Second World War: Selective Training and Service Act Affected Many Small Communities

Iowan recalls the effect of the Selective Training and Service Act on her small community, prior to the Second World War.

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Conscription had been discontinued after the Armistice in 1918 and reinstituted in the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, the first United States peacetime draft. All males 21-35 were required to register with their local draft boards. A lottery by drawing in Washington, D.C., selected those for training and service. They were to serve for one year, but in August of 1941, in anticipation of our entry into the Second World War, it was extended to 18 months. 

October 29, 1940, as a band played and planes flew overhead, the first draft numbers in America's first peacetime military draft were drawn by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. They were drawn from a bowl.

Men in each Selective Service area in the nation whose numbers corresponded to those drawn from the bowl were called up for a year of service in the Army. When the United States entered the War, the age limits were expanded from 18 to 65, though only 20 to 45 year olds were eligible for the service. The period was then extended to the duration of the War plus six months.

On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor. On December 8, President Roosevelt declared war against Japan and Germany, and December 11, against Italy. So now it was a global conflict between the Axis Powers - Germany, Italy, Japan and satellites - and the Allies - the United States, Great Britain France, Russia and China. It lasted from 1939 to 1945.

There was a popular song written that year about men being drafted for just one year of training:

Goodbye dear,
I'll be back in a year
Don't forget
That I love you.

Before that year was up we were at war, so some of these boys didn't get home until the end of it.
During the war, as small as our little town was, we lost four of our young men. Our town's population was about 90 at that time.

Esther Carolus
Clarion, Iowa


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.