USA: A Look at the Past and Possible Future of ‘the Draft’

The United States military has been all-volunteer since 1973. But an act of Congress could still reinstate the draft in case of a national emergency.

Photo: Paratroopers load aircraft bound for the U.S. Central Command area of operations from Fort Bragg, N.C. on January 4, 2020. (Spc. Hubert Delany III/Army)

02 May 2022 | James Porteous | Clipper Media News

We know that the Pentagon is talking about future wars. That is their bread and butter.

We do not know if they are talking about ‘conscription’ (the draft) but it is likely possible that they are doing so.

After all, as you will see below, unlike in the movies, most countries do not simply ‘go to war.’ It is a long, drawn-out process that can take months or even years to implement.

Even the ‘sudden’ war between the US, Russia and Ukraine was not sudden at all. All sides have been involved in one way or another for about eight years.

Still, given that the US has often expressed a desire to prepare for a ‘two front war’ (China and Russia?) it might be prudent for those who might fight the next war(s) to at least become better aquanted with the conscription process.

After all, despite the history of wars being fought ‘over there,’ any future large one or two front wars would almost certainly hit closer to home.

James Porteous | Clipper Media News

“No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.”
— President Franklin D. Roosevelt, December 8, 1941

Young men registering for conscription during World War I in New York CityNew York, on June 5, 1917.

From 1940 until 1973, during both peacetime and periods of conflict, men were drafted to fill vacancies in the United States Armed Forces that could not be filled through voluntary means. Active conscription ended in 1973 when the U.S. Armed Forces moved to an all-volunteer military. Wikipedia

Daily routine put Paul G. Williams in the most protected part of USS West Virginia in the opening moments of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Take a Closer Look: America Goes to War

National WWII Museum



The United States faced a mammoth job in December 1941. Ill-equipped and wounded, the nation was at war with three formidable adversaries. It had to prepare to fight on two distant and very different fronts, Europe and the Pacific.

America needed to quickly raise, train, and outfit a vast military force. At the same time, it had to find a way to provide material aid to its hard-pressed allies in Great Britain and the Soviet Union.

Meeting these challenges would require massive government spending, conversion of existing industries to wartime production, construction of huge new factories, changes in consumption, and restrictions on many aspects of American life.

Government, industry, and labor would need to cooperate. Contributions from all Americans, young and old, men and women, would be necessary to build up what President Roosevelt called the “Arsenal of Democracy.”

In the months after Pearl Harbor, the nation swiftly mobilized its human and material resources for war. The opportunities and sacrifices of wartime would change America in profound, and sometimes unexpected, ways.


The primary task facing America in 1941 was raising and training a credible military force. Concern over the threat of war had spurred President Roosevelt and Congress to approve the nation’s first peacetime military draft in September 1940. By December 1941 America’s military had grown to nearly 2.2 million soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines.

America’s armed forces consisted largely of “citizen soldiers”,men and women drawn from civilian life. They came from every state in the nation and all economic and social strata. Many were volunteers, but the majority,roughly 10 million,entered the military through the draft. Most draftees were assigned to the army. The other services attracted enough volunteers at first, but eventually their ranks also included draftees.

Barracks Life

Upon their arrival at the training camps, inductees were stripped of the freedom and individuality they had enjoyed as civilians. They had to adapt to an entirely new way of living, one that involved routine inspections and strict military conduct, as well as rigorous physical and combat training. They were given identical haircuts, uniforms, and equipment, and were assigned to spartan barracks that afforded no privacy and little room for personal possessions.

The Draft

By late 1942 all men aged 18 to 64 were required to register for the draft, though in practice the system concentrated on men under 38. Eventually 36 million men registered. Individuals were selected from this manpower pool for examination by one of over 6,000 local draft boards.

These boards, comprised of citizens from individual communities, determined if a man was fit to enter the military. They considered factors like the importance of a man’s occupation to the war effort, his health, and his family situation. Many men volunteered rather than wait to be drafted. That way, they could choose their branch of service.

Potential servicemen reported to military induction centers to undergo physical and psychiatric examinations. If a man passed these exams, he was fingerprinted and asked which type of service he preferred, though his assignment would be based on the military’s needs.

