Draft vs Commitment – Pine Bluffs Post

Since the dawn of history, there has been some form of army across the world. At first it was a “right of passage to become a soldier”, whether you “enlisted” or were taken from your home camp or village and found yourself serving a ruler, king or a country.

“Conscription is the compulsory enlistment in a country’s armed forces, and is sometimes referred to as ‘the draft’. The origins of military conscription date back thousands of years to ancient Mesopotamia, but the earliest modern conscription took place during the French Revolution in the 1790s. The United States instituted conscription during the Civil War, which led to a series of bloody riots. Resistance to conscription, as handled by the Selective Service in the United States, reached an all-time high during the Vietnam War.Before the existence of a warrior class or military elite, the Babylonian kingdoms used a system of conscription called ilkum, in which laborers had to serve military to royal officials for the right to own land.Ilkum provisions were created under the ancient Code of Hammurabi, one of the oldest and most comprehensive legal codes. complete, instituted under the Babylonian king Hammurabi. Similar systems of military conscription were popular in feudal Europe throughout the Middle Ages. Land-owning peasants were often required to provide one man per family for military service.

The first universal conscription, or mass conscription of young men regardless of social class, took place in France during the French Revolution. After the overthrow of the French monarchy in 1789, neighboring European powers invaded France in the hope of restoring monarchical rule. The French needed a larger army, so in 1793 the French government decreed a levy en masse, which conscripted into military service all single, able-bodied males between the ages of 18 and 25. The United States first instituted military conscription during the American Civil War. As the war entered its third season, Congress, in need of more manpower for the Union Army, passed the Civil War Military Bill of 1863.

The law provided for the registration of all males between the ages of 20 and 45, but the obligation fell mainly on the poor. Wealthier men could afford to hire a replacement to take their place in the draft or pay $300 for a draft exemption—a huge amount of money at the time. This controversial provision sparked civil unrest and rioting conscriptions. President Woodrow Wilson signed the Selective Services Act on May 18, 1917, in preparation for United States involvement in World War I. The United States had a standing army of just over 100,000 men at the time.

The original act required all males between the ages of 21 and 30 to register for the newly created Selective Service System. By the end of World War I in November 1918, approximately 24 million men had enlisted and 2.8 million had been drafted into the armed forces. The project was disbanded after World War I.1

Courtesy of Jackie Fornström

Above: Scott Fornstrom is sworn into the United States Navy.

The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, which signaled the return of the American military draft as it was used in World War I, was supposed to control the number of people entering service, so that no more than 900,000 would be in training at a time. Whether one enlisted before December 5, 1942, or “volunteered for initiation” afterwards, instead of waiting for that letter from the editorial board beginning with “Greetings,” one had say about the branch of service and even the specialty within that service. selected. Recruits, on the other hand, were posted where the drafting board deemed them most needed (usually Army infantry, Marines getting more later). My dad, for example, lied to a 4-F to get into the navy before December 5, 1942 and got into the 59th Construction Battalion before anyone noticed his photography skills and he was put on “detached duty” (for as long as it turned out) with Captain Edward Steichen’s traveling squad. In 1943 Selective Service limited the number of people entering so that some could be retained in war industries or other war-related activities in which their experience or qualifications would make them more useful.

As for what the United States Army is still formally called (Army or Armies of the United States, or AUS), it is also referred to in Article 2 of the Constitution as the “ground forces of the United States”2.

The draft as we know it was suspended in 1972. 18-year-old men signed up for the draft.

Women who join the army are by enlistment.

The draft could happen again.

Thank you to everyone who served.


2. World History

Jon Guttman

Research Director