Military Draft Facts
Military Draft Facts

55 Interesting Military Draft Facts

James Israelsen
By James Israelsen, Associate Writer
Published May 9, 2020
  • The practice of conscripting citizens to serve in a military capacity dates back thousands of years to one the earliest civilizations in Mesopotamia.[8]
  • America conducted its first-ever peacetime draft in 1940, in response to Hitler’s invasion of France. If drafted, men between the ages of 21 to 35 were required to serve in the military for one year.[10]
  • During the military draft in the years before America entered WWII, men who were fathers supporting a family were excused from service, causing some to refer to babies as “draft insurance.”[10]
  • During the pre-WWII drafts, one illiterate man, hoping to be excused from service, asked his wife to write the draft board and explain how much he was needed at home. Instead, his wife asked the board to please take her husband, as he was a “no-good” alcoholic who didn’t help out at home.[10]
  • In the peacetime draft following the Great Depression, the military set high standards for service; men who had impairments such as weak eyesight, flat feet, and only had half of their teeth were excused.[10]
  • In the early 1940s, in an effort to remove shame from men were who were drafted but declared physically unfit, the US military joked that they rejected Superman from the draft. They said his X-ray vision caused him to look through the walls of the examination room, so he read the wrong eye chart, resulting in a failed physical.[10]
  • Before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, American men were being drafted for one year of military service; after the attack, many more were drafted, and all of them were assigned to serve “for the duration”—until the war was finished.[10]
  • Jimmy Stewart Army
    Pictured is Stewart receiving the French Croix de Guerre with Palm in 1944
  • Actor Jimmy Stewart was rejected by the military after he was drafted—he was too thin. As a show of patriotism, Stewart went on a weight-gaining diet, hoping to reverse the decision. He was accepted by the Air Force after making weight and served in WWII with distinction.[10]
  • Before the US entered WWII, men who couldn’t read and immigrants who couldn’t speak English were excused from peacetime draft registration; but during the war, the Army gave crash courses in reading and English to qualify such men for the draft.[10]
  • European powers who colonized Africa in the 19th century often conscripted the African men over whom they ruled, in order to provide security for their new colonies.[4]
  • After America entered WWII, all American men between the ages of 18 and 45 were required to register for the draft, nearly doubling the peacetime requirement for men aged 21 to 35.[10]
  • During WWII, because the army changed their draft policies to include men without teeth, the number of army dentists increased from 250 to 25,000.[10]
  • The Selective Service System is the government agency that sets policy for and oversees drafts within the United States.[10]
  • Some people who favor the military draft argue that it helps to create a well-rounded military force because it brings in people from a variety of backgrounds with a variety of abilities, as opposed to an army formed solely of citizens with a military background.[10]
  • The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 2016 that the national all-male draft laws are “fully justified” because women do not serve in combat positions within the military.[9]
  • In 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called upon Congress to amend contemporary drafting laws to include a draft for women who could serve as nurses. As a result, a bill for female conscription passed with House approval; but it was never voted on in the Senate because nurse enlistment had risen and the war soon ended.[9]
  • Recently, the Pentagon has voiced their support for attempts to amend drafting laws to include female conscription.[9]
  • The drafting of citizens into military service was first begun in the United States during the Civil War.[3]
  • Uncle Sam Recruiting
    The famous Uncle Sam poster was created by illustrator James Montgomery Flagg as a recruitment tool prior to the US entering WWI