After signing his induction papers, he was issued a serial number. The final step was the administration of the oath. He was now in the military. After a short furlough, he reported to a reception center before being shipped to a training camp. New recruits faced more medical examinations, inoculations, and aptitude tests.


The training camp was the forge in which civilians began to become military men and women. In the training camps new servicemen and women underwent rigorous physical conditioning. They were drilled in the basic elements of military life and trained to work as part of a team.

They learned to operate and maintain weapons. They took tests to determine their talents and were taught more specialized skills. Paratroopers, antiaircraft teams, desert troops, and other unique units received additional instruction at special training centers.


America’s economy performed astonishing feats during World War II. Manufacturers retooled their plants to produce war goods. But this alone was not enough. Soon huge new factories, built with government and private funds, appeared around the nation.

Millions of new jobs were created and millions of Americans moved to new communities to fill them. Annual economic production, as measured by the Gross National Product (GNP), more than doubled, rising from $99.7 billion in 1940 to nearly $212 billion in 1945.

Production Miracles 

In industry after industry Americans performed production miracles. One story helps capture the scale of the defense effort. In 1940 President Roosevelt shocked Congress when he proposed building 50,000 aircraft a year. In 1944 the nation made almost double that number. Ford’s massive Willow Run bomber factory alone produced nearly one plane an hour by March 1944.

To achieve increases like this, defense spending jumped from $1.5 billion in 1940 to $81.5 billion in 1945. By 1944 America led the world in arms production, making more than enough to fill its military needs. At the same time, the United States was providing its allies in Great Britain and the Soviet Union with critically needed supplies.

What is the draft? And can it ever be reinstated? Here’s what to know


When Russia launched a military invasion into Ukraine early Thursday, some, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, drew comparisons with Germany’s invasion into neighboring countries during the Nazi era of World War II.

“Russia treacherously attacked our state in the morning, as Nazi Germany did in 2#WW years. As of today, our countries are on different sides of world history,” Zelenskyy tweeted Thursday.

Former prime minister of Ukraine Oleksiy Honcharuk said Russia’s actions could even spark another world war

“It could be the start of a third world war. We should realize it, because Putin will not stop,” Honcharuk said.

Amid talk of a wider war, as well as news that Zelenskyy has called up reservists and those liable for service for a full military mobilization, questions about the U.S. draft process have emerged. Could the government ever reinstate the draft? Who can be drafted and why? Here’s what to know.

What is the purpose of the draft?

The draft is the mandatory enrollment of individuals of a certain age and gender into the armed forces to fill vacancies that could not be filled by volunteers.

Drafting has occurred during times of conflict and in peacetime, though the first peacetime draft was not enacted until 1940 amid rising international hostilities leading up to World War II, according to the Selective Service System.

The draft ensured the military was able to quickly fill manpower needs during wartime after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor

More: Reports: Ukraine bans all male citizens ages 18 to 60 from leaving the country

More: 1969 Vietnam War Draft Lottery: How the draft worked.

Can the US still institute a draft?

Draft induction authority expired in 1973It would take an act of Congress to reinstate the draft. The president would then be authorized to induct civilians through the Selective Service Administration into the armed forces under an amendment to the Military Selective Service Act.

Registration with the Selective Service is considered crucial to national security strategy. Mandatory registration resumed in 1980 under President Jimmy Carter. 

What happens if you get drafted?

If Congress were to reinstate the draft, the Selective Service would activate and order all personnel to report for duty to open Area Offices. A public, televised and nationally streamed National Draft Lottery to establish the order by year of birth in which registrants receive directives to report for induction would follow.

Inductees are given a physical, mental and moral evaluation at a local Military Entrance Processing Station to determine which registrants are eligible for service and which are sent home. Under Defense Department requirements, the first inductees are delivered to the military within 193 days of draft authorization.

Registrants can claim postponement, deferment or exemption upon receiving an induction notice. Once claims are processed by Local and Appeal Boards, they may be classified as conscientious objectors, dependency hardships, or ministerial and ministerial student deferments.

Can women be drafted?

Only “male persons” are authorized to register for the draft under the Military Selective Service Act.

Congress would have to pass legislation amending the act to extend registration to women. Women make up close to 17% of the armed forces, up from about 2% in 1973.

What ages would be drafted?

