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WWII Draft Cards

While scanning pictures and other items found in a family album, I came across some documents that I wasn’t sure of what they were. At the top, they said “Notice of Classification”,  and it was obvious they were military of some sort, but I was absolutely clueless about what they could be.

So, I did what I do best … I Googled it. (Funny how that has become a verb.) What I eventually found, after almost an hour of searching, was that they were forms for the Selective Service, aka The Draft. The cards, colloquially known as “Draft Cards”, are officially Selective Service Cards – D.S.S. Form 57.

My Paternal Grandfather saved six of his cards. On them, he was listed as being classified III-A (3-A), II-B (2-B), and I-A (1-A), from 1941 through 1945. Even though I now knew what the cards were, I still didn’t have any understanding of what the classifications meant. So, back to Google I went.

I was disappointed in the amount of searching I had to do to find anything that really explained what the classifications meant. On the government’s website, Selective Service System, they list seven classifications. However, only two of them helped me at all.

I found several sites where people were trying to sell the cards. I found genealogy sites with pictures of the cards. But it seemed nobody had anything listed that explained the classifications.

Finally, I found a book on Google – US Marine Rifleman 1939-45: Pacific Theater, by Gordon L. Rottman – which showed previews of some of the pages within the book. Jackpot! It had exactly what I needed. Pages 7-9 explained the Selective Service, and how it worked during that time. Page 9 had a chart showing the classifications.

I don’t have permission from the author, but I’d like to post the chart here to help out anyone else who needs this difficult to find answer. I don’t believe this particular bit of information is copyrighted, though, as I’m sure it’s in some government archive somewhere (just not online).

Selective Service Classifications
1-A      : Available for military service.
1-A-O  : Conscientious objector, available for non-combatant service.
1-B      : Available for limited military service.
1-B-C  : Conscientious objector, available for non-combatant limited service.
1-C      : Land or naval forces coast guard.
1-H      : 28 years of age prior to July 1, 1941, and not inducted by that date.
2-A      : Necessary man in his civilian category.
2-B      : Necessary man in national defense.
3-A      : Man with dependents.
4-A      : Man who has completed service.
4-B      : Official deferred by law.
4-D      : Minister of divinity student.
4-E       : Conscientious objector fit for service, available for work of national importance.
4-E-ES : Conscientious objector fit for limited service.
4-H      : Conscientious objector over 28 years of age prior to July 1, 1941.
4-F       : Morally, mentally or physically unfit.

What I found most interesting is that my Grandfather started out as Class III-A, a month after their daughter was born. Makes sense … he had a wife a kid, definitely dependents.


Then he went to Class II-B in 1944. I’m not entirely sure what caused that change in classification. He still had dependents. What made him a “necessary man in national defense”? I think he was a machinist. I have no idea what he machined, though.


What truly baffles me, is that on 5 April 1945, he was abruptly changed to a Class 1-A. This happened 3 months before it was supposed to happen! And he still had dependents, and I’m assuming was still working as a machinist. To make matters even more puzzling, he was a month away from having a second child!


Finally, in June of 1945, it looks as though he appealed the classification. It was voted on. He lost by a vote of 3 to 0. He remained Class 1-A. With a wife and two children. What happened in early 1945 to prompt this sudden change?


Looks like I have some more research to do.

  1. pgwodehouse
    June 3, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    The reason his classification got changed is that as the war progressed, more and more men were needed for the Armed Services. By 1944, there was a huge manpower shortage in the armed forces. Married men with children were initially deferred, then in late 1942, they were eligible to be drafted (see link below for the text of a newspaper article from April 1942 about coming changes).


    It’s important to note that draft boards were made up of local men who were given a quota of draftees they had to meet. The draft boards began by drafting all the IA men (a pool that changed every month as young men grew to be draft age), and when they ran out of IA men, they drafted men with limited deferments until they met their quota. Since the draft board members were all local, they were presumed to know which men were really supporting their families financially, which men were really essential to the running of the local war plants, etc.

    What probably happened to your grandfather is that initially, he was deferred because of dependents. Then, in 1944, he got a job as a machinist in a business that was providing material for the armed forces. His draft classification was changed to IIB to make it less likely that he would be drafted. In April 1945, something happened to at his job which made it no longer vital to the national defense. Maybe his employer lost their government contract. Maybe your grandfather got a different job at the same company, but the second job was not considered vital to the national defense. Or maybe the draft board was really struggling to find men, so they looked at all the men with IIB ratings, and decided that your grandfather’s job was less vital to the national defense than other IIB men. (In April 1945, the war in Europe was almost over, but the conventional wisdom was that it would take another six months to two years before the war in the Pacific was over — the worst estimates were that the US would suffer an additional 1 million casualties. So finding men for the services was still a huge problem.) Since having dependents was no longer a reason to keep men out of the service, he was reclassified as 1A.

    Whatever the reason was that he was reclassified, he appealed his reclassification and lost. If the war had continued beyond August 1945, he might have been drafted.

    • June 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm

      Thank you for your reply. Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you.

      I don’t know if you happened to catch my next blog post, but it explains a little more about the draft, and partial reasons why my Grandfather never got drafted.

      I also found out more about my Grandfather’s job as a machinist. It turns out his job was very important for the war. They were making gun shells, hydrostatic pumps, and tube expanders.

      As it turns out, my Grandfather invented the self-feeding tube expanders, which are still used to this day. He took the idea to his boss who in turn got a patent for them. My Grandfather, unfortunately, got a handshake and a thank you in return. :-/ I still have some research to do on the patent for them, but I think the question about my Grandfather’s deferments has been adequately answered. I will probably never know more than I do right now, which is ok. 🙂

  2. Lois Klatt
    July 12, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Thank you so much for posting the information on line. I was looking for exactly the same thing and your posting definitely explained things. Thank you again

    • July 12, 2015 at 10:40 pm

      You are very welcome! That’s the biggest reason I decided to blog about my genealogy research. So glad I could help!

  3. September 8, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    This is great info,still 2-A is not as clear to me as I hoped for,…necessary man in his civilian category? Help,please.

    • September 9, 2015 at 12:51 pm

      I wish I knew more information. Everything I know is posted here, or on the links that I posted. Another commenter also posted a link that might help a little bit. I’m sorry I’m not more help. This was all new to me, too. Good luck on your research, and please let me know if you find anything else that’s helpful!

  4. bob
    May 23, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    Hi Shelli, Thank you for posting this info. It has help me with similar questions I have about family genealogy. Pgwodehous post helped me as well! Thank you all!!!

    • May 24, 2016 at 8:31 pm

      You are very welcome! I’m happy to be able to help others with my research, as I depend on the research of others to help me when I need it. 🙂

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