Franklin D. Roosevelt

Letter to All Governors on the Selective Service Act.

September 21, 1940

Dear Governor——:

The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 wisely contemplates that the selective process shall be carried out by the States and the local communities. Historically and traditionally it is entirely fitting that the Chief Executive of each State be responsible for the Selective Service operations within his boundaries. I know that I can count on your fullest cooperation.

A favorable and intelligent public opinion, based on a just and impartial administration of this most important defense measure, can be more effective in securing proper and effective administration of the law than the penalties written into the statute.

I am asking each Governor to set up and supervise the Selective Service System within his State. As promptly as may be practicable, therefore, I should like to have the name of the individual you designate for appointment as State Executive for Selective Service. It is my thought that the State Executive would administer the operations within your State under your direction, but with the necessary assistance and supervision of the National Selective Service Administration. I appreciate also that your State has gone far in its planning for manpower procurement, and that your Adjutant General and State Staff are well organized to assist in carrying out the present requirements.

I request you to carry out the registration within your State and to call upon your local election officials and other patriotic citizens, to serve on the Registration Boards and in all other ways to assist in making the registration full and complete.

Enclosed is a copy of the Proclamation fixing Wednesday, October 16th, as the day for registration within the continental United States, and setting forth in a general way instructions for registration. I hope you will find it desirable to issue a similar proclamation urging the fullest cooperation within your State. It should be made abundantly clear to the public that the act of registration consists in effect of merely listing the names and addresses of registrants.

After registration, the classification and selection of men will be handled by the Local Boards. It is all-important that the Local Boards be composed of men in whom the community has the greatest confidence. Membership on a Local Board should be considered a position of honor and trust. I feel certain that many thousands of our most able and patriotic citizens will offer their services for this duty.

I ask that you recommend to me with the greatest expedition the names of citizens whose loyalty, integrity and fair-mindedness, are beyond question, for members of the Local Boards and Boards of Appeal, and for the offices of Government Appeal Agents and Examining Physicians. I ask that you yourself appoint the Advisory Boards for Registrants and the Medical Advisory Boards.

Since so many of our young men will be asked to devote a year of their lives to the service of their country, I feel certain that others of our citizens will wish to make their contribution to the national defense by devoting a part of their time to these various duties. It is not contemplated that compensation be paid, except for the necessary clerical assistance.

I suggest you make the fullest use of all State and local officers and employees. I believe you will find your State employment service and the public welfare agencies particularly helpful to the Local Boards.

The Congress has made its historic decision after careful consideration and full debate. The procurement and training of our manpower under proper administration, fairly and without fear or favor, is undoubtedly the most important single factor in our entire program of national defense. I ask your every help.

Yours very truly,

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter to All Governors on the Selective Service Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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