In September 1940, World War II was a year old. The US was still a noncombatant, but it was preparing for a fight.
That month, the US introduced the Selective Training and Service Act — the first peacetime draft in US history. Mobilizing the millions of troops was a monumental task and essential to deploying "the arsenal of democracy" that President Franklin D. Roosevelt called on Americans to provide.
On a December morning in 1918, Charles Lewis began his last day as a private in the United States Army. Just a month after the end of World War I, Lewis accepted his honorable discharge and left Camp Sherman, in Chillicothe, Ohio, one of the few military facilities that housed black soldiers. He was headed home to Alabama.
When Arby L. Hambric speaks, the 89-year-old Navy veteran chooses his words with deliberate care and manages to flank each statement with a polite affectation. If you wish him a good day, he quickly says, “You made it one,” and if you talk with him long enough, the conversation can start to feel like a competition over who can be more polite.