The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940
, also known as the Burke-Wadsworth Act
, was passed by the Congress of the United States on September 17, 1940, becoming the first peacetime conscription in United States
Conscription in the United States has been employed several times, usually during war but also during the nominal peace of the Cold War...
history when President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...
signed it into law two days later. This Selective Service Act required that men between the ages of 21 and 35 register with local draft boards. Later, when the U.S. entered World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...
, all men aged 18 to 45 were made liable for military service, and all men aged 18 to 65 were required to register.
Effects of the Act
Signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt in 1940, the Act established the first peace-time draft in United States history. Under the Selective Training and Service Act, all American males between twenty-one and thirty-five years of age registered for the draft. The government selected men through a lottery system. If drafted, a man served for twelve months. According to the Selective Training and Service Act's provisions, drafted soldiers had to remain in the Western Hemisphere or in United States possessions or territories located in other parts of the world. The act provided that not more than 900,000 men were to be in training at any one time, and it limited service to 12 months.
of the Act contained a provision for conscientious objection:
- Nothing contained in this Act shall be constructed to require any person to be subject to combatant training and service in the land and naval forces of the United States who, by reason of religious training and belief, is conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form.
- Any such person claiming such exemption from combatant training and service because of such conscientious objections whose claim is sustained by the local draft board shall, if he is inducted into the land or naval forces under this Act, be assigned to noncombatant service as defined by the President, or shall if he is found to be conscientiously opposed to participation in such noncombatant service, in lieu of such induction, be assigned to work of national importance under civilian direction.
The draft began in October 1940. By the early summer of 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt asked the U.S. Congress to extend the term of duty for the draftees beyond twelve months. On August 12, the United States House of Representatives approved the extension by a single vote. As Karl R. Bendetson said, "Mr. Rayburn banged the gavel at a critical moment and declared the Bill had passed." The Senate approved it by a wider margin, and Roosevelt signed the bill into law on August 18.
Many of the soldiers drafted in October 1940 threatened to desert once the original twelve months of their service was up. Many of these men painted the letters "O," "H," "I," and "O" (OHIO) on the walls of their barracks in protest. These letters were an acronym for "Over the hill in October," which meant that the men intended to desert upon the end of their twelve months of duty. Desertions did occur, but they were not widespread. Following the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...
, Hawaii, on 7 December 1941, thousands of American men and women swelled the United States' military's ranks by volunteering for service, and thousands more by conscription.
After the United States entered World War II, a new selective service act made men between 18 and 45 liable for military service and required all men between 18 and 65 to register. The terminal point of service was extended to two years after the war. From 1940 until 1947—when the wartime selective service act expired after extensions by Congress—over 10,000,000 men were inducted.
In 1948, a new selective service act was passed that required all men aged 19 to 26 to register and that made men aged 19 to 26 liable for 21 months' service, which would be followed by 5 years of reserve duty.
Though the United States halted conscription in 1973, the Selective Service remains as a means to register American males upon reaching the age of 18 as a contingency should the measure be reintroduced. The registration requirement was suspended in April 1975, but reinstituted in 1980. In the past, married people could be deferred, though marital status no longer affects priority of draft call.