When the United States entered World War II, the Navy's African-American sailors had for decades been limited to serving as mess attendants. However, the wartime pressures of a manpower shortage, the willingness of thousands of African Americans to serve, plus political pressure, forced important changes. Though the Navy remained racially segregated in training and in most service units, in 1942 the enlisted ranks were opened to all qualified personnel. Weems sent the photograph below to his wife, Mary, while he was serving aboard a ship in the Pacific theater.
- James Weems