Draft Wheels Ready to Turn (10-17-40)

The Pittsburgh Press (October 17, 1940)

By John A. Reichmann, United Press Staff Writer

Washington, Oct. 17 –


Clarence A. Dykstra, newly-appointed Director of Conscription, arrived today to take over administration of the machinery that will determine who, among the millions that registered will be called to bear arms.

Dr. Dykstra began the duties of his $10,000-a-year post only a few hours after registration offices in Pacific Coast states closed last night.

‘Democracy Effective’

The draft director said that the success in registering more than 16 million men for possible military service demonstrates the “ability of democracy ton rise to an occasion of this sort.”

He said at a press conference shortly after he was sworn in to his new post.

Those who thought we were supine and soft and that democracy could not move with effectiveness may be disappointed.

He praised the “almost universal co-operation from the young men of the United States” and the efficiency had been set up. He added that Lieut. Col. Lewis B. Hershey, acting director before he took over, has “done a magnificent piece of work.”

May Total 17 Millions

Draft headquarters meanwhile estimated that the total registration might run nearly 2% larger than was estimated and would approach a total of 17 million. The original estimate was 16,404,000.

The new estimate was based on reports from 10 states and the District of Columbia, whose total registrations averaged slightly more than the expected figures.

Dr. Dykstra, who is on leave of absence as president of the University of Wisconsin, took the oath of office in the presence of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. He begins immediately directing the nationwide organization which will classify the registered men, from Class 1-A – fit for military service – to Class IV-F – Physically, morally and mentally unfit.

Fairness Stressed

Dr. Dykstra takes over the job from Colonel Hershey, who, last night near the end of the 14-hour day of registration, praised the men who registered “eagerly” for the first peacetime draft boards to show a corresponding spirit in classifying them for military service.

Colonel Hershey told the boards in a radio address:

Let no man be able to say that through any careless act of yours, Selective Service was unfair to him.

There was no indication of how many men required to do so had failed to register. There were no reports of serious incidents of resistance, although officials expected some cases of actual evasion and voiced because the Army had refused to accept certain volunteers. The one exception was a man in many cases of persons who were unable to register yesterday because of circumstances beyond their control.

Only a difference of a million or more below the Census Bureau estimate in the actual registration figures would indicate widespread resistance to the draft, officials said.

But the registration came off smoothly, according to reports to headquarters here. in metropolitan areas there were delays – some men reported waiting as long as four hours – and there were a few demonstrations by conscientious objectors.

Most of the latter whom officials consider sincere objectors, however, registered, reserving until the time prescribed by law the right to express their abhorrence of war.

'My Boy’s Hair Is Blond

There were tragic and comical incidents. Men on operating tables and in sickrooms answered the questions to nurses and doctors designated as special registrars. Then there was the indignant mother who telephoned draft headquarters here to complain that her son had been described as having light brown hair “when anyone who can see could tell it’s plainly blond.”

Colonel Hershey was prepared to give Mr. Dykstra reports of a successful day – the first in a series of important ones to come for the millions of registrants. He expressed his satisfaction with the way things went with these words:

Anyone who watched these Americans at the places of registration must have sensed a great surging pride. For America’s manhood was parading through those places of registration today – America’s youth upon whom the nation depends for preservation.

It was a solemn occasion with significance beyond the measure of words. Every member of every local board in the country may well keep the picture in mind for it is an inspiration which will help every local board in the performance of the arduous tasks which lie ahead.

It is those local boards, nominated by state governors, and appointed by Mr. Roosevelt, who take over the draft machinery in their areas today.

The election machinery used for registration died – for that task – when the registration cards were tied into neat bundles early today and turned over to the local county clerk or election official for forwarding to the local draft board.

Plans Made for Lottery

Meanwhile plans will proceed here for the lottery which will determine the sequence in which men are to be called up. The date has not been set.

But even if his number is among the first drawn, a man is a long way off from induction into the Army. Only those who are unencumbered, in good health and not holding an essential job will be taken from civil life. Those with numbers far down may never be called.

Policies regarding classification will be among Dr. Dykstra’s first tasks. He must also determine on a policy for the determination of the quota which each state must supply to the 800,000 men to be called in the next year.