WWII "Old Man's Draft" Registration Cards
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.
Each card contains the registrant's name, age, birth date and place, residence, employer, and physical description. After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. initiated a draft that reached beyond the younger age groups. Yet, this registration was not intended to be used for military service, but to provide a complete inventory of manpower resources that could be used for national service. Registration on April 27, 1942, included men not already in the military who were born on or between April 28, 1877, and February 16, 1897.
Note relating to PA, MD, WV, and DE records
Image sequence fixed on Fold3
Ancestry.com originally hosted these cards and continues to do so. Four states (PA, MD, WV, and DE) had imaging problems on Ancestry, but have been fixed on Fold3. Ancestry wrote the following statement relating to the problem, and while it does not pertain to the images Fold3, we provide it here for user enlightenment:
These four states were scanned at the National Archives facility in such a way that the back of one person’s draft card appears on the same image as the front of the next individual. The result is that when you click to view the original image, you will see the correct front side of the draft card, but the back of the previous soldier’s card. Ancestry is aware of this problem, and is working to correct this.
The National Archives website links to a PDF document further describing the Fourth Registration. It can be downloaded here: http://www.archives.gov/research/military/ww2/draft-cards-fourth-registration.pdf