Why would 18 and 19 year olds not be drafted if the draft were reinstated?

And why, then, does SSS require registration on one’s 18th birthday?


From your own cite, people who are 20-25 will be drafted before anyone who is 18 or 19.

So if you only need to draft 100,000 people, and there are 8 million 20-25 year olds*… then an 18-year-old is only drafted after those 100,000 are killed 79 times.

*This is just an extremely rough number, assuming about 5% of the population is that old and half of it is male.

Probably because registering with Selective Service is a requirement for qualifying for Federal student financial assistance.

If you read your cite, 19 year olds would be drafted. “The first to be called,…will be men whose 20th birthday falls during that year…”
The 18 year old group may be the last to be drafted perhaps because its possible to be 18 and still in High School.

I think that there was some backlash from the Vietnam War WRT age. IIRC the average age of draftees was 19. It does seem odd that you can enlist at 17 but not be drafted until you are about to turn 20. Beats me.



But why not state it that way? Or say “It’s unlikely that anyone outside 20-23-year-olds would be drafted, and even the 22 and 23-year-olds would be pretty unlikely.” And why did the 18 and 19 year olds get put last in line?

ETA: Kobalt’s hunch makes sense.

High School is probably the reason. 19 year olds in high school is not uncommon either.

IIRC, the original reason for the GED exam is because so many people left high school to fight in WW2 and did not exactly fit in well back at their old high school afterwards, or might not have been allowed to return at all. I think there’s an interest to avoid creating addtional “high school non-completers”. Nowadays it’s almost impossible to enlist without a high school credential, and I don’t see the US government drastically lowering that if it can help it.

We have some half-assed contingency plans for the draft right now. Except, if we ever do have a new draft, we’re not going to dust off the contingency plans and implement them as-is.

There would have to be an act of Congress to reinstate the draft, and when that happens Congress is going to have to decide exactly how the new draft will operate. Even if they just rubber-stamp what the generals decide, the generals are going to structure the draft to meet the needs of the new war/national emergency.

And that is unlikely to look very much like the current set of plans, because it’s going to take a pretty fucking severe national emergency or a radical change in the national spirit before we reinstate the draft. And since we can’t predict what those horrible things will be, it is pretty hard to figure out what the manpower needs of our new overlords will be.

These regulations and the draft lottery system all started during the Vietnam war. It used to be that it was oldest first. The draft was bringing in a bunch of 25 and 24 year old guys but the Army found they were too mature, wise and worldly to take a bunch of crap from some second lieutenant. 18 seemed too young, a lot to do with the high school thing, so they went to a system where they took the 19 year olds first and worked their way up. It was a lot easier for the Army to mold the 19 year old draftee than someone 25 year old.

The lottery was instituted to get rid of a lot of deferments and supposedly to make it more “fair”. There were only two lotteries (that I remember) because the war was winding down and then got replaced with the volunteer army.

That first lottery was a doozy. Guys with low numbers were scrambling every which way to avoid the Army.

*** emphasis mine**

Yeah, I remember that goofy 80s song (Vietnam-Saigon-Vietnam-Saigon!) but wasn’t it later shown that this statistic (average Nam vet being only 19) was in fact inaccurate?

I can also imagine the propaganda value for some anti-war activist: “Oh, how sad! **Teenagers **dying!” That would be something that a draft board would like to avoid.

Yeah, because teenagers totally aren’t dying in the military at this po… crap.

Granted, of course when we talk draft it’s all very different. I wouldn’t be surprised, if everything changed so much either in circumstances or national feeling, if we went skills draft, for example. Or stopped drafting anybody who can’t legally drink (or lowered the drinking age.) It does seem kind of crazy that you can technically be drafted as an 18 year old and die after several years at war without ever taking a legal drink.

Also because the survival rate in WWII was better for 19yo than 25yo.

Conversely, under 17 is unwelcome in the modern army because in WWI they found that 16yo would fall asleep on duty.

I think it’s more consistent than crazy. The same things that make 19-20 year-olds better draftees–more malleable, more easily led, less likely to come to conclusions at odds with the what they are told–also lead to poor judgment about when and how much to drink.

It may not be ethical, but it’s not crazy.

Meh. Parents vastly outnumber anti-war activists.

My father was drafted at 18 in World War II, but President Roosevelt had promised not to actually send anyone overseas until after their 19th birthday, so when his division got orders to ship out for Europe before he turned 19, my grandmother raised holy hell with the Governor about the president’s promise. My father was quickly transferred to another division that did not get sent over until after he’d turned 19.

Years later, he met the Governor at a party. Recognizing my father’s name, the Governor avowed that he’d rather face the Germans himself than face my grandmother a second time.

IMHO, the reason governments sometimes withhold 18-year-olds from active service is to avoid alienating parents, not out of military effectiveness. Logical or not, even parents who don’t mind sending their children off to war still hesitate to send the youngest ones. Of course the governments in question wouldn’t hesitate to send younger folks in a demographic crisis, but when they have the luxury of choice, they sometimes choose not to, or to postpone the necessity as long as possible.

I had thought they always had the lottery, but then issued deferments after your number was picked or whatever. Not true? How did they choose people before the lottery?

And why only men? Women make up about 15-20% of the military now and there are very few jobs where they are excluded. Equal rights should mean equal responsibilities. I bet if they try to bring back the draft as is, it would be tied up in the courts for a while because it’s drafting men only.

BTW: I beat the draft by enlisting in the US Air Force in 1972. I wouldn’t have been drafted anyway as my number was something like 151.

That’s been tried, the courts decided against it. Originally because women couldn’t vote, and therefore weren’t full citizens and didn’t have the same obligations as men. Then because women weren’t allowed in combat roles. Now that’s changed, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next bullshit excuse to keep the burden solely on men.

One would imagine that in these hard times, the military would have no problem recruiting. They certainly don’t over here.

The reason the lottery was instituted was in large part a step towards cleaning up a very corrupt system rife with favoritism. At 18 every male had to register with the Selective Service System. At some point, I can’t remember if it was before or after they were called in for a physical, they would apply for a deferment. Most deferments were 4-F’s (physically unfit for military duty) or II-S (student deferment). There were others like conscientious objectors or occupational deferments (the military decided that the individual’s skill were more important stateside). Check out this list:


As you can imagine, a list like that left a lot of loopholes that those with influence could drive through. The lottery was designed to be more “fair”. It severely restricted the way that deferments could be granted. The lottery was so short lived that it is hard to determine if it did what it was designed to do.