World Facts

Military Drafts in the United States

The United States has enacted a draft in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Cold War.

The draft, also known as the Conscription of the US, required the country's young people to enlist for military training and also serve in the military for a limited period of time, especially during a war or in case of an emergency. It was done by force when volunteers failed to meet the required personnel to offer military services. It is observed that despite this harsh approach, these drafts were highly effective in military recruitment to safeguard the political interests of the American States. Although many men were also recruited during the time of peace, the Americans generally saw the draft a major success. The conscription act came to an end in early 1973. The Army was better remunerated and working conditions improved thereby attracting volunteers to date.

4. American Civil War

The federal government enforced the legislation and took the first batch of youths aged 18–35 years in 1862. The age limit was amended to recruit those of the age bracket of 17 to 50 years. The Militia Act of 1862 authorized President Lincoln to recruit 300,000 men for a period of not less than nine months. In 1863, The Draft Act was passed. Both the locals and those who had come to America from around the world were recruited. However, one could join on behalf of another by paying $300. Many prominent families substituted their family members. Married men could also not be recruited before all the single men were recruited. Many people disliked this system and an uprising to resist it was staged in July of 1863 in the streets of New York for four days. Nevertheless, the federal government went ahead to execute the Civil War Conscription Policy. The soldiers enrolled under this policy accounted 2% of the military while those serving on behalf of others for payment were 6%.

3. World War I

World War I lasted for a period of 6 years from 1914 to 1919. As the war progressed, there was the need to enlist more people in military service. In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson made a decision to enlist young people in the army after only a mere 73,000 volunteered against a target of one million. The Selective Service Act of 1917 was crafted in a way that it minimized the negative effects of the Civil System used in 1863. It exempted those with dependents or those who were doing important jobs as well as spiritual leaders. It also focused on recruiting a man to the role he can best perform. During this era, there was no option of substitution by buying off. The recruitment was made at the village level where a local board community enlisted those who were between the ages of 21 to 31, although the age bracket was raised to 18 to 45 years. The board allowed an exemption on need by need basis. The approach was a success leading to an enrolment of over 10 million military men, majorly because the bottom-up approach enhanced owning up the process. The success was also contributed by the closing down of any media house that was anti-war. World War I draft was an all-inclusive leading to the enrolment of 13% African-Americans and 86% caucasian-Americans, though they served in different battalions. The poor and the middle class were also recruited. Nevertheless, the main challenges to the approach were that some soldiers abandoned the army and their kinsmen welcomed them cheerfully. The government established very strict rules to deal with deserters or those who failed to obey the law. Most were imprisoned while others were sentenced to hang. The draft came to an end in 1918. In 1926, a new amended draft was tabled in parliament and was headed by people of high social acceptance rather than ex-soldiers.

2. World War II

World War II began in 1939 and ended in 1945. In 1940, the German army defeated the French. Most Americans were worried that the Germans would be a threat to them as well, leading to the re-introduction of the compulsory enrolment of men into the national service. All surveys conducted found that all citizens preferred the conscription approach, leading to the enlistment of all men between 21 to 35 years into the battle. The draft was so successful that a total of 49 million men joined. The Selective Service System was launched to coordinate the recruitment. In spite of limited training and availability of weapons, the recruitment process went on successfully. Only 900,000 men could receive technical war know-how for at least 12 months. In December 1942, the law was changed and all men aged 18 to 64 years were to register. As the war intensified, all the men were absorbed into the army. In the subsequent years, approximately 200,000 young men were recruited monthly. The draft recruitment went on until 1947 and a total of 10 million men had joined the military. The system was highly successful despite some resistance from northern cities. Those who resisted the system were imprisoned.

1. Cold War

The Cold War was characterized by a political and military tension between the Eastern and Western superpowers: the US and the Soviet Union. Intelligence gathering was an essential commodity and investigating the other party was also common. There was no major battle between the involved states except small wars on their proxies supported by the main nations. It began a few years after the end of World War II and ended in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. Both blocs were always prepared and armed with nuclear weapons in case a war erupted. Technological advancement was also enhanced. The main draft related to the Cold War ensured that all men between 18 and 26 years old be registered. Medical practitioners would also be called to 21 months of active involvement and five years of reservist involvement. In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a law which allowed even married men to be recruited. During the Korean War of 1950, the compulsory enlistment into the war was highly effective except for those in colleges covering a minimum of 12 semester hours. In 1953, the Congress enacted a new law which aimed at improving the country’s guard and Federal Reserve allowing each soldier to compulsorily serve for six years. Most people volunteered to join instead of being conscripted to join the military. It is estimated that more than 60% of those who were at war in Vietnam did so because of the drafts.

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