As I have researched my family history, I have come across a number of World War II draft registration cards for older men. I found that to be very strange. It seemed odd to me that men who were technically too old to serve in battle…at least by military standards, were required to register, and quite possibly be drafted into the war. Some of these men weren’t so very old by today’s standards, such as my great uncle, Friedrich Schumacher, who was 45 at the time of his World War II draft registration, or my grandfather, George Byer, who was 48 at the time of his World War II draft registration, but others, such as my grandfather, Allen Luther Spencer, who was 63 at the time of his World War II registration, were much older. These draft registrations really surprised me. Why would our government need to have these men register?
My curious mind had to know the answer to that question, and so I began to look online to see if anything was said about it at all. Well, it only took looking at three websites to find the answer. I wondered if they were just desperate for soldiers, because as most people know, World War II saw the most American war deaths at 405,399, than any other war in American history. Nevertheless, that was not the reason for the Fourth Registration, which became known as the Old Man’s Draft, because it targeted men between the ages of 45-64 years of age. No, these men were not going to be soldiers who were require to go into battle. This draft registration was intended to provide the government with a register of manpower…men who might be eligible for national service. Help was needed on the home front, and this was a way to ensure that the manpower needed was available. After all, if you are drafted, you are required to serve.
Registration of the Old Man’s Draft began on April 27, 1942 at local draft boards around the country, and like the patriotic citizens they were, my great uncle, and my grandfathers, along with many, many other older men, went to register. The lines were long when the men went in to register, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal, but the biggest regret that was heard among the men waiting there was…that they were too old to fight!! Seriously!! There were no complaints about standing for hours in line, or complaints about having to register at all…just that they would not see battle. These were not warmongers, but rather patriots who wanted to help in whatever way they could, and now Uncle Sam was telling them that their contribution was important. It felt amazing to these men. They were needed!! The biggest complication was that some of the men couldn’t read or write, and some had forgotten things like addresses, telephone numbers, or dates (including the year of birth, which is evident on my grandfather’s card in that his year of birth was listed as 1883, but he was born in 1879). Nevertheless, these men were hopeful that somehow they could be useful in the war effort. I find that completely amazing…especially in light of the lack of patriotism so often seen these days.