  • During the Vietnam War, Conscientious Objector applications were approved for drafted men who could prove a history a pacifism. Conscientious Objectors were required to substitute military enlistment with two years of community service.[3]
  • A draft goes into effect after both Congress and the president of the United States have passed it and signed it into legislation. This means the president can veto a draft instituted by Congress.[5]
  • Current drafting policy in the United States determines priority for the draft according to age. The first age group considered are those turning 20 in the calendar year of the draft; those aged 21 are second priority, and so forth, until after the age of 25. At that point, the draft applies to men between the ages of 18 and 20.[5]
  • Current draft law in America considers 26 the age at which men are no longer liable to be conscripted into service.[5]
  • Draft Lottery
    This is one lottery that many people wouldn't be thrilled to win
  • The United States uses a lottery system to determine who will be drafted and in what order. The system involves placing 366 balls into one drum—each ball printed with one day of the year, including February 29—and an equivalent amount of numbered balls into a second drum. One ball is drawn from each, thus pairing a birthdate with an order. For instance, if February 29 is drawn from one drum and #74 from the other, then all men age 20 born on February 29 will be the 74th group called into service.[5]
  • In America, the lottery to determine which men are drafted must, by law, be done in the presence of the media and representatives from any public interest groups who wish to attend.[5]
  • In the case of a draft, the US Selective Service is required by law to deliver the first conscripts to the military within 193 days of the onset of whatever crisis caused the draft to be issued.[5]
  • The first universal draft, a mass conscription of men of every social class, occurred during the 18th-century French Revolution. The new government, which had overthrown the French monarchy, drafted all unmarried, able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 25 to defend France against invading European powers.[8]
  • Draft Protestors
    Public anger in America over the Vietnam War spilled over into draft protests and draft card burning
  • Negative draft experiences during the Vietnam War resulted in significant reforms of the United States' draft laws, each attempting to make the draft more equitable and fair.[5]
  • Before 1971, a man in the United States could qualify for a draft deferment if he was a full-time student making “satisfactory” progress towards a degree in any field. Currently, student deferments are only given for a single semester or, in the case of a senior about to graduate, until after graduation.[5]
  • In the drafts before 1971, local boards were allowed to choose which men in their communities would be drafted, so long as they fulfilled their quota. This means that sometimes men could avoid being drafted by utilizing personal relationships and favoritism.[5]
  • Today, every man has the right to appeal his draft in person before a local draft board. This is different from the past, when appeals were made through paperwork only.[5]
  • Many nations around the world have compulsory military service laws, most commonly for young men only. Israel and Eritrea are among the few nations with mandatory military service for men and women.[2]
  • Donald Trump received five military draft deferments, which kept him out of the Vietnam War.[1]
  • The sons of wealthy and influential families were often able to avoid being drafted during the Vietnam War by using a variety of draft-dodging techniques.[1]
  • Critics of the military draft, especially during the Vietnam War, point out that the draft largely conscripted young men from the lower social and economic classes.[1]
  • During the Vietnam War, more than half of eligible young men (27 million) received exemptions, deferments, or disqualifications.[1]
  • During the Civil War, the military draft was supposed to apply equally to all men between the ages of 20 and 45. However, there were exemptions allowing men to hire substitutes or to pay a fine directly to the government to avoid being drafted, so only poor men ended up actually serving.[8]
  • All US males, including both legal and illegal immigrants, are required to register with the Selective Service at age 18, making them eligible for a potential draft.[11]
  • In 1965, a US federal law passed that made it illegal to alter or destroy a draft card.[6]
  • Dorothy Day Draft
    A Catholic activist and pacifist, Dorothy Day was outspoken against war and the draft
  • During the Vietnam War, the founder of the pacifist Catholic Worker Movement, Dorothy Day, argued that there was moral justification for burning draft cards as a way of protesting violence.[6]
  • One of the earliest known legal codes, the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, describes a system of military draft called "ilkum," whereby laborers were required to serve in the military in order to earn the right to own land.[8]
  • In Europe in the Middle Ages, land-owning peasants were often required to select one member of their family for permanent military service.[8]
  • The first government draft in the United States was enacted by the Union government in 1863 to provide more soldiers for the Civil War.[8]
  • At least 119 people were killed during the 1863 New York Draft Riots protesting the unfair nature of draft laws. As written, the laws favored wealthy men, who could pay poor men to take their place on Civil War battlefields.[8]
  • The US Selective Service System, the government agency that oversees drafts, was created in 1917, in anticipation of American involvement in World War I.[8]
  • During WWI, 2.8 million Americans were drafted into military service.[8]
  • In the 1940 draft preparing for WWII, draftees were chosen by the Secretary of War, who drew the numbers identifying who was to be drafted from a large glass bowl. He would then hand the slips of paper to President Roosevelt, who read the numbers out loud for the media to report.[8]
  • African American men were initially not included in the first WWII drafts in the United States; it was three years before they would also be included in the conscription.[8]
  • Today, the US Selective Service System, the government agency in charge of military drafts, is in "standby" mode, since there is currently not a draft happening.[8]
  • At the height of the Vietnam War, up to 40,000 American men were drafted each month.[8]
  • As many as 30,000 American draft dodgers crossed the border into Canada to flee military service during the Vietnam War.[8]
  • During the Vietnam War, almost 210,000 Americans were charged with draft evasion.[8]
  • Muhammad Ali Draft
    Ali's refusal to fight brought harsh repercussions
  • In 1967, heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali refused to be inducted into the military for religious reasons, saying, "I ain't got no quarrel with those Vietcong." As a result, Ali was stripped of his boxing title, banned from boxing for three years, fined $10,000, and sentenced to five years in prison. His conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1971.[7]
  • In 1977, President Jimmy Carter pardoned all Vietnam War draft dodgers.[8]
  • Denmark currently has one of the shortest draft requirements: able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 27 are only required to give a minimum of four months of military service.[8]
  • During WWII, Britain recruited over 600,000 African men under their colonial rule to fight the Axis powers. Many of these men were actually drafted by force, as colonial leaders sent out gangs to essentially kidnap Africans in order to fill their recruitment quotas.[4]

Suggested for you


Trending Now

Load More