at 16, by the age of 21 he was based at Pearl Harbor. As part of the rescue team he survived the terrible experience. I was not born then but in 1943 he married an Australian girl, I was born a year later. I now live in Australia & thank my father & many others for saving Australia.

  37. Mike Shaw says:

    My uncle, Carter S Shaw, had served in the Calvary in World War I (he had also been with Pershing in the pursuit of Pancho Villa following the attack on Columbus, NM but that is a story for another time). Right after the attack on Pearl Harbor he joined the Army (he was 47 years old).
    He was assigned to a hospital at Fort Campbell as an orderly while they decided whether he was too old to serve. After a couple of months he was discharged as unsuitable for military service. He always said, “Well, I tried.”

  38. sandra c emerson says:

    My father, Arthur Emerson, Jr., was a midshipman, he graduated in June, 1942, and was commissioned as an ensign. He was 19. He served 30 years, retiring in 1972. He met my mother, married and raised 3 girls. My grandfather graduated from the Naval Academy in 1916, served in WWI, retired in the 30’s, was reactived for WWII, retired again after the war. My uncle, Earle B. Childs, graduated from the Naval Academy in 1940, lost his right leg at Guadalcanal, but survived the war and raised 4 girls. He died in 1966.

  39. Florence Ginter says:

    When my brother graduated from high school in 1940, my dad sent him to a school up in Rome, NY to study Airplane aeronautics. When WW11 was was declared, he came home to NYC and announced he was going to join the army. My dad, then 46 and a WW1 veteran suggested he join the Navy instead. They both went down to enlist. My dad was rejected because of his age and an old wound from WW1, but my brother went on to his airplane repair. Since he had already started his courses, he was able to graduate quickly and was on the USS Tulagi, an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. He served on aircraft carriers for the entire war and was discharged in 1946. I think my dad had great foresight in sending him to an aeronautic school, long before planes became so important in the war, and thus enabled him to serve our country as quickly as possible. He was just 19 when he enlisted.

  40. Judith R says:

    My father, Roland Pershing Horne, received a Purple Heart for his injury on the USS St. Louis during the Pearl Harbor attack. I recently found out, after years of research, why he received the Purple Heart. My regret is that he never shared the details with us.