Answering the call

“I joined the army ‘cause there wasn’t anything else around. Not just for a colored man but for anyone. I had a large family, and we were really poor. I knew the army would give me three meals a day and a little pay, so I joined up. . . . I knew that the service wasn’t much better than where I was in terms of racism, but a full belly could take away some of the bitterness. I got clothes, a place to live, and a little money and even got some training on some heavy equipment. I don’t think I would have gotten that anywhere else but in the service. It was segregated, but I felt that I was doing something better with my life instead of just slowly wasting away. When I went in, we weren’t at war. I just wanted three squares a day, some spending money, and a roof over my head.” – Harry Kempt, U.S. Army, 93rd Combat Engineers (quoted in The World War II Desk Reference, Douglas Brinkley and Michael E. Haskew, eds.)

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