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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Raw Recruits: 1941

Raw Recruits: 1941

"December 1941. Enlisting in the Marines. Recruiting office, San Francisco." Nitrate negative by John Collier, Office of War Information. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

The boy peeping

looks positively entranced.

Now and Thin

I don't think that these guys are underweight, but normal weight. We, today in our country, are extremely overweight. This is the first time in the history of mankind that we have too much food, in one country. It's gotten to where I have been told upfront by a few women that I am "too thin" to date. I am 47, 5'10" and 185 pounds, athletic build, and I am too thin? Times are a-changin'.

Roger that in '85

MEPS in Dallas 1985 - same drill shoulder to shoulder naked while the doc went down the line. We were told to keep our eyes straight ahead.

The guy next to me had some sort of issue with his "man parts" and several docs stood in front of him (and all of us) pointing and discussing. It was pretty uncomfortable for everyone. Whatever the problem was, he was taken out of the room and we didn't see him again.

Still like this in '85

When I processed through MEPS in Los Angeles back in 1985, the process was pretty much the same. When you walked through open areas where no medical processing was taking place, you were dressed in big white cotton boxers. When it was time to turn your head and cough, etc. - the boxers came off.

In the early '50s

It was still that way, but there was females walking around all over the place. Didn't seem to bother them.

Group W bench

Although it was a generation later, as a child of the sixties this photo immediately brings to my mind the whole story of Alice's Restaurant.

Oh thank god

This particular practice was discontinued, at least on December 4, 1968.

What the...?

Only the Marines would would make you strip naked to take an eye exam.

The Naked and the Dead

Once you take away the accouterments of war -- the uniforms and weapons--how vulnerable these young men seem. Who knows what horrors they faced in the next few years.

Gravy Up!

Obviously not Southern men fortified with biscuits, gravy and good ole country sausage and the muscles gained by hard farming.

Someone needed to give these boys the high-corn show feed and fast.

Got any of these

of the female recruits?
(Actually I'm not sure if I'd want to see them.)

Phil Foster

There was a postwar stand-up comic named Phil Foster who told of his induction physical. He said there were a hundred naked guys in a cold room with marble benches. When they were ordered to sit, it sounded like applause.


Don't stare.

Genesis of the "lunch ladies"

The WWII draft physicals played an important role in changing American nutritional policy.

Concerns about the nutritional status of young men drafted for service in the War led to the enactment of the National School Lunch Act in 1946.

Slim Pickin's

Not sure the Marines got their "few good men" out of that scrawny bunch. Maybe they made up for it with attitude.


Considering that cameras add weight to the subject it just goes to show how common caloric energy from lipids and proteins is today. These are average healthy adults of the time and to my eyes today they look thin.

Useless furniture.

I'm guessing the coat rack in the corner didn't get much use.

I remember the cold linoleum floors. Would socks have been too much to leave us with?

If you can read this...

If that paper on the wall is the eye chart, it is a wonder that anybody can pass the test. Even the sign warning the recruits about dishonorable discharges is in a larger type.

I think I would have titled this one

"Checking out the competition."


And they're not Planter's either!

Part of the Continuum: Ah, the memories...

And I can vouch that this rite of passage remained pretty much unchanged at least through 1972. Other than the small number of recruits or draftees shown, it looks just like my in-processing at the Hollywood CA Induction Center.

For the uninitiated, it was just easier to keep you naked as you were processed through different examination stations. You were examined, poked, and prodded from the top of your head to the soles of your feet, and I saw people rejected at every step of the process.

The only thing I remember about the sequencing was the hernia exam was immediately followed by the rectal exam in the same room. We were cycled into the exam room about 25-30 raw recruits at a time, lined up around the edges facing into the room while 2-3 docs first did the "cough check" assembly-line style, and then we were all told to face the wall and bend over. Thank goodness the only visual I got from that was the gov't two-tone green paint on the wall.

It was the perfect preparation for Basic Training: Nothing else could quite drive home the point: "Welcome to the military! Your you-know-what is ours!"

Cheek to cheek

That wooden bench was, I'm sure, just sat upon by three other naked guys and will be sat upon by the next group of naked guys. The germophobes among us are recoiling in horror.

The naked I

Darn! Now I know what I was doing wrong at the optometrist. Who knew you had to be naked to pass the eye exam.

The flower of American youth

OK, I'll be the first to say it, "Eyes front!!"

Hey buddy

It's not polite to stare. It's even less polite to point.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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