On 16 September 1940 the United States Congress, under the directive of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, passed the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. It was the first peace-time draft in American history, although not unwarranted as both Europe and Japan were already in conflicts -France had fallen to the Nazis in June 1940 and night-time bombing raids of England (known as “The Blitz”) had just begun. America would still practice isolationism for another year until it was forced into the conflict by Japan with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but there was a sense of inevitability building that the United States would enter the fray and, as with the first World War, the standing Armed Forces were not at the strength needed to go to war.
There were seven mass registration dates for the second World War:
|First Draft||16 October 1940||– For men born between 17 October 1904 and 16 October 1919 (ages 21-35) living within the continental United States. |
– The first national lottery took place on 29 October 1940.
|Second Draft||1 July 1941||– For men born between 17 October 1919 and 12 July 1920 who had turned 21 since the first registration & men from the first draft who did not register. |
– The prefix “S” preceded the serial number.
– The second national lottery took place on 17 July 1941.
|Third Draft||16 February 1942||– For men born between 17 February 1897 and 31 December 1921 (ages 20-45) who had not previously registered. |
– The prefix “T” preceded the serial number.
– The third national lottery took place on 17 March 1942.
|Fourth Draft||27 April 1942||“Old Man’s Draft Registration” |
-Men born between 27 April 1877 and 16 February 1897 (aged 45-65)
-These men were not drafted for military service, but recorded to show an inventory of manpower resources for national service.
– The prefix “U” preceded the serial number.
– Cards from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee were destroyed before they were microfilmed and do not exist.
|Fifth Draft||30 June 1942||– For men born between 1 January 1922 and 30 June 1924 (ages 18-20) |
– The prefix “N” preceded the serial number.
|Sixth Draft||11-31 December 1942||– For men born between 1 July and 31 December 1924 (men who had turned 18 after 12 November 1942. |
– The prefix “W” preceded the serial number.
|Additional [Seventh] Draft||16 November – 31 December 1943||– For American citizens living abroad between the ages of 18 and 45.|
|* Registrations did continue through 1946.|
* There are no draft cards from the state of Maine; they were destroyed before they could be filmed and digitized.
Over forty-five million men registered for the draft and over ten million men were inducted into service between the years 1940 and 1946.
Two of the three national lotteries of World War II took place before 7 December 1941 and men who were inducted served for the period of one year of training. Once the United States officially declared war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor the terms were lengthened for service through the duration of the conflict. After the third national lottery ended induction was based on birth date.
Serial number 158 was the first number called in the first national lottery. Lyle Frank Rubash was one of two men with the number 158 in McHenry County, Illinois because there were two local draft boards within the county. Therefore, both men were assigned order number one which was marked in red on the top right of the card. Lyle’s registration card can be seen below:
The process for lottery selection and the information found on the draft card remained largely unchanged from the first World War (read about the process and information here), but the classification system for selected men grew more complex:
|I. Available for service||I-A – Available and fit for general military service |
I-A-O – Conscientious objectors available for military service in a non-combatant role
I-B – Available and fit for limited military service
I-B-O – Conscientious objectors available for limited military service [discontinued after August 1942]
I-C – Members of the United States armed forces
I-D – Students fit for general military service and available before 1 July 1941
I-E – Students fit for limited military service and available before 1 July 1941
|II. Deferred due to occupational status||II-A – Men necessary in their civilian occupation |
II-B – Men necessary to national defense
II-C – Men necessary to farm labor
|III. Deferred due to dependents||III-A – Men with dependents who were not engaged in a national defense occupation |
III-B – Men with dependents who were engaged in a national defense occupation
|IV. Deferred by law or unfit for service||IV-A – Men who had completed service [this was not applicable in war time] |
IV-B – Officials deferred by law
IV-C – Non-declarant aliens
IV-D – Ministers of religion or divinity/seminary students
IV-E – Conscientious objectors available for civilian work of national importance
IV-E-LS – Conscientious objectors available for limited civilian work of national importance
IV-E-H – Men formerly classified as either IV-E above who were deferred by reason of age
IV-F – Men physically, mentally, or morally unfit for service
Although having a draft registration card did not automatically mean that man served during the war (a common misconception), the draft card can provide essential genealogical information and was the starting point in the military service of ten million men. The draft board classification lists which give the classifications of selected men and pertinent dates for physicals, calls to service, and other notations that can be used to reconstruct a military service file or provide additional information are available at National Archives facilities (these are not digitized).
Are you curious if one of your male ancestors was among the 45 million who registered for the World War II draft? Or would you like to obtain the classification records that corresponds to your ancestor’s draft card? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help you get started!
- Ann Yoder, Swarthmore College Library, “Military Classifications for Draftees“
- FamilySearch, “United States World War II Draft Records“
- Library of Congress, “Selective Training and Service Act of 1940“
- National Archives and Records Administration, “World War II Selective Service Draft Cards: Fourth Registration, 1942“
- United States Selective Service System, “Induction Statistics“
- United States Selective Service System, “World War II Timeline“