You may be surprised to learn that your grandfather or great grandfather registered for the draft in 1942 even though he was technically too old to serve. Were they so desperate for soldiers in World War II that they recruited more senior members of the population? In 1942, the Selective Service initiated a “Fourth Registration” of the draft. Unlike other drafts for World War II, however, this one targeted older men not for military service but for help on the home front.
Out of seven draft registrations tied to World War II, only the Fourth Registration is available online. Known as the “Old Man’s Draft” because it targeted men 45-64 years of age, the registration officially took place on April 27, 1942, at local draft boards around the country. It was intended to provide the government with a register of manpower, men who might be eligible for national service.
Long lines greeted these men on registration day. According to the Poughkeepsie Journal, several regretted being “too old to fight.” The newspaper also reported that the process was sometimes complicated by a man’s inability to read and write, understand English well, or his “forgetfulness about addresses, dates, and telephone numbers.”
The “Old Man’s Draft” was a snapshot of American males 45-64 years of age on April 27, 1942. Registrants were asked for a residential address, but also the name and address of an employer. Perhaps most interesting are the physical attributes, providing the government with a pool of citizens who could help out on the home front. Unfortunately records from several southern states were inadvertenty destroyed before they could be microfilmed.