The Army Recruiting Station

About a month ago, I received this tweet from a South End resident:

I exchanged emails with this curious South Ender and, as the message above indicates, his grandfather enlisted in the Army at the recruiting station at the corner of Columbus Avenue and Clarendon Street in 1941. The South Ender asked if we had any information about the station or any photographs of what it looked like. I told him that I didn’t think the Historical Society had anything but that I’d do a bit of digging in other Boston area resources and would see what I could find.

I started hunting around for information about the Army induction station and for the South Ender’s grandfather. I found that throughout the course of World War II, the Army had several different induction stations in Boston, depending on the volume of recruits or draftees and the proximity to a railroad station. In January 1941 and for some time before that (I’m not sure how long), new enlistees went to 176 Federal Street. However, a Daily Boston Globe article from February 1941 mentions “Boston’s new draft induction station on Columbus Ave” and one from July 1941 gives 269 Columbus Avenue as the address. In February 1941, shortly after the Columbus Ave station opened, the Globe reported that the station was expanding into the adjacent Earle Building because they needed more space(1).

As soon as I saw the name “Earle Building,” I knew exactly where the induction station was. So do you. Have you ever been to the CVS at the corner of Clarendon and Columbus? Or to the City Year headquarters? Did you go to the South End Lower Roxbury Open Space Land Trust’s art reception after the 2011 Garden tour? That building. The image at left is a picture of the building in 1972 (image courtesy of the South End Historical Society). So the next time you’re in there, think of the thousands of recruits who went through there before being sent to Fort Devens or Camp Edwards for training. The “men reporting were given two meals by special ticket at a nearby cafeteria” and some or all took the train from Huntington Avenue(2). I wish I knew where the men ate and I assume that many departed from the Huntington Avenue railroad station that used to stand where Copley Place is now. The Huntington Ave. Station is circled in the 1938 Bromley map at right.

Now that I knew where the South Ender’s grandfather enlisted, I searched to see if I could find any record of him. Newspapers often reported who enlisted or reported and where they were from. I didn’t find a mention of him in the newspaper but I did find his enlistment record, which listed his date, occupation, age, birthday, and level of education. He enlisted in early 1942.

When he enlisted, he probably saw ads like the one below from October 1942, encouraging him to serve his country.
Or this one from June 1942.If you know anyone who went through the South End induction station, please let me know. This is the first time I’d heard a story relating to it.

1. Daily Boston Globe, February 8, 1941, July 8, 1941, and February 22, 1941.

2. Daily Boston Globe, February 7, 1941.

2 thoughts on “The Army Recruiting Station”

  1. Hope, this is great research, thank you very much. After my grandfather mentioned that he had enlisted at this corner–just blocks from my current home–I looked around the area and could not tell where the induction center may have been.

    All he could recall when I saw him this weekend is that he enlisted in Jan ’42 (2 months after Pearl Harbor and less than a year after high school graduation). They asked him if he wanted Infantry or Air-Corps Ground crew. He said ‘medic’. They said they didn’t have openings for medics, and he said he’d leave and they should call him when they had openings for medics. I guess they found an opening, because they sent him to a nearby restaurant with instructions to get a burger, fries, Coke, and how much to tip. The first time he told me about this experience, he described the lunch at a diner or lunch-counter in Back Bay station, but this weekend he did not recall where they ate.

    I think the next meal he had was that night at Fort Devens! He ended up serving as a medic: briefly at an Air Base in North Africa and then at an R&R camp on the island of Capri near Naples, Italy.

    Thanks again for the research. I’d occasionally thought about joining the SEHS, but after reading this story, I’ll happily send in my membership dues tonight.

    Thanks again,
    Scott M

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