FDR Approves First Peace-Time Draft
While the United States was not yet involved in the Second World War, President Franklin D. Roosevelt thought it was important to begin training American men for military service just in case his country was pulled into war. At the time, he thought Great Britain was likely to be the next target and there was little confidence in Great Britain’s ability to defeat Germany on its own.
Roosevelt signed the Selective Service and Training Act on September 16, 1940, which required all male citizens between the ages of 21 and 35 to register with their local draft boards. After approving the act, Roosevelt said:
“America stands at the crossroads of its destiny. Time and distance have been shortened. A few weeks have seen great nations fall. We cannot remain indifferent to the philosophy of force now rampant in the world. We must and will marshal our great potential strength to fend off war from our shores. We must and will prevent our land from becoming a victim of aggression.”
The majority of the nation was in favor of the draft since World War I had just ended. And even though the law made it mandatory for men to sign up, a lottery system would determine who’d actually serve. Nine thousand names were drawn at the first lottery and 21-year-old Robert Bell was the first name to be pulled.