Second World War: The Draft

Missouri woman shares her account of her husband being taken by the draft during the Second World War.

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The bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, shocked the whole nation. My husband and I were visiting some very dear friends when the program on the radio was interrupted, and the news announced that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. We sat in stunned silence. Our hearts were saddened. There was a terrible feeling of uneasiness. We knew our lives would never be the same. 

All afternoon and evening the news worsened. We did not leave the radio for anything as they told of the sinking of the USS Arizona and the hundreds of lives lost.

A draft of men 18 years of age and up had already been set up, and it sounded as though all able-bodied men would be called into the service. My husband was soon drafted and went into the service January 14, 1943. I managed to tell him goodbye without shedding a tear, but after he boarded the bus and was out of sight, a regular torrent evolved.

The bus that day carried my husband to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. While he was at Leavenworth waiting for assignment, his mother, father and I went to see him.

When he came out to meet us, his expression was one of anger and displeasure. I couldn't figure out what was wrong. When he finally told me, I laughed out loud. He was angry because we had seen him as he was. The baggy Army fatigues, the Army haircut, the heavy boots and general appearance was not the well-groomed person I was used to seeing, but what the heck! I would have been glad to see him in anything, as long as I could see him. We had a good visit before he was shipped out to Virginia.

From Virginia, he was sent to Clearwater, Florida, for basic training. He trained on the ocean-front beaches, slept in one of the hotels that had been taken over to house Army personnel, basked in the sun, and except for the longing to be home, actually enjoyed the time.

During the time he was in basic training there, my birthday came around. I was pleasantly surprised when I received a dozen red roses from the florist that day. I knew he didn't have much money and had probably spent most of what he had on me. That really touched me. It didn't touch me as much as the phone call I received that evening asking for me to send him some money. He had spent every penny he had to send me those roses.

Although the heartache, separation and financial burden of caring for a young child was the same for thousands of other servicemen's wives, I seem - after all these years - to recall some of the lighter things that happened with regard to our family.

Other little things happened that we could laugh about -something that we couldn't do very often. Those were very sad days, and a little joy was a welcome emotion.

Zoe Rexroad 
Adrian, Missouri

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.