Proclamation for the Third Draft Registration, 12 September 1918

World War 1 Draft Registration Card for Harry Handcuff Houdini, 1918.

World War 1 Draft Registration Card for Harry Handcuff Houdini, 1918. The Draft Registration Card of Harry Houdini Indicates That He Worked as an Actor. the Signature on Houdini's Card Reads Harry Handcuff Houdini. Record Group 163: Records of the Selective Service System (World War 1), 1917-1939. National Archives and Records Administration, are ID # 641795. GGA Image ID # 18dd57b2c0

The proclamation for the major registration of all those between the ages of 18 and 45 not previously registered, which was to be held on September 12, 1918, followed the example of the first proclamation.

After the essential information was given in official and formal language the President made an appeal to the country. He took pains to point out that the policy underlying conscription is practically as old as the country. He said :

This is not a new policy. A century and a quarter ago it was deliberately ordained by those who were then responsible for the safety and defense of the Nation that the duty of military service should rest upon all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 45.

We now accept and fulfill the obligation which they established, an obligation expressed in our national statutes from that time until now.

We solemnly purpose a decisive victory of arms and deliberately to devote the larger part of the military manpower of the Nation to the accomplishment of that purpose.

He appeals both to the younger men and to the older group now being called. To the younger men he addressed these words:

The younger men have from the first been ready to go. They have furnished voluntary enlistments out of all proportion to their numbers. Our military authorities regard them as having the highest combatant qualities.

Their youthful enthusiasm, their virile eagerness, their gallant spirit of daring make them the admiration of all who see them in action.

They covet not only the distinction of serving in this great war but also the inspiring memories which hundreds of thousands of them will cherish through the years to come of a great day and a great service for their country and for mankind.

To the older men he said :

By the men of the older group now called upon, the opportunity now opened to them will be accepted with the calm resolution of those who realize to the full the deep and solemn significance of what they do.

Having made a place for themselves in their respective communities, having assumed at home the graver responsibilities of life in many spheres, looking back upon honorable records in civil and industrial life, they will realize as perhaps no others could, how entirely their own fortunes and the fortunes of all whom they love are put at stake in this war for right, and will know that the very records they have made render this new duty the commanding duty of their lives.

They know how surely this is the Nation’s war, how imperatively it demands the mobilization and massing of all our resources of every kind. They will regard this call as the supreme call of their day and will answer it accordingly.

He concludes with a brief description of the System and a “call for a final demonstration of loyalty, democracy, and the will to win.” His exact language follows :

Only a portion of those who register will be called upon to bear arms. Those who are not physically fit will be excused; those exempted by alien allegiance; those who should not be relieved of their present responsibilities; above all, those who cannot be spared from the civil and industrial tasks at home upon which the success of our armies depends as much as upon the fighting at the front.

But all must be registered in order that the selection for military service may be made Intelligently and with full information. This will be our final demonstration of loyalty, democracy, and the will to win, our solemn notice to all the world that we stand absolutely together in a common resolution and purpose.

It is the call to duty to which every true man in the country will respond with pride and with the consciousness that in doing so he plays his part in vindication of a great cause at whose summons every true heart offers its supreme service.

The Registration of the Third Group, 1918

In his proclamation of August 31 for the third registration, the President summarized the situation as follows:

Fifteen months ago the men of the country from 21 to 80 years of age were registered. Three months ago, and again this month, those who had just reached the age 21 were added. It now remains to include all men between the ages of 18 and 45.

This registration was authorized by Public Law 210 which was approved August 31 and required the registration of all male persons but made only citizens and declarants liable for military service. It also authorized the registration at such intervals as the President may desire of all male persons who have attained the age of 18 years since the last preceding date of registration.

This new law provided for the exemption from registration of the diplomatic and consular representatives of foreign governments as well as military personnel.

The persons exempted are as follows:

  • Officers and enlisted men of the Regular Army;
  • Officers and enlisted men of the National Guard while in the service of the United States;
  • Officers of the Officers’ Reserve Corps and enlisted men in the Enlisted Reserve Corps while in the service of the United States;
  • Officers and enlisted men of the Navy and Marine Corps;
  • Officers and enlisted and enrolled men in the Naval Reserve Force and Marine Corps Reserve while in the service of the United States;
  • Officers commissioned in the Army of the United States under the provisions of this act;
  • Persons who, prior to any day set for registration by the President hereunder, have registered under the terms of this act or under the terms of the resolution entitled “Joint resolution providing for the registration for military service of all male persons citizens of the United States and all male persons residing in the United States who have, since the fifth day of June, nineteen hundred and seventeen, and on or before the day set for the registration by proclamation by the President, attained the age of twenty-one years, in accordance with such rules and regulations as the President may prescribe under the terms of the act approved May eighteenth, nineteen hundred and seventeen, entitled ‘An act to authorize the President to increase temporarily the Military Establishment of the United States,’ ” approved May twentieth, nineteen hundred and eighteen, whether called for service or not and diplomatic representatives, technical attachés of foreign embassies and legations, consuls general, consuls, vice consuls, and consular agents of foreign countries, residing in the United States, who are not citizens of the United States.

Facts About the Third Registration

The estimate of the male population, to be registered in the registration of September 12, 1918, was 13,200,000. In this age group approximately 400,000 were already in the armed forces, leaving a net estimate of 12,800,000 persons liable for registration.

Because of the size of this registration it was evident that the whole election machinery down to precincts should again be used. The local boards themselves could serve as centers of administration in the counties and the cities in cooperation with the regular election districts where they were used.

In short, the third registration was carried on in substantially the same form, the same operation, as the first registration. There were only 12 days between the passage of the law and the publication of the President’s proclamation on the one hand and the date of the registration on the other.

An intense effort had to be made to give wide publicity to the President’s proclamation and to the requirements of registration. 700,000 copies of the proclamation were printed and distributed.

The head of the Council of National Defense and the Committee on Public Information, the private publicity channels, the newspapers and the magazines of the country cooperated.

The President himself in the proclamation had made a stirring appeal for an unanimous demonstration of loyalty, patriotism, and the will to win.

On September 12,13,395,706 men were registered. This was larger by almost 600,000 than the estimate, being explained by the fact that many youths just 17 years old and men over 46 years of age registered merely as a patriotic gesture and to record their willingness to serve.

There were, in addition, large numbers of late registrations from men between the ages of 21 and 31. This made the grand total of persons registered during World War I up to this time 24,234,021.

Excerpts from "Chapter III: The Registrations of 1917-18," in Registration and Selective Service, Special Monograph No. 4, Selective Service System, 1945, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1946, pp. 15-18.

Return to Top of Page