Frank Buckles, the last of the World War I doughboys, died on Sunday. He was 110. Buckles drove an Army ambulance in France in 1918.
Buckles was only 17 when he enlisted, lying about his age to get to serve. An astounding 4.7 million Americans served in the Allied armed forces between April 6, 1917, when the United States entered World War I, and the Armistice of Nov. 11, 1918.
When President Wilson and the United States Congress declared war after several years of a non-intervention policy, our standing Army numbered only about 100,000. The National Guard numbered around 120,000. The National Defense Act of 1916 enabled the country to increase armed forces numbers through the first nationwide draft.
Going from nothing to something was a monumental effort. And it was done on one day - June 5, 1917. All men between the ages of 18 and 31 were required to show up at a makeshift draft office on June 5 and sign up for military service.
The government was not sure that everyone would show up as required by
the Act, so they closed schools and businesses, creating somewhat of a
party atmosphere. One day did not yield enough men for the war. Two
additional dates that year signed up a wider range of ages.
I've been interested in this because my grandfather was one of those men. He received a deferment because he was the sole support of his wife and child. I still have the paperwork he received granting the deferment.