Prior to President Roosevelt issuing Executive Order 9279 on 5 December 1942, American men between the ages of 21 and 36 were subject to the military draft. In his executive order, in addition to eliminating volunteerism and fixed-term enlistments, President Roosevelt also took advantage of legislation passed by the U.S. Congress on 11 November 1942 to expand the eligible age range to be subject to the draft to include all men from the ages of 18 through 37. Volunteering for service was only permitted for those under the age of 18 and up to the age of 45 who claimed they could satisfy the military's enlistment requirements.
The birth years that coincide with these age ranges are shown in our updated chart below:
The end of volunteerism with the draft explains why the average age of those who served in World War 2 is 26 - it is the middle of the range from which the pool of those conscripted were drawn into service in the years from 5 December 1942 through the end of the war in 1945.
But more importantly, with how the draft worked during World War 2, by lottery, the age distribution of those conscripted into military service in a given year would be fairly even, rather than being heavily concentrated around a given age. The size of any bell-curve that might normally have formed was therefore minimized as a result of the policy.
That evenness of age distribution among those who served in the armed forces during World War II, in turn, explains a lot of things that turn up repeatedly in various datasets after the war. And that is something we'll be revisiting throughout the year....
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