The Old Man's Draft: When The U.S. Drafted Senior Citizens


Today, young American men are required to register for selective service, or draft, so they can be called up for service in times of great military need. However, during World War II the requirement was so great that the draft was expanded to include men up to the age of 64, which became known as the "Old Man's Draft".

Old Man Draft

In 1940, Congress passed the Selective Service Act in anticipation of Europe joining the war; His foresight turned out to be clever as it was completed the very next year itself. As a result, all American men between the ages of 21 and 35 were required to register for the draft, but once the U.S. actually entered the war, the age requirements were changed. The second phase of the Selective Service Act reduced this to 18, the third phase raised it to 45, and the fourth and final registration, starting on April 27, 1942, opened the draft to men aged 45 to 65. Because it extended into a man's golden years, this stage of the draft was often referred to as the "Old Man's Draft".

What did the old man's draftees do?

Thankfully, there was no reason for your grandfather's grandfather to worry about you—the men called up in the Old Man's draft weren't typically sent to the front lines. Instead, they generally worked in supporting roles, freeing up younger, more capable men for war. In fact, registration cards for Old Men's Draft members were unique in that they required a list of skills and experience in addition to the basic information on Young Men's registration cards. With this kind of information, the US military can draft their seniors for roles in which they will provide the most value. The Old Man's draft ended with the war, and although several Selective Service Acts have been passed with variable age requirements in the intervening years (for example, up to 55 years old during the Vietnam War), it is generally Is confined to men between 18 and 26's.

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