FG 216 (Selective Service System) (White House Central Files: Subject Files)

Scope and Content Note

Since the late 1700s the United States has had some type of system to enroll able-bodied men into military service. On March 3, 1863, Congress passed a draft act enrolling men ages 20-35 into the draft system. On May 18, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Selective Service Act. The act enrolled men ages 21-30 and later it enrolled men ages 17-35 into the draft system. In 1918 the draft was discontinued and the United States returned to voluntary military service.

The Selective Training and Service Act of September 16, 1940, enrolled men ages 21-36. On December 13, 1941 the draft age was broadened to include ages 18-64. On March 31, 1947, President Harry S. Truman signed a new act to create the Office of Selective Service Records which abolished the Selective Service System.

The draft system, as we know it today, began on June 24, 1948, when Congress passed and the President approved the Selective Service Act of 1948. Able-bodied men ages 18-26 were required to register for a 21 month space of service. In 1951 the draft was extended indefinitely and the ages changed from 18-26 to 18 1/2-26 with a 24 month span of service. This was the first time in American history that men were drafted into the armed forces during peacetime.

The Selective Service has three basic responsibilities according to Lt. General Lewis B. Hershey:

  1. To provide the armed forces with the number of men they need when they want them.
  2. While doing this, to cause as little disturbance as possible in the civilian economy.
  3. To guide deferments into areas considered to be in the national interest by competent authority, such as the Department of Commerce, Department of Labor, scientific and educational groups.

Frequent correspondents in the files include President Richard Nixon, General Lewis Hershey, Peter Flanigan, Jon Rose, Ken BeLieu, John Ehrlichman, Bryce Harlow, Dwight Chapin, Curtis Tarr, Byron Pepitone, Bill Timmons, Ken Cole, and Herbert Klein.

The terms Executive and General precede each FG 216 file designation. The Executive file category includes correspondence of Peter Flanigan, Curtis Tarr, John Ehrlichman, Jon Rose, Lewis Pepitone and other administration officials. These files concern semi-annual reports, Regional Youth Advisory Committees, the resignation of the Director of the Selective Service System Lewis Hershey, recommendations for appointments to the Director of the Selective Service including Curtis Tarr the next Director of the Selective Service, resumes, Peace Corps Selective Service, Task Force on draft reform, Youth Advisory Committee Convention, Draft reforms such as the "Hershey Plan," "Mark Clark Conveyor Belt Plan," "Laird Plan," and the Herb Klein promotion program, National Health Resources Advisory Committee, Selective Service Appeals Board, Campus Crusade for Christ, resignation of draft board members, and regional Selective Service Youth Dinners. The General File category includes correspondence of Peter Flanigan, Dwight Chapin, Bill Timmons, Jon Rose, General Lewis Hershey, John Ehrlichman, Herbert Klein, and Bryce Harlow. These files concern the question of the drafting of Peace Corps volunteers, individuals desiring to abolish the Selective Service, changing of Selective Service procedures, the all-volunteer army, resignation of board members, National Selective Service Appeals Board, and the Lt. Calley verdict.

Further information may be found in ND 21 - National Defense-Security.


These files include correspondence, memos, news articles, reports, resumes, annual reports, semi-annual reports, telegrams and press releases. The files include such topics as Selective Service reform, Youth Advisory committees, semi-annual reports from the Director, resignations, appointments, General Hershey, Curtis Tarr, ambassadorial appointments, resumes, Peace Corp deferments, Campus Crusade for Christ deferments, Selective Service Task force, National Health Resources Advisory Committee Selective Service Appeals Board, local draft boards, Lt. Calley verdict, and amendments to the Selective Service System.

FG 216/A

These files include several resignations and appointees for the position of Director of the Selective Service System as well as draft reform plans.

FG 216-1

These files include papers on the National Advisory Committee on selection of Physicians, Dentists, and Allied Specialists.

FG 216-1/A

Includes files on National Health Resources Advisory Committee.

FG 216-2

Includes files on National Selective Service Appeals Board, deferment for Peace Corps workers, ministers and Campus Crusade for Christ workers.

FG 216-2/A

Includes resignations and appointments for Selective Service positions, especially the position of Director.

FG 216-3

Includes correspondence concerning Selective Service Youth Advisory Committee.

Folder Title List

Not yet available online