Going to War and Going to College: Military inductions

Among the broad age range of men liable for service, those who turned 18 during the war were less likely to have deferments for occupational, agricultural production or dependency reasons that the broader range of service-eligible men. Moreover, as manpower pools dwindled, restrictions on deferments for war-related occupations and dependent family members were tightened appreciably, with some men reclassified as service-eligible.
By the middle of the war, the manpower pool was thin, particularly among young men and new registrants were in high demand and at significant risk of induction. Nearly a million men were drafted in 1941, followed by more than 3 million men in 1942 [Table 1]. Conscription continued to fill manpower needs in whole or in part through 1946, when more than 180,00 men were drafted in the last calls under the Selective Service Act of 1940. As the war progressed, chronological order of birth became the primary determinant of the probability of military service. During the later years of World War II, voluntary enlistment was generally prohibited and probability of induction was largely a function of date of birth. Since quotas were issued from the federal level to each state based on the stock of residents already serving (including both enlistments and inductions), there was some variation across states at any point in time in the probability that an individual with a given birth day would receive a call. Men born in the early quarters of 1927 who served in World War II were likely to see some combat action, while those who served in the war effort from the later cohorts could expect to participate in the massive peace-keeping and rebuilding efforts in Europe and the Pacific.
The World War II era draft, particularly as it existed in the last years of the war, differed from the conscription mechanism employed in the Korean War largely in the nature of available deferments. Men at risk of induction during the period of the Korean War had the option of educational deferments, while occupational deferments, particularly in the area of agriculture, were decidedly less common than during World War II. The introduction of a general deferment (II-S) for college study in 1951 provided a precursor to the doctrine of “channeling,” which changed the nature of selection into the military in the 1950s and 1960s by consciously directing those with high academic aptitude toward advanced educational attainment. In short, the increased use of the college deferment during the Korean War was likely to have shifted the selection of the military from the upper tiers of the socio-economic distribution in the population to the middle belt. Moreover, among men who aspired to college, educational deferments were the best course of action for those who for whom financing was not a problem, while military service provided the promise of some financial aid for others.
Table 1: Military inductions from World War I through the termination of conscription

Year Number of Inductions Conflict Number of Inductions
1917 516,212 WWI (1917-1918) 2,666,867
1918 2,294,084
1940 18,633 WWII (1940-1946)
1941 923,842 includes draftees
1942 3,033,361 before Pearl Harbor 10,110,114
1943 3,323,970
1944 1,591,942 Korea
1945 945,862 (June 1950-June 1953) 1,529,537
1946 183,383
1947 Vietnam
1948 20,348 (Aug 1964- Feb 1973) 1,766,910
1949 9,781
1950 219,771 Draft ended 7/1/73
1951 551,806
1952 438,479
1953 471,806
1954 253,230
1955 152,777
1956 137,940
1957 138,504
1958 142,246
1959 96,153
1960 86,602