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, United States (USA) (American Colonies) - 1917 - June 5 – WWI: Conscription begins in the United States.

But He Must Register on Tuesday or Go to Jail

Eagle Bureau, 901 Colorado Building.

Washington, June 2 - As a betting proposition, the odds are 20 to 1 against the chance of the average American getting into the selective draft army of 500,000 men, to be assembled as the first unit under the new military act. If you are anxious to wear a uniform, the surest way is to go and volunteer in the Regular Army, the National Guard, the Marine Corps or the Navy; because if you wait to be drafted, you may stay at home.

The reason why the American citizen of military age is a 20-to-1 shot just now is due to the fact that the United States has tremendous resources of many power, which it proposes to tap very gradually. There are 10,000,000 men of military age - that is, men who are 21 years old and who have not reached the age of 31. Out of this 10,000,000 the Government proposes to select 500,000 to go into training camps and learn to be soldiers. Later, another 500,000 will be chosen, but that is something for the future. It will be a big job to get the first 500,000.

Betting Odds in Detail.
Consider the betting odds in a little more detail. Suppose you are one of the 10,000,000 of military age. It is a 2-to-1 bet that you cannot pass the physical examination. You may think you are all right, but when they come to look you over for solider purposes, and apply to you the standards of the Regular Army, you may go into the discard as "unfit." About half the men who volunteer for the Army are rejected by surgeons. This proportion will hold good among the drafted men, because the Army intends to apply the same physical standards.

Assume, however, that you pass the physical test and become one of the 5,000,000 men who are bodily fit to shoulder arms and undergo service in the field. It is still 10 to 1 that you won't get into the first 500,000. Why? Well, among other things, you may happen to be married. More than 45 per cent of the Americans of military age are married. You are not necessarily exempt because of that fact, but for practical purposes most of the married men will not be called on the first draft. Next to being physically unfit, the fact of being married will keep more men out of the Army than any other thing. The Government right now has its eyes on the bachelors.

Occupation May Exempt You.
But if marriage does not exempt you, it is very likely that your occupation will. There are no hard and fast rules governing occupation exemptions. But, in a general way, the government does not intend to cripple industries that are essential to the prosecution of the war. If it needs you more as a soldier of industry than a soldier of the fighting line, you will be told to stay at home.

Altogether, as one of the original 10,000,000 subject to the draft, it is a 4-to-1 bet that you are not eligible, either through physical defects or for some other reason. The Army men are figuring out that out of 10,000,000 men of military age the sifting process will reduce the number of eligibles to 2,500,000. That is five times as many men as the Government wants to start with, and at least two and a half times as many as it can begin to handle within the next year.

So, just because you register on Tuesday, you are a long way from becoming a soldier. You may be physically fit, anxious to serve, not needed in any industry essential to war, unmarried and in every other way a first rate military prospect; yet the law of chance may pass you by. It is at least 5 to 1, after all exemptions are made, that your name will not get on the roster this year.

These odds, of course, are figured on the basis of the total number of men who are of military age. What proportion of these men will register on June 5, none of the authorities at Washington can even guess. They hope for a very large proportion. Unquestionably, there will be slackers, both intentional and unintentional.

The registration will not run to 10,000,000. There are men in remote sections of the United States who cannot and will not be reached. There are, in cities like New York, immense numbers of floaters, wanderers and nondescripts, who have no permanent residence or occupation, and many of whom will fail to go to the registration booths. There are probably several hundred thousand men in the country today who intend to be deliberate slackers. There are unquestionably thousands -- yes, hundreds of thousands -- of men who cannot prove their ages and whose ages the Government cannot prove, either. How many persons who read this, if called upon to prove beyond legal peradventure the date of their birth, could do it?

There will be an army of slackers; it is inevitable. But it will be an army whose feet stand upon uncertain ground. If you are really trying to avoid military duty, the best way is to register, and then offer a satisfactory reason for exemption. It will be a dangerous experiment to avoid registration and take chances on not being caught. Any policeman on the street will have the right to ask you for your registration card, and if you are of the military age and do not possess one, look out for trouble.

