Sons" and the draft
to popular belief, "only sons," "the last son
to carry the family name," and "sole surviving sons"
must register and they can be drafted. However, they
may be entitled to a peacetime deferment if there is a military
death in the immediate family.
regarding the survivors of veterans were written into Selective
Service law after World War II. Details have varied over the
years, but the basic premise remains the same; where a family
member has been lost as a result of military service, the
remaining family members should be protected insofar as possible.
is important to keep in mind that the provisions are directly
related to service-connected deaths. The mere fact that
a man is the only child or only son does not qualify him for
exemption - he must be the survivor of one who died as a result
of military service.
present law provides a peacetime exemption for anyone whose
parent or sibling was killed in action, died in line of duty,
or died later as a result of disease or injury incurred in
line of duty while serving in the armed forces of the United
States. Also included are those whose parent or sibling is
in a captured or missing status as a result of service in
the armed forces during any period of time. This is known
as the "surviving son or brother" provision. A man
does not have to be the only surviving son in order to qualify;
if there are four sons in a family and one dies in the line
of duty, the remaining three would qualify for surviving son
or brother status under the present law.
surviving son or brother provision is applicable only in peacetime.
It does not apply in time of war or national emergency declared
by the Congress.
original law, passed in 1948, exempted the sole surviving
son of a family where one or more sons or daughters died as
a result of military service. No restriction existed at that
time to limit the exemption to peacetime. The provision was
intended to protect families which had lost a member in World
1964, recognizing that sons of World War II veterans were
reaching draft age, Congress changed the law to include the
sole surviving son of a family where the father, or one or
more sons or daughters, died as a result of military service.
At this time the peacetime-only restriction was also added
to the law.
further change was made in 1971, expanding the exemption to
any son, not necessarily the sole surviving son, of a family
where the father, brother or sister died as a result of military
service. This provision was recently expanded to include mothers.