As it became more likely that America would get involved in World War II, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. This bill created the nation's first peacetime draft.
The act also created the new Selective Service Board to oversee the draft's operation across the nation. In every state, in each county and in the largest cities, draft boards were created. In Bulloch County, the local draft board was run by Frank Grimes.
The passage of the Selective Training and Service Act meant that some 900,000 men between the ages of 21 and 36 were required to register immediately for the draft, and, if selected, would serve 12 months of mandatory military service. Volunteers, however, could be as young as 18 years old.
Georgia Governor E.D. Rivers called for all public school systems across the state to hold a special school day for draft registration. Therefore, a student holiday was declared on Oct. 16 in order to allow school staff and teachers as well as students to register.
The Bulloch Herald reported that in a process overseen by both Statesboro School Superintendent S.H. Sherman and Bulloch County School Superintendent H.P. Womack, a total of 1,773 whites and 1,165 blacks were registered by some 125 teachers and staff at the county's 14 “white” schools and 11 “black” schools.
On Oct. 30 in Washington, D.C., blindfolded Secretary of War Henry Stimson made the first selection from a large fish-bowl, drawing No. 158. Across the nation, 6,175 young men knew, literally, that their number was up.
The Oct. 31, 1940, issue of the Bulloch Herald announced that the first 10 drawings from the National Draft Lottery were approved for publication. Overseeing the verification of numbers drawn in Bulloch County were Judge Linton G. Lanier, Judge J.E. McCroan, Bulloch County Times editor D.B. Turner, and Bulloch Herald editor Leodel Coleman.
The first number drawn, No. 158, was held by Jesse Eugent Ellis of Portal. The second, No. 192, belonged to Robert Roscoe Oglesby, also of Portal. The third, No. 105, was held by Postal Boyd of Ellabelle; the fourth, No. 2441, by Lee Moore Strickland of Brooklet. The fifth, No. 2563, was held by Jesper Edmund Smith of Statesboro, and the sixth, No. 188, belonged to Henry Kirkland of Statesboro. The seventh, No. 120, was held by Harley Willis Newman from Statesboro. The eighth, No. 2670, belonged to Thomas A. Beck of Statesboro; the ninth, No. 2451, to Slydelle Rufus of Harville. Finally, the 10th, No. 2698, was held by Willie Sanders.
These men were called to the local draft board, where they learned the branch of the service to which they would be assigned — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Coast and Geodetic Survey Agency, United States Public Health Service or active National Guard units.
Once America actually declared war, the age requirements of men to enroll in the draft changed and a new Selective Service Act was passed. This made men between the ages of 18 and 45 subject to military service and required all men between the ages of 18 and 65 to register with local draft boards.
Whereas in 1940 the length of military service was at first 12 months, it was soon extended to 18 months. After several more extensions, the length of service for new inductees was simply until the war was over, plus another two years.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. He provides a brief look at the area's historical past. Email Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.