Male U.S. citizens and immigrants ages 18-25 are required to register with the Selective Service. A male immigrant within that age range must register within 30 days of arriving to the U.S. Individuals within either category must register within 30 days after their 18th birthday.

About 17 million draft-eligible men are on file with the Selective Service System.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Selective Service USA

Learn how a military draft works and find out if and how you need to register for Selective Service.

The Draft

A draft is the mandatory enrollment of individuals into the armed forces. The United States military has been all-volunteer since 1973. But an act of Congress could still reinstate the draft in case of a national emergency. The Selective Service System is the agency that registers men and is responsible for running a draft.

Who Must Register with Selective Service

  • Almost all men ages 18-25 who are U.S. citizens or are immigrants living in the U.S. are required to register with Selective Service. Citizens must register within 30 days of turning 18. Immigrants must register within 30 days of arriving in the U.S.
  • Men in the U.S. on student, visitor, or diplomatic visas and men who are incarcerated are not required to register. For other exemptions and for transgender people, see the Who Must Register (PDF, Download Adobe Reader) chart.

Register with the Selective Service System 

Check Your Selective Service Registration

You’ll receive a letter in the mail with your Selective Service registration card within 90 days of registering.  The letter and card are your Selective Service proof of registration.

If you don’t receive the letter and card within 90 days, call 1-847-688-6888 and follow the prompts. Choose the option for receiving your own Selective Service number.

You are required to keep your registration information up-to-date until you turn 26. Contact the Selective Service System if:

  • There is an error on your registration card
  • If you move or change your name

If you’ve lost your registration card, use the letter that came with it to show proof of registration. You can get a copy of the letter by completing this Verify Registration form. 

What Happens After You Register with Selective Service

Other than receiving your proof of registration, nothing happens unless there’s a situation requiring a draft.

If Congress and the president authorize a draft:

  • The Selective Service System will start calling registered men ages 18-25 for duty. The men will be called in a sequence determined by random lottery number and year of birth.
  • The men will be examined for mental, physical, and moral fitness for military service.
  • They’ll either be deferred or exempted from military service or they’ll be inducted into the armed forces.

What Happens If You Don’t Register for Selective Service

If you are required to register and you do not, you will not be eligible for state-based student aid in many states, federal job training, or a federal job. You may be prosecuted and face a fine of up to $250,000 and jail time of up to five years. If you’re an immigrant to the U.S., you will not be eligible for citizenship.

If you never registered and are being denied federal or state benefits, you may still be able to get them. To do so, you must provide evidence that you did not intentionally avoid registering.

Get More Information or Contact the Selective Service System

Find answers to frequently asked registration and draft questions on the Selective Service System’s FAQ page. To contact the Selective Service System, call 1-847-688-6888 or toll-free 1-888-655-1825 Monday to Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM ET.

Sgt. Robert Stillwell poses for a photo during his deployment to Vietnam in 1970. He was awarded an Airman’s Medal for saving two people. (Courtesy photo)

Everything You Need to Know About the Military Draft

24 February 2022 | Jim Absher |

The Selective Service System, otherwise known as the military draft or conscription, requires almost all male U.S. citizens and immigrants, ages 18 through 25, to register with the government.

You may have seen the question, “Have you registered for the selective service” on applications for jobs, driver’s licenses, student aid and more.

But could you actually get called up into the military? Here’s everything you need to know about the draft.

Just What Is the Draft, and Why Must You Register?

The draft is officially known as the selective service. The selective service is a government bureau separate from the Defense Department whose mission statement is: “To register men and maintain a system that, when authorized by the President and Congress, rapidly provides personnel in a fair and equitable manner while managing an alternative service program for conscientious objectors.”

Basically, this means that if we ever have a national emergency or war that the all-volunteer military can’t adequately support, Congress and the president can reinstate the draft and force male citizens to serve in the military.

While women have not been excluded from combat service since 2013, they currently are not required to register for the draft. The law as it’s written now refers specifically to “male persons” in stating who must register and who would be drafted. For women to be required to register with the selective service, Congress would have to change the law.

How Would the Draft Work if Implemented?

If it is ever needed and implemented, a present-day draft would have similarities to that of the Vietnam War. Here’s how it would work.

The Selective Service System says it most likely would hold a draft lottery based on dates of birth. The number 1 would correspond to Jan. 1, 15 to Jan. 15, etc. Officials would draw numbers similar to drawing numbers for a lottery. If your birthdate is the first one drawn, you are the first to be drafted.

