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Yes, registration for the draft and enlistment (sometimes called induction) into the military were two different things. Registration would have been done by the local draft board, and simply was making the government aware of who was available to be called up for military service. In those cases where a person was called up for service, there could be a fair amount of time between when they registered, when they got their draft notice, and when they had to report for induction into the military. Many people registered for the draft who were never conscripted, and of course some people joined voluntarily either before it would have been necessary for them to register, or after they registered but before they got a draft notice. Also, it was possible for a person to register in one city and enlist elsewhere.
If you haven't already, you might want to request your family member's military service record from the National Personnel Record Center. Although many of the files from that time period were destroyed in a fire in 1973, they have access to additional records that they can often use to find information about your family member's service.
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Hi Ashley, not sure if it would be different, but for WW2, I've seen nearly a year between registration for the draft and actual enlistment (reporting for duty). As far as the different cities, I think you went to the nearest camp to report/enlist. Hope this is of help. joan
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Dear Ms. Farmer,
Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!
These are great questions! Yes, registration and enlistment/induction were two separate acts and recorded differently. Men who served ought to have both of these types of records. When a man registered with his local board, the draft card was used as an index to locate the registrant’s Classification Ledger or List. While the cards contain basic biographical information, the ledger recorded when they registered, appeared for physicals, made appeals, and what their classifications were. Records relating to the Selective Service of WWI are held at the National Archives at Atlanta (RE-AT) You may request Classification Lists of Docket Book entry to verify his date of entry to service. Please contact RE-AT via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dates of registration versus enlistment vary. Plenty of people registered, then had in-school deferments for a few years before entering service. Also, a man could register at one place and enlist in another. For example, a student attending college in another location would most likely have registered at their parent’s home but could enlist anywhere they pleased. To obtain a copy of the registration card or classification, please visit The National Archives at St. Louis’ webpage on the subject.
If you still find discrepancies, you may view his Official Military Personnel File at the St. Louis Archival Research Room in St. Louis for free or requesting a copy for a fee by submitting a completed SF-180 to:
National Personnel Records Center
1 Archives Drive
St. Louis, MO 63138
Best of luck with your research! We hope this information has been helpful.