Wartime Wednesday: The Draft
An article in the newly-ratified Constitution allowed Congress to conscript and call the Militia to “execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions.” Additionally, Congress could organize, arm, and discipline the Militia. The President was commander-in-chief. The Second Militia Act of 1792 further defined the group who could be called up as “free and able-bodied white male citizens between the ages of 18 and 45.”
National conscription didn’t occur until the Civil War. However, the large majority of Union troops were volunteers, with only about 2% draftees and another 6% paid substitutes. The Confederacy didn’t have much more success with resistance being widespread. Many Southerners equated conscription with slavery.
Draft boards were local, and unfortunately, many based their decisions on social classes, with the poorest conscripted more often. The most common tactics to avoid the draft were dodging and desertion, with some communities sheltering their draft dodgers as heroes.
By the summer of 1940, Germany has conquered France, and most Americans knew the U.S. would eventually be drawn into the conflict, therefore supported the return of the draft. Wilson’s WWI plan served as a model, but the 1940 law instituted conscription during peacetime, requiring all men between the ages of 18 and 35 to register. When President Roosevelt signed the bill, it became the first peacetime draft in the nation’s history. The bill also established an independent agency, the Selective Service System, to be responsible for managing the draft.
|Photo: Courtesy of National Archives|
The World War II draft operated from 1940 until 1946 when inductions were suspended. The bill’s legislative authorization expired in 1947 without extension from Congress. During this time, more than ten million men had been drafted into military services.
The Mechanic & The MD
High school and college were a nightmare for Doris Strealer and being an adult isn’t much better. Men won’t date a woman of her height, and they don’t understand her desire to repair car engines rather than work as a nurse or a teacher. When her father’s garage closes, and no one will hire a female mechanic, she joins the Red Cross Motor Corps, finally feeling at home. Until she comes face to face with her past in the form of Van Toppel, the most popular boy in school.
On the brink of a successful career as a surgeon, Van Toppel’s plans crumble when he’s drafted and assigned to an evacuation hospital in England, the last place he expects to run into a former schoolmate. The gangly tomboy who was four years behind him in high school has transformed into a statuesque beauty, but a broken engagement in college leaves him with no desire to risk his heart ever again.
Will the hazards of war make or break a romance between this unlikely couple?
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