Normally, officials have a cutoff number based on the needs of the military. For example, during the 1969 draft lottery, men born between Jan. 1, 1944, and Dec, 31, 1950, were eligible to be drafted for the following year, 1970. Of the 366 possible birthdays in those years (leap years included), 195 birth dates were called for possible induction. That meant more than half the men born during those years were subject to being drafted. If your birthday wasn’t one of the first 195 drawn, you were lucky — you didn’t have to go.

The second draft lottery, on July 1, 1970, was for men born in 1951. For that year 125 out of 365 possible birthdays were conscripted. The third Vietnam draft lottery was on Aug. 5, 1971, for men born in 1952; in that year, 95 birthdays were called up for compulsory service.

According to the selective service, if a draft were held today, those who are 20 years old — or turning 20 during the year in which the numbers are drawn — would be the first to go.

Beginning Jan. 1 of the year an eligible male turns 21, he would drop into the second priority category, and men born the following year would move into the priority group one. Each succeeding year, a draft eligible man drops into the next lower priority group until he has reached his 26th birthday, at which time he is over the age of liability for the draft.


10 Ways To Avoid a Military Draft, Just in Case

GARRETT GRAVLEY JANUARY 14, 2020 | Dallas Observer

“Zoomers,” as members of Generation Z are so often called, have been taking to Twitter with jokes about the imminence of a military draft, and something tells us these posts are a coping mechanism, almost as much as satire.

Why do we say this? Well, because last Friday, The Washington Post reported that the government website for the Selective Service, a federal organization that maintains a database of eligible adult men for conscription should a crisis warrant such measures, had crashed because of an excess of visitors prompted by the U.S. airstrike that killed high-ranking Iranian military official Qasem Soleimani.

This turn of events recalls the hysteria surrounding the draft for the Vietnam War, and with a new decade right in front of us, who knows what will happen? Will “Suge” by DaBaby become this generation’s “Fortunate Son”? Will Christopher Nolan direct a war movie in which American soldiers Fortnite-dance on museum rubble in Tehran? Will Chrissy Teigen become this generation’s Jane Fonda?

Only time will tell, but until it does, keep this list of 10 suggestions handy in the event your draft card comes in the mail.

Take LSD and bath salts before your physical.
The worse your trip is, the more convincing your “clinically insane” defense is.

Tell the recruiter that you think Mao Zedong had some good ideas.

We’re imagining this is just like avoiding jury duty, but if it’s not, how many Maoist soldiers in the U.S. military have you ever met? Exactly.

Keep getting pregnant until you turn 26.
One for the ladies: The U.S. has never drafted women before, but it’s a new military in the modern world, so whether you’re anatomically capable of giving birth will probably have no bearing on whether you get drafted. Plus, the child tax credit doubled a couple of years ago, so the more the merrier!

Commit a felony.
You can achieve this by dodging the draft.

Fake your death and live under the grid until the war ends.
This is going to require loads of commitment.

Apply for a vital job you’re underqualified for and lie about your work experience so that military recruiters think you’re achieving more than you really are.
Just work there long enough to persuade your recruiter to cross your name off the list. Try not to get fired until they turn a blind eye.

Bribe a postal worker to steal your mail the moment they’re due to deliver your draft card.

You can’t be drafted if you never received notice.

If you were born on Feb. 29 and are eligible for the draft, your birthday technically only happens once every few years, so tell them you’re actually 6 years old.
If you pull this card on them, that means the recruiter is trying to enlist a child soldier. That’s a violation of international law, and are you just going to sit there and follow the instructions of a war criminal? Exactly.

Buy a houseboat and drop anchor 12 nautical miles from the Gulf Coast.

According to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, nations only have territorial jurisdiction over the first 12 nautical miles (22 km) of the waters surrounding its coasts, so if you settle just a hair beyond those parameters, you will technically be in international waters. There is a caveat to this, however — you cannot dock on the mainland or get into any contact with the U.S. Coast Guard whatsoever.

Join the Army.
If you’re really adamant about dodging the draft, this is the safest, most foolproof way to do it. This will entail some steep commitments, but rest assured, you will never receive a draft notice in the mail if you follow this step.

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