17. Draft boards determined who was eligible for conscription
The Selective Service Act of 1940 required all American men between the ages of 21 and 35 to register for the draft. Throughout the United States, communities formed draft boards to determine who among the registered manpower pool would be actually conscripted into the service. The boards were comprised of prominent local leaders; businessmen, political activists, clergy, and so forth. The boards evaluated each case to determine in which category an individual belonged. Those found to be 1A were the first to enter the service after being assigned a number by lottery. Boards took into consideration overall health, occupation, marital status, children, and many other factors when evaluating candidates. Early in the war, some men of draft age avoided the Army by enlisting in the Navy, a practice discontinued in 1942. From then, volunteers had to go through the draft process, to ensure the needs of all services were met.
A draftee wasn’t necessarily in the Army yet, even after receiving his notice and reporting to an induction center. Physical and mental health examinations came first. It was possible to qualify for one service and be disqualified for another. For example, chronic ear infections could disqualify a man for naval service (inner ear problems contribute to seasickness) but he could still be useful to the Army. Eyesight which disqualified a man from pilot training did not necessarily mean he couldn’t carry a rifle in the infantry. Draftees could state which service they preferred, but the needs of the service branches outweighed the desires of the serviceman. After the examinations, fingerprinting and signing the induction papers, an oath was administered and the new recruit was sent to a reception center. Most draftees were allowed a short period of time to arrange their affairs before shipping out.