In 2014, I wrote a brief post saying that one of my great-grandfather’s had a “piece” of that war; in fact, all of them had at least some piece of the era, as young men in the 1910s. Specifically and concretely, each of my four great-grandfathers had to register for the draft (conscription) in 1917-1918.
I have located all four their draft registration cards and will post the originals and transcribe them in four posts to follow (1, 2, 3, 4), followed by comments/thoughts on each of their individual cases and circumstances in 1917, and some informed conjecture on what they may have thought of the war.
In May 1917, the USA was on the way to raising a multi-million-man army which was to reach a size of 4.35 million when all was said and done, up from a meager peacetime strength of one-hundred-some thousand (1916).
In another sign of lukewarm enthusiasm for the war, only 75,000 U.S. men had volunteered in the month after Congress voted to approve President Wilson’s declaration of war (April 6, 1917), and so in May the government began to plan for a then-unprecedented national registration system for all young-adult men, and a tiered system of eligibility for conscription (based on “exemptions”). All young men had to appear in person before draft boards of their city or county on appointed days to register, under threat of prison for no-shows: