First Draftee May be Drawn by Roosevelt (9-18-40)

The Pittsburgh Press (September 18, 1940)


Goldfish Bowl Selection Due In Capital Ceremony About Oct. 23

By John A. Reichmann, United Press Staff Writer

Washington, Sept. 18 –

President Roosevelt may draw the first number in the goldfish bowl lottery that will determine the order in which conscripts will be taken into the Army.

A plan for his participation today was reported under consideration. It provides for a night time drawing in the Senate chamber of the numbers assigned to each man from 21 to 36 when he registers on October 16. Dignitaries would be present and all the formalities of official life put into the performance.

The President presumably would make a short talk on conscription and he and others would take turns drawing the first numbers from the same goldfish bowl which was used in the World War draft.

In 1917, Secretary of War Newton D. Baker drew the first number. The lottery started at 9 a.m. and continued until 2:15 a.m. the following morning. The process has been so simplified, however, that officials believe the drawing could begin in the evening and end by 2 or 3 a.m. It would be held about October 26.

While no official announcement has been made, it is presumed that newspapers of the following day will have a complete list of the drawn numbers.

Publication of the text of the law has caused a host of questions to pour into officials who have been formulating plans. Plans have been subject to revision ever since the Burke-Wadsworth bill was introduced in the Senate. The questionnaire which will determine just what questions will be asked in determining an individual’s liability to service is being revised under the personal supervision of the White House.

Army Is Cautious

Draft officials are also trying to make sure that the Army is prepared to handle drafted men under conditions set down in the law and emphasized in Mr. Roosevelt’s statement. In it, he said:

In the military service, they will be intelligently led, comfortably clothed, well-fed and adequately armed and equipped for basic training.

This pledge, plus the requirements of the law – no man to be conscripted until adequate provision is made for shelter, sanitary facilities, heating and lighting, medical care, and hospital arrangements – was expected to place a tremendous burden on the War Department which, after years of short rationing on money, will find itself with billions of dollars and 1,200,000 men.

Officials believed that conscripts would be inducted into the service in small consignments.

One official said:

We can’t afford to have our boys pulled away from their homes and into the Army only to find there is no housing, insufficient uniforms and badly organized food supplies. They will simply write home to their folks and cause all manner of ill will toward the draft.

New legislation to safeguard the rights of conscripts was offered by Congress yesterday. Major Edwin Barber of the General Staff asked for legislation to protect their insurance policies and relieve their tax burdens.

Such provisions were in the original draft bill but were passed over in order to speed enactment. Conversations are now underway with insurance companies looking toward a possible moratorium on insurance premiums if necessary. Major Barber’s proposals would also take care of rental and other problems of conscripts while in the service.

Government Would Pay

As outlined by Major Barber in an appearance before the House Military Affairs Committee, a conscript with an insurance policy of $5,000 or less face value would have premiums guaranteed by the government if he was unable to make payments on his Army pay. If he could not catch up on payments within a year after discharge, the government would receive the cash surrender value of the policy and give it to the ex-soldier, minus the amount of premiums paid by the government.

Soldiers with farm, business or residential property would have their real estate saved from sale for taxes because of military service. In the event states refused to make their law conform, ex-soldiers would have the right to redeem their property within six months after discharge.

Major Barber also endorsed provisions which would prevent evictions on residences of conscripts renting for $80 a month or less and President Roosevelt’s recommendation for protecting social security benefits.

Enlistment Possible

Details of the provision allowing men to volunteer for duty for one year under the draft law were not available today but informed sources believed that volunteers would be accepted while the draft law is effective.

After registration day, volunteers will be able to enlist for one year’s training through their local draft boards. These boards should be appointed soon after Mr. Roosevelt issues an executive order setting up the Selective Service Administration and names a director. He is expected to do so soon after his return today from the funeral of the late Speaker William B. Bankhead.

It was understood, however, that volunteers would be counted against each increment of the draft only up to within a reasonable time prior to the induction of the draft quota.

Choice of Service

Officials said that volunteers who proffered themselves early probably would be given opportunity to select their branch of service, particularly if they have some aptitude for it. In the draft itself, it was said, conscripts would have some opportunity of choice if the branch they desire is not already filled to its full complement. However, few conscripts are expected to be taken into such specialized services as the Air Corps, which prefers three-year volunteers obtained in the regular recruiting manner.

Following the President’s signing of the executive order the state organizations will go to work. More than 25,000 nominations of men to serve on local draft boards – without pay – will be made by the governors of the states. Appointment will be by the President.

Thereafter, tons of literature, including registration cards, questionnaires and other pertinent forms will be printed and distributed to the country. This and the organization of the election officials who will conduct the Oct. 16 registration will be the first steps in bringing Selective Service No. 2 into being.