Manpower-wise, the United States was unprepared for war. There were only 110,000 men in uniform at the time war was declared, and only 32,000 volunteers had come forward by the end of April. A military draft was the only way to significantly increase those numbers, and in May, Congress passed the Selective Service Act, requiring all men between 21-31 to register for service. In September, the draft eligibility age expanded, and men 18-45 were required to register.
|Images of WWI draft registration cards can be found at Ancestry.com|
As we mark the anniversary of our nation's entry into a deadly conflict that did little more than set up the conditions for WWII, we should note there is another 100th anniversary this month. On April 30, 1917, a group of young Quaker men in Philadelphia organized the American Friends Service Committee to witness for peace in the midst of war. Although allowed by the Selective Service Act to register as Conscientious Objectors, American Quakers nevertheless went to the battlefields, to work with British Quakers as unarmed stretcher-bearers and ambulance drivers, caring for the wounded of any army. Many brave soldiers, wounded by war, owed their lives to brave non-combatants who rescued them from the battlefield in the name of peace.