Slackers Won't Be Ignored.
The Government will not ignore the slackers. It will, necessarily, be unable to reach some of them; but it will find more than the intending slacker has any idea of. It may not get the slacker immediately; it may be months or a year. But the United States is not so big that the average slacker can hide himself, and, through dozens of channels, he is apt to betray himself. The local authorities will be on the watch for him. His neighbors will talk about him. The Government, through its secret service, will have an eye out for him. He will always be subject to a tap on the shoulder, at some unexpected moment, and an invitation to come along and explain himself.

The way of the slacker will be hard. He cannot buy a substitute. He cannot evade his military duty to register by paying a fine. He will, if convicted, be subjected to a sentence in jail of as much as a year, if the court sees fit. And if he serves that year he is no better off than he was at the beginning; in fact, he is in a worse state. Because a recruiting squad will take charge of him at the prison door and he will be marched off to the Army, to do the duty that he tried to shirk.

Any man who is of military age is taking a long chance if he fails to register on Tuesday. He may think it is easy to beat the game, but this time the betting odds will be against him. Sooner or later he is pretty certain to be brought up with a disagreeable turn. In fact, in the long run, he has little or no chance to escape. It is not so much what the Government, through its official channels, will be able to find out about him; it is what his neighbors will find out and what they will talk about. If you have registered, and you know that the fellow next door didn't, it is a safe bet that you are going to say something about it, simply because the fellow next door is not going to give you a square deal.

Patriot business concern will give the Government an important check on the slackers. The main in the office or shop who hasn't registered will have a hard time keeping the fact from his employers and his fellow workmen. He will be marked as a slacker. Somebody will "tell on him." Government officials charged with the administration of the selective draft law know full well that their most valuable volunteer assistants will be the men who have registered and the families of those men.

What the Figures Will Show.
If, for instance, 8,000,000 men register on Tuesday, that will men that 2,000,000 others have failed in their duty, according to the census statistics. That body of 8,000,000 registered men amounts to 8,000,000 volunteer detectives trying to locate the fellow who shirked. And the latter person will have a hard time hiding himself. Generally speaking, and taking things in the long run - because this looks like a long war - he will have the traditional chance enjoyed by a feather boa in a blast furnace. The millions who have subjected themselves to draft - who have obeyed the law - will be on the watch for every solitary person who has ducked his duty and his responsibility.

Just because a man is registered he is not a soldier. The Government authorities are keeping the process of registration and the draft entirely distinct. That is why the draft regulations have not yet been issued, and will not become public until after the registration. The Government wants to avoid confusion. All that the War Department has promulgated thus far relates to the act of registration. And right here it may be said that the new military law is probably the best advertised statute in the history of the country. Never before has the Government gone to so much trouble to notify citizens of an act of Congress.

What Registration Does.
Registration merely puts into the hands of the Government a list of men who are eligible for military duty. It does not draft them into the Army. It is, however, an absolutely necessary preliminary. It is a taking of stock, so that the United States will know what it has on hand. After the stock-taking will come the selection of goods for immediate use. The draft regulation will be published soon after the registration has been completed, tabulated and classified. The latter task, in itself, is immense. It means handling perhaps 10,000,000 names.

The draft will probably occupy many weeks in operation. There will be a million of so of men to be examined physically, and after that will come the task of passing upon their claims for exemption, or their right to be exempted, whether they claim it or not. The Government intends to be fair with its military men. It does not intend to draft any more than it can train, and it does not intend to take any men for the Army ranks who can do better service elsewhere. It will choose its soldiers impersonally.

Political Pull Poor Reliance.
A pull with a politician will be a poor reliance for the citizen who is trying to keep out of the Army. Bill Jones will be on the same footing as Reginald Montmorency De Peyster. There will be no social or financial distinctions. The Government will not ask, nor care, whether the drafted man is a Democrat or a Republican. All it wants to know is whether he is physically fit and whether he is more needed at home than he is in the field. The family and industrial institutions of the United States are not going to be shaken to their foundations by the draft law, if the Government can help it. BRAINERD.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn, New York
June 3, 1917

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