by Sherri Goudy
In my last post, we discussed US entry into WWI and the impossible task of raising an army from a few hundred thousand to a million using only volunteer recruits. Initiating a draft was inevitable, and over the course of the summer of 1917 local newspapers were filled with this very topic.
After over a month of debates between congress and the President, the Selective Service Act was finally passed on May 18, 1917.
The first draft was June 5, 1917. Registration cards were printed in the local paper.
In early June, the front page featured photos of men waiting in line to register under conscription.
Just the thought of the draft becoming a reality was too much for some Ohio residents to bear. One woman committed suicide before conscription was even a reality, out of fear that her son would be drafted to military service.
In Springfield, the paper published articles warning men not to “dodge registration” for the draft.
The local paper also posted on the front page the penalty and “round up” of “slackers” in Toledo.
By mid-July, the paper published local and national information about the draft.
Quotas for each city were listed in the papers, demanding the number of men who would have no choice but to report for duty.
Clark County was to supply 509 men, of which 409 were to come from the city of Springfield.
On July 12, 1917, the paper listed the names and serial numbers of the men registered, which would be randomly drawn for service.
Rules and regulations were also published, including information about physical exams and where notifications would be printed.
The drawing was set to take place on July 20, 1917.
The paper listed the first men of Springfield and Clark County to be drafted.
The residents were anxious to find out any information about the drawing, and they crowded in public places where the information was posted.
To boost morale, political cartoons flooded the paper to show that regardless if men were drafted or volunteering for service, they were united in their fight for democracy and liberty.
However, there continued to be issues with draft dodging and punishment plans such as court martial were printed on the front page.
In total, 2 million men volunteered for service and 2.8 million men were drafted, with fewer than 350,000 dodgers. These brave men who served our nation represented over 25% of the entire male population age 18-31. Although these men participated for less than 2 years in the deadliest conflict the world had ever known, their contributions helped put an end to the war and they are deserving of honor, respect, and reflection.
Next time, we will begin to explore the many contributions of women during this time of war. From joining the Red Cross, to taking men’s place in the workforce, to support from home, women played a vital role during World War I, and we will look into these roles over the next few posts.
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