Little Bits of History

You’re in the Army Now

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 29, 2011

Uncle Sam gets you

October 29, 1940: The first peacetime draft lottery is held in the United States with number 158 being the first number picked by Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson. Conscription was first instituted in an informal way during the Civil War and was highly unpopular. The Selective Service Act was passed in 1917 under Woodrow Wilson creating the Selective Service System (SSS). All males aged 18-25 were to register with the SSS for possible conscription.

The Selective Training and Service Act passed on September 16, 1940 under Franklin D. Roosevelt and was the first peacetime conscription act. There was a maximum of 900,000 men to be conscripted into training at any one time. The draft was permitted to expire in 1947 and it was hoped that volunteers would fill the ranks. That did not happen and the draft was reinstituted in 1948. Gerald Ford signed a bill terminating the draft in 1975 and Jimmy Carter reestablished it again in 1980.

The SSS has 136 full-time civilian employees with 57 part-time civilian directors, 200 part-time reserve force officers, and thousands of volunteers. There are currently about 13.5 million men registered with the Service which is about 95% of those eligible. Lawrence G. Romo is the current director coming into the position in December of 2009. The annual budget for year 2009 (last year available) was $22 million.

Some argue the constitutionality of conscription citing the Thirteenth Amendment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The courts have not upheld this strategy. Women are currently exempted and the courts upheld that decision in 1981. The stated purpose of the Service it to gather combat ready troops and women are under combat restrictions. Should a draft be instituted, a lottery would be held in public view with 365 or 366 dates drawn. There are 22 classifications to determine exemptive status of conscriptees.

“Being in the army is like being in the Boy Scouts, except that the Boy Scouts have adult supervision.” – Blake Clark

“The tragedy of war is that it uses man’s best to do man’s worst.” – Harry Emerson Fosdick

“I had examined myself pretty thoroughly and discovered that I was unfit for military service.” – Joseph Heller

“It is an unfortunate fact that we can secure peace only by preparing for war.” – John F. Kennedy

Also on this day:
Ali, the Greatest – In 1960, Cassius Clay, later to be known as Muhammad Ali, had his first professional fight.
Seeing Red – In 1863, the International Red Cross got its start.

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3 Responses

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  1. jw135 said, on October 29, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Lovely blog post. I especially enjoyed all the moving quotes posted at the end.

  2. Bobby Dias said, on October 29, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    The United States draft started drawing on what the individual states had set up for themselves for a long time before, the individual states had their own draft service for emergencies, some for active state militias-this United States draft saved much work and time that would have been necessary if they started from nothing because all the information was available. As for peacetime, the Japanese on the west coast who were Japanese citizens and refused to sign a non-agression statement had been locked up in 1938 and 1939 and 1940 under existing laws. In those years Germans and Italians under the same circumstances had been locked up-same laws. Many factories were already producing war materials and enlistments were skyrocketing.


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