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Selective Service Notifies Men Born 120 Years Ago To Register For The Draft

uncle-sam-we-want-you1

The Selective Service is cracking down on people who didn’t register for the draft, unfortunately, the people in question were all born nearly 120 years ago and most likely dead:

Are you a man born in Pennsylvania between 1893 and 1897? If so, a government agency may have just reminded you to register for the draft.

The Selective Service System, which keeps a roster of potential men who can be enlisted in the military, inadvertently sent out mailings to more than 14,000 Pennsylvania men born in those years, reminding them to register.

These letters were sent due to a computer error, the agency said in a message posted online, and the Selective Service has apologized to the families who have received these letters.

The problem occurred following an automated data transfer between Pennsylvania and the Selective Service, which included the names of the 14,215 men born near the end of the 19th century. The letters started going out on June 30, sent to men who would be at least 117 years old.

“It’s never happened before,” Pat Shuback, a spokesman for the Selective Service, told the Associated Press.

Shuback said that the agency uses a two-digit code for the birth year, which is why the years 1893 to 1897 were mixed up with the years from 1993 to 1997

Wait, I thought we fixed that problem 15 years ago when we are getting ready for Y2K.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. grumpy realist says:

    How did Pennsylvania happen to have the names of men born 120 years ago in its database in the first place? Either someone when transferring a chunk of a database forgot to put a “don’t look before this date” filter on it, or the birth dates of said individuals had been inadvertently mashed into a two-digit year format, which was automatically interpreted as 19xx.

    This isn’t the Selective Service’s problem; it’s someone having been silly on the Pennsylvania side.

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  2. John Peabody says:

    Do you know what caused the Dark Ages? Y1k problem.

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  3. Tyrell says:

    I wonder where all of these letters will eventually wind up. They would certainly be collectors items. I also wonder how many people out there might just qualify for Civil War benefits, which can be paid to descendants under certain circumstances. This might come under the unclaimed money listings. We did get a small amount a few years ago of our father’s WWII benefit that had not been claimed.
    Just what kind of databases do they have up there ?

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  4. ernieyeball says:

    This has been tried before…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9M7nYq9uWKk&feature=kp
    (SFW)

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  5. Anthony Kelsoe says:

    Why is everyone so surprised that’s how obama won the last two elections

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  6. Tyrell says:

    Related to this is the fact that military people are signed up for eight years service, even if they are discharged after four. This has resulted in some people getting recall letters when they are sixty years and older.

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  7. rodney dill says:

    Jees… I was born in 1957 and I never had to register for the draft.

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  8. John D'Geek says:

    @Tyrell:

    I also wonder how many people out there might just qualify for Civil War benefits, which can be paid to descendants under certain circumstances.

    Not that long ago, Business Insider had an article about how much what wars were still costing us. IIRC, there are two ladies currently receiving Civil War benefits. Their fathers were young during the Civil War and either married or remarried late, having children who are eligible for his benefits. They are both quite advanced in years, in their 80’s as I recall …

    But, yes — no joke — we are still paying for the Civil War.

    Edit: Found one: http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2012/02/09/us-government-still-pays-two-civil-war-pensions

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  9. John D'Geek says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Wait, I thought we fixed that problem 15 years ago when we are getting ready for Y2K.

    Twenty years behind is about right for the government, especially in PA.

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  10. JohnMcC says:

    @rodney dill: Well, I was surprised by that! So of course, looked it up. And thank you for reminding me that Pres Ford actually ended Selective Service registration requirement in ’75 and that Pres Carter resumed it in ’80. Somewhat different than the way those two gentlemen’s terms are remembered.

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  11. rodney dill says:

    @JohnMcC: http://www.finaid.org/students/selectiveservice.phtml

    Who Is Not Required to Register?

    Men born from March 29, 1957 to December 31, 1959 were never required to register because the Selective Service program was not in operation at the time they turned 18. The requirement to register was reinstated in 1980 and applies to all men born on or after January 1, 1960 (50 USC 453). Although men born before March 29, 1957 were required to register, failure to register makes one ineligible for student aid only if one was born on or after January 1, 1960.

    (I always seem to remember, incorrectly, that Reagan restarted the registration, but as you indicated it was Carter.)

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  12. grumpy realist says:

    Yup, looks like my first assumption was correct:

    The glitch, it turns out, originated with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation during a transfer of nearly 400,000 records to the Selective Service. A clerk working with the state’s database failed to select the century, producing records for males born between 1993 and 1997 — and for those born a century earlier, PennDOT spokeswoman Jan McKnight said Thursday.

    (swiped from TPM)

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  13. Tyrell says:

    @rodney dill: During Nixon’s term, they instituted a lottery type system tied to birth date, with lowest numbers most likely to be drafted, while higher numbers, usually anything above 200, almost sure not to be called. So you had numbers 1-365. Of course, this was when the Vietnam War was winding down. Nixon can get some credit for that: phasing out the draft and turning the war over to the South Vietnamese.

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  14. rodney dill says:

    @Tyrell: I’m aware of the lottery based draft. I have two older brothers that ended up with relatively high number. I just missed having to participate.

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  15. ernieyeball says:

    @Tyrell: Nixon can get some credit for that: phasing out the draft and turning the war over to the South Vietnamese.

    Tell that to the relatives and friends of the 21,000+ Americans who came home in body bags after Nixon took office in Jan. 1969.

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  16. Wait, I thought we fixed that problem 15 years ago when we are getting ready for Y2K.

    In most cases it was solved by “windowing”. They didn’t actually switch to four digit years, they just made a cutoff such that two digit years less than X are assumed to be after 2000 and two digits years greater than X are assumed to be before 2000. Then you can gradually increase X as necessary.

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