Camp Devens - The Mobilization of the Citizens - WW1 Cantonment 1918
On June 5, 1917, each one of these men registered at a booth in his city or town. He answered innumerable questions about his past, present and probable future history. Then he went home and, perhaps, forgot all about it. But Uncle Sam did not forget. On an eventful day in July,— the twenty-eighth —that national guardian of ours picked a multitude of slips from a huge bowl in Washington. On each slip was a number ; one of these numbers was 458. The machinery of war then started to move. Number 458 in one district was, let us say, John Jones of Boston. For five years, John had been working in a grocery store, driving a taxi, or selling tickets in a theatre. He received a letter from an exemption board ordering him to appear for examination. He was physically fit and was passed by the doctors.
Then John went home and waited. Several weeks later he received another letter, telling him that he was to be a soldier and ordering him to report at the board office at eight o'clock the next day. That afternoon he called on his friends and said good-bye, and in the evening he went to see the one girl in the world and then returned home to have a chat with the folks.
The following morning he awoke at six o'clock. He laid his best suit on the top shelf of the closet and put on an old suit of working clothes. At the breakfast table, his father was unusually silent ; the small brother cast envious glances at the hero; mother and sister began to cry softly. John told them not to worry ; he'd have the Germans beaten by spring at the latest. Soon he kissed the family good-bye and started for the office of the board.
There he found a group of twenty other John Joneses, Harry Browns and Bill Smiths, and he learned that their experiences had been identical with his own. The chairman of the board spoke a few words to them, several political leaders shook their hands, slapped their backs, and marched them down the street to the station. And now John and his newly-made friends are waiting for the train, under the watchful eye of the board chairman.
Photograph: All Aboard For Ayer - The Mobilization of the Citizens