The draft board wants to see you
Settling on a draft
In the end, President Wilson and his advisors settled on the draft as the only efficient and democratic way to raise a large army. In contrast to the Civil War draft, Wilson sought to spread the obligation for duty among all qualified men, regardless of their social or economic standing. The Selective Service Act required that all males from 21 to 30 go to their election precinct polling place to register in early June 1917. Subsequently, men were expected to appear when they turned 21 years old. In 1918 draft ages were expanded to include those aged 18 to 45. By the end of the war, more than 24 million men registered for the draft with almost three million being inducted into the Army.
No excuse for failure to register
Registering for the draft was a long and bureaucratic exercise. Numerous forms and cards waited for completion. A 16 page questionnaire walked through nearly every aspect of a registrant's life. Failure to fill it out within seven days could result in a "fine or imprisonment for one year and may result in the loss of valuable rights and immediate induction into military service."
The first, and probably most important, question confronting the registrant was that of making a claim for exemption or deferred classification from the draft. The law held that "the names of all men liable to selection for military service shall be arranged in five classes in the order in which they can best be spared from the civic, family, industrial, and agricultural institutions of the Nation." In simplified form, the system included:
Class I: Every man in this class was "presently liable for military service." These included most single men, unskilled laborers, and certain married men.
Class II: These men were "temporarily deferred" from service until Class I was exhausted. They generally included certain married men with dependents and "necessary" skilled labor.
Class III: These men were "temporarily deferred" from service until Class II was exhausted. They generally included certain men with dependent infirm or "helpless" relatives as well as certain types of government workers and other "necessary" workers.
Class IV: These men were "temporarily deferred" from service until Class III was exhausted. They generally included men with families that were "mainly dependent on his labor for support" as well as merchant mariners and managers of "necessary enterprises."
Class V: These men were "exempted or discharged" from service. They generally included legislative, executive, or judicial officers of government, ministers, aliens, the "totally and permanently physically or mentally unfit" as well as the "morally unfit."
A separate line allowed for a claim of exemption based on religious convictions against participating in war - the conscientious objector.
The rest of the questionnaire asked detailed questions, 32 on dependents alone, related to supporting claims made for exemption or deferred classification and required affidavits in support. Legal advisory boards, consisting of "disinterested lawyers and laymen" were available at draft board offices throughout Oregon to advise registrants on the "true meaning and intent" of the law.draft registration questionnaire (10 page PDF).
Your local draft board
Registrants who passed the physical examination would be ordered to report for service. If they failed to report, they first would be listed as delinquent and later as deserters who were to be "apprehended." Those who reported as ordered eventually would find themselves at mobilization camp where they would be either accepted, rejected, or discharged.
Of course, for those not immediately inducted into the military, there were continuing responsibilities related to the draft. If any change occurred that could affect their deferred or exempt status, they were to report it to the local draft board within five days. They were also required to examine "from time to time" notices posted by the local draft board in case changes to the system affected their status.
Results may vary
Opinions differed on the quality of the soldier produced by the draft.
Overall, consensus holds that the drafted soldiers fought just as heroically
as the two million men who enlisted in the various armed services.
But at least one Oregon man, Martin Luther Kimmel, who had enlisted
in the Army held a different attitude: