WW I Vets were subject to the first peacetime draft in 1940

This post is being updated on 9/24/2017 to include historical information regarding the peace time draft first imposed in 1940. I was born in 1944 so that was all before my time – and I had not pieced together the fact that the WW I draft act was limited. So while my father, Immanuel, was subject to the draft in WW I, I am not actually clear (at this time) whether or not he was drafted or joined voluntarily.


By the guidelines set down by the Selective Service Act, all males aged 21 to 30 were required to register for military service. At the request of the War Department, Congress amended the law in August 1918 to expand the age range to include all men 18 to 45, and to bar further volunteering.[7] By the end of World War I, some 2 million men volunteered for various branches of the armed services, and some 2.8 million had been drafted.[8] This meant that more than half of the almost 4.8 million Americans who served in the armed forces were drafted. Due to the effort to incite a patriotic attitude, the World War I draft had a high success rate, with fewer than 350,000 men ”dodging” the draft.

Young men at the first national registration day held in association with the Selective Service Act of 1917. The biggest difference between the draft established by the Selective Service Act of 1917 and the Civil War draft was that a substitute could no longer be hired to fight in a man’s place. In the Civil War, men who did not desire to fight could hire a substitute.

The biggest difference between the draft established by the Selective Service Act of 1917 and the Civil War draft was that a substitute could no longer be hired to fight in a man’s place. In the Civil War, men who did not desire to fight could hire a substitute.


Peace time conscription was, for the first time, imposed on American citizens in 1940.



The record of our father’s service in the Navy during World War I is laid out in detail in a handwritten diary,  given to him as a Christmas gift in 1918 by his brother, Willie and his sister-in-law, Elvina.

Immanuel was sworn in at Salt Lake City, Utah on June 26, 1918 and was discharged in September of 1919, arriving back in Culbertson on the 14th of September at 7 PM.

On New Year’s Day, 1919, he left Culbertson by train, headed for the west coast where he received his rating as a Shipwright on January 15.

On January 30, it was back on the train again for a cross country ride to New York.

He notes arrival times in Denver; St. Joseph, MO; St. Louis, MO; Cincinnati, OH; Chillicothe, OH; Washington, DC; Philadelpha, PA; and finally, into New York on February 6, at 2 AM.

The phrase “Join the Navy and see the World” was used for some decades on recruiting posters – apparently a lot of the world would be seen through train car windows in the opening years of the 20th century.


The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919:

Although the armistice, signed on 11 November 1918, ended the actual fighting, it took six months of Allied negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty. The treaty was registered by the Secretariat of the League of Nations on 21 October 1919.


During the time between his arrival in New York and first trans-Atlantic crossing on June 23, he worked on board ship, the USS Plattsburg, and participated in lots of gatherings offered by servicemen’s organizations, churches, and missions.

On May 15 (two days before his 22nd birthday) his diary notes that he “Received a box of chocolates from home. Ate them at once.”

In sorting through family memorabilia in the past few years, I’ve unearthed many documents that are treasures, truly mailboxes and old barns along the road of our family history.  

Included in those finds are my Dad’s notification that he must obtain a Selective Service Card, dated June 25, 1942.  

His new Notice of Classification dated March 20, 1943, shows him classified as IV-A.

On the same day that this new Selective Service classification was issued to this 45 year-old WW I vet, a farmer with six children,….

  • The Japanese Navy ordered its submarine forces to leave no survivors on the sinking of any merchant vessels, with the text “Do not stop at the sinking of enemy ships and cargoes. At the same time, carry out the complete destruction of the crews of the enemy’s ships.” [44]

  • The first of 19 transports of 46,000 Greek Jews to Nazi death camps began, as a train left Salonika for the Auschwitz extermination camp.  By August 18, the removal of the Jews would be complete.[40]


Nine days after his new card was issued with the last name misspelled, food rationing was implemented in the US: On March 29, “food rationing began in the United States following the March 12 announcement of limits on beef, pork, lamb and mutton, as well as butter, cheese and canned fish.”  [at the same link as above]

In other words, American citizens living through those days, those months, those years did not have the luxury of feeling disconnected from “over there” as though “the war” was a distant thing. Right down to the new Secret Service Classification cards carried by the veterans of World War I…..in the 1940s….it was a near thing, an individual reality.


At the time his WW II Selective Classification Card was issued, Immanuel’s oldest son (my brother, Calvin) was sixteen years old and would soon be enlisted in the Navy in the final months of WW II.  During those years, most of the small town boys dropped out of high school in their junior or senior year to enter the military.

Interview of Calvin Larsen by Brian Shoemaker:


Larsen,Immanuel.Draftclassification back side 3.20.1943

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