Technology

Dead Americans told to sign up for military service

US soldier Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The letters were generated when a computer operator chose the wrong date range

More than 14,000 dead Americans have told to register for military service in Pennsylvania.

The papers threatened fines and prison if the men, born between 1893 and 1897, did not sign up for duty.

The mistake that led to the papers being sent was made during a project to transfer records at the state's Department of Transportation.

The department discovered the error when bewildered relatives of the dead men rang to complain.

"It is funny and kind of pathetic," said Jane Huey. Her husband's grandfather Bert Huey was one of those who got their call-up papers from the state. Mr Huey served in World War One and died in 1995.

"And the other thing is, we couldn't get a hold of the darn draft board," said Ms Huey. "We were afraid we'd be fined or something."

"We made a mistake," said Jan McKnight, a community relations co-ordinator for Pennsylvania's Department of Transportation. "This just wasn't good. We do apologise."

Ms McKnight said the problem emerged as the DoT was sharing records with the US Selective Service agency, which tracks men aged 18-25 and issues draft notices as needed.

Instead of selecting a date range of 1993-1997, the operator sending the records chose 93-97. This led the computer to issue registration notices to all those born in that period - even if their birth happened a century earlier.

In total, the Selective Service sent notices to the last known addresses of 14,200 males born in the late 19th Century.

"This has never happened before, and I'd bet money that it will never happen again," said Pat Schuback, a spokesman for the Selective Service.

He added that families who received the letters should ignore them and that the files of the dead men would be deactivated so relatives would not be bothered again.

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