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How U.S. draft/enlistment worked


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#1 mlwilson

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Posted 09 December 2011 - 03:03 AM

My grandfather's VA death file says:

Enlistment date: 18 Feb 1918

Release date: 19 Dec 1918

I'm wondering whether "enlistment" means he enlisted voluntarily, or whether it could mean he was drafted.

I'm also wondering whether he would have been physically gone for that entire period, or whether one could be enlisted but not yet sent anywhere (i.e. could he still have been enrolled in college for part of that time).

Thanks for your help!

#2 4thGordons

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Posted 09 December 2011 - 03:46 AM

My grandfather's VA death file says:

Enlistment date: 18 Feb 1918

Release date: 19 Dec 1918

I'm wondering whether "enlistment" means he enlisted voluntarily, or whether it could mean he was drafted.

I'm also wondering whether he would have been physically gone for that entire period, or whether one could be enlisted but not yet sent anywhere (i.e. could he still have been enrolled in college for part of that time).

Thanks for your help!



I am not sure I can answer your question but I might be able to suggest some lines of enquiry.
Enlistment would usually refer to volunteering however it is not always used precisely. In this case I do not know enough about the tyoe of document to know. I would usually associate enlistment with volunteering

Regarding drafting the process worked (basically) like this:

There were several draft registration periods at on these dates men meeting the age criteria "registered for the draft" These draft registration cards are available on ancestry. (This might help your search if you can find your grandfather's, as it would tell you when/if he registered)
If you know details of his age then this information might help

Draft Registration Dates:
The first, on June 5, 1917, was for all men between the ages of 21 and 31.
The second, on June 5, 1918, registered those who reached 21 after June 5, 1917. (An additional registration day was held on August 24, 1918 for those becoming 21 years old after June 5, 1918.)
The third registration was held on September 12, 1918 for men aged 18 through 45.

Given these dates if enlistment = date of drafting then he obviously registered on the first date (June 1917)

Then, of the men who were registered local draft boards (who had been assigned quotas) called the men in and gave them a basic health inspection and gave them a chance to claim exemption (based on family circumstances etc)
The draft board then made up lists ("contingents") to meet their quotas.
Therefore the existence of draft cards does not necessarily indicate service.

There was obviously a period of time between registration for the draft and actual entry into service (which might speak to your second question)
There was also usually a short time between actual drafting and leaving for basic training (incidentially local papers often covered the depature of these draft contingents). I suspect that is likely that he was gone for at least some of the 10 months if he actually enlisted or was drafted. He could have remained at a college during this time. Sometimes there were other complicating factors - for example one man I researched was a national guard member who had not been activated and so registered for the draft (but indicated on his registration that he was awaiting activation)I am not sure how membership in the ROTC might have affected this - but I suspect it would have speeded rater than delayed things.

You can see whether he actually/oficially served by checking the 1930 (or later) census entries - as these have a column indicating veteran status.

Do you know anything about the units in which he served (if he did?) If so you might be able to get some insight from demobilization dates and locations.

Hope this helps a bit
If you post his name I (or other members better versed) could have a poke around for you.
Chris

#3 mlwilson

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Posted 09 December 2011 - 05:00 AM

Thanks for your replies. He registered for the draft June 5, 1917. He then "enlisted" (or was drafted, or whatever) Feb 1918. 1930 census does list him as a veteran.

Reed was a tiny and iconoclastic college at the time, with only a few dozen students, so no organizations with uniforms.

Many thanks for your offer to look around. His name was James Raymond Wilson, born Dec 17 1894 in Spokane WA, resident of Oregon during the war. I've about tapped out what Ancestry.com and the college archives can tell me.