World War I: The U.S. Declares War
Did your family serve in World War I? On this day 100 years ago, the United States entered World War I and joined the Allies in the fight against Germany. Called the “War to End All Wars,” the Great War would be unlike any war ever seen before.
East Oregonian, April 6, 1917 / Library of Congress
Upon the announcement, President Woodrow Wilson called on all citizens to volunteer their services to the country. The president declared the need for the army to increase to a force of one million men. Soon after it became clear that the army would not meet the need through volunteers.
Recruiting poster c.1917 / Library of Congress
Six weeks after the U.S. declared war on the German Empire, the Selective Service Act was passed, which authorized the federal government to raise a national army through the compulsory enlistment of people. Between 1917-1918, every male between the ages of 18-45 living in the United States was required to sign up for the draft, regardless of citizenship.
World War I draft registration card, September 12, 1918 / MyHeritage SuperSearch
A total of three draft registrations took place during the war:
- June 5, 1917 – all men between the ages of 21-31 were required to register.
- June 5, 1918 – all men who turned 21 after June 5, 1917 were required to register (a supplemental registration was held on August 24, 1918 for those who turned 21 after June 5, 1918).
- September 12, 1918 – required all men age 18-45 not previously enlisted to register.
By the end of the war, 2 million men had volunteered for various branches of the armed services and 2.8 million were drafted.
Do you have relatives in your family tree who registered for the First World War draft? Search MyHeritage’s collection of over 24 million World War I draft registration cards now!