WWII Draft Registration Records

John W. Pattison (1884-1957) in the WWII draft registration. Public Domain/U.S. Selective Service Archives

Millions of men living in America completed draft registration cards between 1940 and 1943 as part of the WWII draft. The majority of these draft cards are not yet open to the public for privacy reasons, but almost 6 million WWII draft cards completed during the fourth registration by men between the ages of 42 and 64 in 1942 are open to the public for research. This registration, known as the "Old Man's Draft," provides a great deal of information on the men who participated, including their full name, address, physical characteristics, and date and place of birth.

Note: Ancestry.com has started to make World War II draft cards from the 1-3 registrations, and 5-6 registrations available online in a new database U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1898-1929. As of July 2014, the database includes registrations filled out by men in Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and North Carolina.

Record Type: Draft registration cards, original records (microfilm and digital copies also available)

Location: U.S., although some individuals of foreign birth are also included.

Time Period: 1940–1943

Best For: Learning the exact date of birth and place of birth for all registrants. This can be especially useful for research of foreign-born men who never became naturalized U.S. citizens. It also provides a source for tracking individuals after the 1930 U.S. census.

What is a WWII Draft Registration Record?

On May 18, 1917, the Selective Service Act authorized the President to temporarily increase the U.S. military. Under the office of the Provost Marshal General, the Selective Service System was established to draft men into military service. Local boards were created for each county or similar state subdivision, and for every 30,000 people in cities and counties with a population greater than 30,000.

During World War II there were seven draft registrations:

  • October 16, 1940 - all men 21-31 years residing in the U.S. - whether native born, naturalized, or alien
  • July 1, 1941 - men who reached age 21 since the first registration
  • February 16, 1942 - men 20-21 and 35-44 years of age
  • April 27, 1942 - Men 45-64 years of age. Not liable for military service. *Only draft cards open to public
  • June 30, 1942 - Men 18-20 years of age
  • December 10-31, 1942 - Men who reached the age of 18 since the previous registration
  • November 16 - December 31, 1943 - American men living abroad, aged 18-44

What You Can Learn From WWII Draft Records:

Keep in mind that WWII Draft Registration Records are not military service records - they don't document anything past the individual's arrival at training camp and contain no information about an individual's military service. It is also important to note that not all of the men who registered for the draft actually served in the military, and not all men who served in the military registered for the draft.

How to Search the WWII Draft Registration Records

If you're searching online and don't know where your individual was living, you can sometimes find him through other identifying factors. Many individuals registered by their full name, including middle name, so you might try searching for a variety of name variations. You could also narrow the search by month, day and/or year of birth.

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Your Citation
Powell, Kimberly. "WWII Draft Registration Records." ThoughtCo, Sep. 8, 2021, thoughtco.com/wwii-draft-registration-records-1422331. Powell, Kimberly. (2021, September 8). WWII Draft Registration Records. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/wwii-draft-registration-records-1422331 Powell, Kimberly. "WWII Draft Registration Records." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/wwii-draft-registration-records-1422331 (accessed June 6, 2023).