Before America entered each world war, Congress enacted selective service acts.
Before America entered each world war, Congress enacted selective service acts.

When World War I and World War II were pending, the U.S. Congress passed selective service acts that gave the president the authority to draft men into the military. Throughout the wars in Korea and Vietnam, several selective service acts also were passed. During these various periods of conscription, a classification system was used to determine eligibility. During the Korean and Vietnam eras, the system comprised 21 classifications.

1-A

Men classified 1-A were deemed fit for unrestricted military service.
Men classified 1-A were deemed fit for unrestricted military service.

Men who were classified 1-A were deemed available for unrestricted military service. A 1-A classification meant that they could be drafted whenever needed.

Exclusive Classifications

Deferments were granted to individuals in certain government, public health and training programs.
Deferments were granted to individuals in certain government, public health and training programs.

Individuals serving in the U.S. armed forces or working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the Public Health Service were classified 1-C. The 1-D-D classification provided a draft deferment to some members of the military reserve or students in military training. A 1-D-E classification exempted some reserve members or students in military training. Anyone registered for the draft was classified 1-H.

Conscientious Objectors

Conscientious objection fell under four different classifications.
Conscientious objection fell under four different classifications.

Objecting to military service based on moral, ethical or religious beliefs fell under four distinct classifications. 1-A-O categorized a man who was a conscientious objector who could be drafted for noncombat military service. The 1-0 classification listed the individual as being opposed to all military service. This classification required the individual prove to the Draft Board that his objection was based an ethical, religious or moral grounds and that he opposed all war. The 1-O-S classification was reserved for those opposed to all military service without exception. Finally, the 1-W was for conscientious objectors required to complete alternative service, which was defined as work with a church-sponsored program or in programs that were in the “national health, safety, or interest.” Participants were expected to serve in these programs for the equivalent amount of time that they would have served as a draftee.

Specific Classifications

Deferments were granted if dependents would suffer a hardship when a man was drafted.
Deferments were granted if dependents would suffer a hardship when a man was drafted.

Individuals deferred from the draft while preparing for the ministry were classified 2-D. The 3-A deferment indicated that drafting an individual would create a financial hardship on the draftee’s family and the 3-A-S classification resulted from the situation where draftees already serving were granted deferments when their wife died or the status of their children’s guardian changed, creating a hardship on the dependents. A 4-A classification indicated the individual had completed military service and the 4-A-A indicated a man who had served in the military for a foreign country. The 4-B categorized an individual as an official deferred by law.

4-F

Individuals with a disability were exempted from the military draft.
Individuals with a disability were exempted from the military draft.

The 4-F classification indicated that the man was unacceptable for military service due to his inability to meet physical, mental or moral standards. Individuals with mental or physical disabilities were excluded from the draft. The 4-G classification exempted individuals due to the death of a sibling or parent while serving in the U.S. armed forces or who had a parent or sibling listed as captured or missing in action.

Miscellaneous Classifications

Priests and ministers could be exempted from the draft.
Priests and ministers could be exempted from the draft.

The 4-C classification signified that the individual was an alien or dual national and the 4-T listed the man as a treaty alien, meaning he represented a nation with which the U.S. maintained a trading agreement or treaty. A 4-D classification was reserved for ministers of religion and the 4-W indicated that the individual, in lieu of being drafted, completed alternative service, such as work with a recognized religious program or program deemed in the U.S. national interest in place of being drafted.