On July 20, 1917, U.S. Secretary of War Newton D. Baker (1871-1937) drew the first lottery number under the nation's first effective military conscription law, the Selective Service Act, which Congress had passed in May. The administration of President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) designed and implemented the draft system very carefully, remembering the charges of unfairness and arbitrary selection under the Union military draft during the Civil War (1861-1865), which had led to draft evasion by many and to destructive riots in New York City in July 1863. Now, shortly after the United States entered World War I (1914-1918) and began its mobilization for war, millions of able-bodied men in their twenties were required to register with their local draft board, one of 4,500, staffed by respected business and professional leaders in the community. Numbers were then drawn—every board assigned each of its local registrants a different number—to decide which of the people who were examined and classified as physically fit, and were not otherwise granted one of the limited types of exemptions, would be called up for induction into one of the military services. As head of the Department of War (which was merged with the Department of the Navy after World War II and renamed the Department of Defense), Secretary Baker drew the first of thousands of numbers, as seen here, in a symbolic act to drum up support for the system. This first conscription called up nearly 700,000 men to supplement the small peacetime U.S. Army, each state's National Guard, and those who had volunteered.
Commentary on Drafting American Men
1999. Lexile Measure: 1540L.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale