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History and Records

History of the Selective Service System

Though the Selective Service System as we know it today was not in use, the United States has used systems of conscription since the Revolutionary War era. Conscription was used in World War I with the draft mechanism in both instances being dissolved at the end of hostilities. In 1940, prior to U.S. entry into World War II, the first peacetime draft in our nation’s history was enacted in response to increased world tension and the system was able to fill wartime manpower needs smoothly and rapidly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. At the end of the war, the draft law was allowed to expire, but it was reenacted less than two years later to maintain necessary military manpower levels as a result of the Cold War.

From 1948 until 1973, during both peacetime and periods of conflict, men were drafted to fill vacancies in the armed forces which could not be filled through voluntary means. Induction authority expired in 1973, but the Selective Service System remained in existence in “standby” to support the all-volunteer force in case of an emergency. Registration was suspended early in 1975 and the Selective Service System entered into “deep standby”.

 

Beginning in late 1979, a series of “revitalization” efforts were begun in an effort to upgrade the System’s capability for rapid mobilization in an emergency. In the summer of 1980, registration was resumed. Presently, young men must register within 30 days of their 18th birthday.

Historical Timeline

Learn more about the historical changes in the Operations, methods of Registration, Classification, Sources of Manpower, and Selection and Induction throughout our country’s history.

 

View Historical Timeline

Vietnam Lotteries

The first Vietnam lottery, held on December 1, 1969, brought with it many changes to prior Selective Service System procedures and protocols. This event determined the order of call for induction during calendar year 1970.

Changes From Vietnam to Now

The Selective Service System has changed a lot since the 1970s. A series of reforms during the latter part of the Vietnam conflict changed the way the draft operated to make it more fair and equitable. Learn more about our fair and equitable system.

Draft Cards

Most Americans born before 1990 remember the "draft card" which Selective Service issued to each man at the time he registered. For many years there were in fact two cards: the Registration Certificate and the Notice of Classification. Learn more about the history of the draft card and our modern practices.

Induction Statistics

Learn about the numbers of men who entered military service through the Selective Service System during major 20th century conflicts in which the U.S. was engaged.

Record Requests

Registrants born BEFORE January 1, 1960

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has sole responsibility of ownership, storage, and retrieval of Selective Service records for men born before 1960. Thus, Selective Service can no longer access any of these records.

All requests should be mailed directly to:

National Archives & Records Administration
National Archives – Saint Louis
ATTN: RL-SL
P.O. Box 38757
St. Louis, MO 63138-0757

How to Obtain a Copy: The classification record is public information and is available to anyone who asks for it. Requesters must provide the registrant’s full name, date of birth, and address at the time of registration (usually when the registrant was 18 years old). You must submit your request using the Record Request Form to the address provided above.

Classification Record: Shows a registrant’s name, local board number, his classifications, and the dates he received the classifications.

NOTE: If records are found, you will receive an invoice for payment from NARA.

Record Request Form

Registrants born AFTER January 1, 1960

Men born on or after January 1, 1960 can verify their record online or by calling (847) 688-6888.

Verify Registration

Records Information