Between the two World Wars, and especially once the Great Depression hit, getting into one of the armed services was almost as big of an accomplishment as getting accepted into an Ivy League college. For the lucky few, being in the U.S. Navy meant having three meals a day, a place to sleep, and the opportunity to learn a trade that could continue to benefit them professionally later on as civilians. Many Depression-era Americans worried that another economic downturn could occur. As a result, many servicemen—even former prisoners of war—elected to serve until retirement.
After Pearl Harbor was attacked in December 1941 and the United States entered World War II, joining the U.S. Navy became easier. With new ships under construction and the nation in a struggle for its very survival, all branches of the service sought new recruits. In addition to having regular meals and a place to lay one’s head, revenge for the attack on Pearl Harbor was a motivating factor to join. For others, enlisting in the Navy was an alternative to being drafted into the Army.