What conditions get you labeled as 4-F in the military

if you pooped in your pants you would likely get just get classified as 4F and likely not get told to come back for a retesting.

worked for some.

Well, that’s actually what I would have suspected - they interviewed you to weed out guys who were faking. The story that floated around was that they would immediately reject you no questions asked, but you would have a flag on your “record” advertising you as homosexual forevermore. I doubted both statements. 1Y was “available, but only in extreme circumstances”, given out for various medical conditions which would limit your effectiveness, such as the skin conditions discussed above. Reclassified to 4F in 1971, about the same time as they discontinued the 2S. I don’t know how many details would be available as to the reason for your draft classification.

(I actually got my 2S after it had already been discontinued, pointing out to the draft board that I had already been in college by then. I had just pulled an extremely low number in the pool, and I was surprised that I got grandfathered in.)

My dad was 4-f from having had polio as a kid. His whole life, he could never raise his left arm higher than his shoulder. This was doubly problematic since he was a leftie.

What I’ve always heard is that the answer to the OP’s question varies wildly, depending on how badly the Army needs men.

In peacetime, flat feet, perforated eardums or homosexuality might have gotten you out of the draft. But during wartime, the SSS tended to look the other way for all those things.

That was certainly my father’s case in World War 2. He tried to enlist after Pearl Harbor and was rejected for having a heart murmur. By September 1942 the heart murmur wasn’t even enough of a problem to disqualify him for combat, much less the draft.

also it depends on what they needed. if they needed medical people then the criteria to be 4F might be different if you qualified.

What’s so bad about flat feet? I take it this reduces your marching range before foot failure or something?

One problem can be if you are required to wear standard-issue footwear with built-in arches, especially if the footwear consists of boots made by the lowest bidder.

Personally, I was a Navy officer. The one pair of required steel-toed boots I was issued (for summer training) didn’t have particularly high arches, and I never had any issues with the standard-issue oxfords.

Later, I was in the submarine force, so my footwear at sea consisted of running shoes (which are much quieter belowdecks than boots).

I’ve found that boots are hit-or-miss for me. I bought a pair of Timberline steel-toed boots once (required in my current job when I go out in the field), and found that they were unwearable for me. I was in agony wearing them. I ended up paying top dollar for some Redwing boots, which fit wonderfully, so much so that I immediately bought three more pairs. (Oh, and I gave the Timberlines to a construction worker whose boots were held together with duct tape.)

But things like this are why I’m confused. To me this makes no sense. You can always buy a pair of boots with a lower arch, it is harder to get an extra soldier I would assume.

Why kick people out of the military when a $40 pair of non standard boots with a lower arch would work fine for them?

How do you keep these in stock and distribute them properly so you can resupply this guy with his non-standard boots in various postings in the US and overseas, or in in combat?

(The Germans got around this problem in WW2 by creating entire units of men with the same medical problems, so that any special support requirements would be at the unit level rather than isolated soldiers all over the place. A number of these served as static fortress troops in the Normandy defenses.)

I became 4-F in the following way: I was sent a notice when I was 18 (in 1970) that the draft board needed to know if there was anything that automatically disqualified me from serving in the military. They included a form with this notice that any doctor could fill out if they knew of a medical condition that disqualified me. I went to my family doctor and asked him to measure my height. He measured it and put down that I was 4 foot and 10 1/2 inches tall. (Perhaps I’m a little closer to 4 foot and 11 inches tall, but in any case I’m clearly short enough to disqualify me for military service.) He mailed this form to the draft board. At the time in any case, no male under 5 foot tall could be drafted. The draft board then sent me a letter saying that I was classified 1-Y, which meant that they wouldn’t draft me at that point, but I was in a large group of potential draftees who they might draft if they got desperate. A year or so later, they reclassified me as 4-F. The various classifications are discussed here:


There’s a famous article by James Fallows about how richer, more educated potential draftees were able to game the system by knowing better what sort of things the military rejected people for. Full disclosure: I know Fallows a little bit. Here’s the article:


I had a low draft number and went for my physical in 1971, my senior year of college. I had fairly severe asthma, and I had a spontaneous (really) attack during the physical. I had my rescue inhaler with me, but I didn’t use it until after the chest doc examined me. I got my 1Y, and after that classification was discontinued at the end of the year, I got the 4F.

Not drafted, but at one point in time I was living with a guy in one of the helicopter mine sweeping units, and there was a guy in the ground crew who was under 5 feet tall. My bf joked it was so they could shove him into places to do repairs fast without having to disassemble cowlings to get at the repair jobs.

I never understood how the Navy would put these huge guys into the submarine service. At various times on my husbands boats there were guys that used to be hulking football players and one officer who was something like 6’7 and had a permanent bruise on his head from bashing it into things on the boat. These poor guys barely fit in their bunks … [coffin sized, something like 6 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet]

You may joke, but I was taught that the RAF in WW2 specifically targeted people with dwarfism because they could get to places that full-sized people could not.

There are very few advantages to being tall in a modern military. Maybe you can carry a bit more, but that’s about it; the downsides include being a bigger target, and having much harder time fitting inside vehicles.

aruvqan, what year did this happen? I’ve been told that in the Vietnam War era, the height requirement for men was that they couldn’t be less than 5 foot or more than 6 foot 6. I’ve been told that now the requirement for both men and women is that they can’t be less than 4 foot 10 or more than 6 foot 8. Does anyone have the entire history of the height requirements of the American military for both sexes over all the time that the military has had any height requirements (and perhaps a citation for it)? Yeah, I’m sure that you can come up with anecdotes about particular rejections at particular times, but I’d like to know the entire history.

I had a student deferment for quite a while, then lost it. When I got my “letter”, I went in for my physical bearing my medical records that showed I was deaf in my right ear and had been since birth. I thought that would give me the old 4-F in no time flat.

Nope. 1-A, but with an endorsement that said Profile 2. I found out later that meant I was fit for non-combat duty. It became immaterial when I got a high draft number, but I have sometimes wondered how my life would have been if I had gone into the Army for 4 years, gotten an honorable discharge and had access to college education benefits, etc.

Carry more, inherently faster marching and running speed. When I went through basic training I noticed clear trends, and once I went to medical school I found out that growth hormones generally give a taller person more total muscle tissue to scale with their larger skeletons. Shorter people may visually appear bulkier because taller people can gain just as much muscle mass without it being as visually apparent since the muscles are spread across a larger area.

With that said, I agree with you that for the task of running war machines such as ships, tanks, and aircraft, increased height is probably a slight disadvantage. The designers of such vehicles have every incentive to shave where they can.

You should see the Brazilian ships.

I’m a big guy myself, but based on my own infantry experience, the best “terrain eaters” and long-distance runners, more often than not, were wiry little guys - marathon runner body types. OTOH, they did tend to give us tall kids more to carry (in my case, a machine gun), so I suspect there’s a certain balance point there.