On this day in history, September 14, 1940, the Selective Service Act was reported by the joint conference committee, and agreed to by the House and by the Senate.
The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, also known as the Burke-Wadsworth Act, was enacted on September 16, 1940, was the first peacetime conscription in United States history. This Selective Service Act required that men between the ages of 21 and 35 register with local draft boards. Later, when the U.S. entered World War II, all men aged 18 to 45 were made subject to military service, and all men aged 18 to 65 were required to register, including ‘blacks’. Signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt in 1940, the Act established the first peace-time draft in United States history. Under the Selective Training and Service Act, all American males between twenty-one and thirty-six years of age registered for the draft. The government selected men through a lottery system.
If drafted, a man served for twelve months. According to the Selective Training and Service Act’s provisions, drafted soldiers had to remain in the Western Hemisphere or in United States possessions or territories located in other parts of the world. The act provided that not more than 900,000 men were to be in training at any one time, and it limited service to 12 months.
Later in history, November 1942, with the United States now fully invested in the war, the draft ages expanded; men 18 to 37 were now eligible. Blacks were passed over for the draft because of racist assumptions about their abilities and the viability of a mixed-race military. But this changed in 1943, when a “quota” was imposed, meant to limit the numbers of blacks drafted to reflect their numbers in the overall population, roughly 10.6 percent of the whole. Initially, blacks were restricted to “labor units,” but this too ended as the war progressed, when they were finally used in combat.