Education

Elmira Draft, World War I, c. 1917


Historical Context
The Selective Service Act was enacted in 1917, and it required men to register with the government in order to be randomly selected for military service.



By the end of 1918, 24 million men had registered under the act and almost 3 million were called up.  About 2 million troops reached Europe before the truce was signed.



The draftees from all over the country reported to various military camps where they were inducted into the armed forces.  In these camps the men were trained to be soldiers.  The eight month training program took place in the U.S. and in Europe.  The men put in long days of target practice, bayonet drill, kitchen duty, and cleaning the grounds.

 

Women were not allowed to enlist but the army reluctantly accepted them in the Army Corps of Nurses, but denied them any army rank, pay or benefits.  Some 13,000 women accepted noncombat positions in the marines and navy, where they served as nurses, telephone operators and secretaries, with full military rank.



In April 1917, a Home Defense Corps was created in Elmira, NY.   The purpose of this group was to stimulate recruiting of men for army and navy and for police duty. The members of the corps also gave aid in caring for dependents of soldiers. 
Essential Question
How do country's build military strength?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the level of participation using evidence from the photograph and your knowledge of history.
[click to enlarge]
Elmira Draft 2, New York State Archives, NYSA_A0412-78_B04_F12_ElmiraDraft_p2
Document Description
Scene outside of the Elmira draft. This photograph was taken around the time when the largest selection of new draftees was conscripted from Elmira, New York, World War I, c. 1917.
Questions
  1. Why do you think there are so many people in the street outside the Elmira draft?
  2. Why was the draft so important to the war effort?
  3. How do you think this photograph made people in Elmira feel about the war?
  4. Why were women not allowed to enlist in the war?
  5. What positive effects did groups like the Home Defense Corps have in helping with the war effort?
Historical Challenge
Create a list of government agencies that helped with the war effort during World War I.
Interdisciplinary Connections
English Language Arts: Write a short story about the scene in the photograph of the Elmira draft.