July 20, 1917 – First Draft Numbers Drawn

On July 20, 1917, Secretary of War Newton D. Baker drew the first number in the draft. This selection officially started the notification of millions of men that they would go to war. By the end of the war, over 2.8 million men had been drafted.

In order to increase patriotic fervor among those who have been selected, Baker had a copy of President Wilson’s war message included in each soldier’s gear. This speech, given on April 2 when war was officially declared, included such lines as:

“There are, it may be, many months of fiery trial and sacrifice ahead of us. It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts — for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free. To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other. “

This was only the start of what was to be a grand propaganda machine.

Postcard of Drafted Men at Camp Lewis

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