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 are WWII Draft Registration Records?
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 each 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:In general, you'll find the registrant's full name, address (both mailing and residence), phone number, date and place of birth, age, occupation and employer, the name and address of the nearest contact or relative, the employers name and address, and the signature of the registrant. Other boxes on the draft cards asked for descriptive details such as race, height, weight, eye and hair color, complexion and other physical characteristics.
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.
Where Can I Access WWII Draft Records?The original WWII draft registration cards are organized by state and are held by the appropriate regional branch of the National Archives. A few WWII draft cards from Ohio have also been digitized by the National Archives and made available online. They are also available as part of NARA microfilm Record Group 147, "Records of the Selective Service System, 1940-." On the Web, subscription-based Ancestry.com offers a searchable index to the available WWI Draft Registration Records from the 4th registration (Old Man's Draft), as well as digital copies of the actual cards. These are being placed online as they are microfilmed by the National Archives, so not all states are available yet.
What WWII Draft Records are NOT Available?The fourth registration WWII draft registration cards (for men born between 28 April 1877 and 16 February 1897) for most southern states (including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee) were destroyed in error by NARA in the 1970s and were never microfilmed. The information on these cards has been lost for good. Other registrations for these states were not destroyed, but not all are yet open to the public.
How to Search the WWII Draft Registration RecordsThe cards from the fourth registration of the WWII draft are generally organized alphabetically by surname for an entire state, making them easier to search than the WWI draft registration cards.
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.