Thoughts on military status
I just remembered my late father and late uncle talking about the military around WWII and how its status changed so suddenly.
My uncle, George Ferguson, enlisted in the Coast Guard before WWII. At one point he was in Norfolk, the big port, in then-segregated Virginia. The restaurants had signs up: "Negroes and Sailors Not Admitted."
After the war, he was demobilized far from home, and it took several days to get back. In all that time he didn't buy one meal. He'd eat, put money on the counter and the owner would push it back to him, grinning and saying "Your money's not good here, sailor," meaning it was on the house. Or when the check was put down, a civilian would snatch it up and say it was his privilege to buy his meal.
Dad was demobilized on the east coast (he'd been USAAF and it left him terrified of flying... he drove from Tucson to D.C. for our wedding and the baptism of our first kid rather than fly. He set out to return home by thmbing a ride. A guy picked him up, and said they could make Arizona in two days by driving day and night -- the one not driving would sleep in the back seat. Off they went. That meant the owner was trusting a perfect stranger to drive his car while he dozed, but he was a serviceman, wasn't he?
In 1940, a serviceman was treated as scum. In 1945, a man in uniform was treated as at least a completely trustworthy fellow, and often as a hero. [More below]
Chuckle--Uncle Fergie had enlisted in the Coast Guard, figuring it'd be a safe assignment. He wound up escorting convoys thru the frigid North Atlantic. He talked of going past frozen bodies clustered in the water where a torpedoed ship went down. You froze to death in minutes in those waters, and the ships were forbidden to stop and rescue (that'd just make them sitting ducks for the next torpedo). If you got into a life boat, you had a small chance of survival, but if there was no time to launch those, there were no survivors.
From his description, I guess he was on a destroyer escort -- a merchant ship converted into a sort-of destroyer, with projectors for depth charges. He attributed his survival to the fact that the ship was not worth expending torpedos on (U boats had a very limited supply of reloads, and it took a spread of several to be sure of a hit). Their ship was shot at once, and I believe he said the helmsman made a mistake and turned it contrary to the captain's orders, but in some way it created a wave that made the warhead detonate before the torp got to them (or maybe they just thought it caused the detonation).
Dad enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1940. The recruiting officer spun a great line to him and another guy from little St. David, Arizona. Why, he had clout, here's a list of bases, pick the one you want and I'll make sure you get sent there. Dad picked Hickham Field, Hawaii. He had visions of the beach and hula-hula dancers. Of course he never got sent there, kept on asking and being put off.
Then on December 7, 1941, he was happy he'd been deceived. He was a flight line mechanic, and probably would have been right there when the bombs started coming down.