US & Canada

US sends military draft notices to men born in the 1800s

Harold Weaver sits behind his wife, Martha, in their Nickleville, Pennsylvania home. Martha holds a letter from the Selective Service for her late father, Fred Minnick, requiring him to register for the nation's military draft 8 July 2014 Image copyright AP
Image caption Martha Weaver received a letter requiring her deceased father to register for the US military draft

The agency that manages the dormant US military draft has apologised after sending conscription registration notices to men born in the late 1800s.

The Selective Service System (SSS) said the error occurred after a clerk neglected to select the century in a search for newly eligible young men.

It sent 14,250 notices to Pennsylvania men born 1893-97 in addition to 1993-97 before discovering the error.

The men are all almost certainly dead, as the youngest would be 117.

Male US citizens must register for the draft shortly after their 18th birthdays and all male immigrants between ages 18-25 must register.

But the draft has not been in effect since the Vietnam War, and the US military is now an entirely volunteer force.

Chuck Huey, 73, of Kingston, Pennsylvania, said he got a notice addressed to his late grandfather Bert Huey, a World War One veteran who was born in 1894 and died in 1995 age 100.

"I said, 'Geez, what the hell is this about?' It said he was subject to heavy fines and imprisonment if he didn't sign up for the draft board," Mr Huey told the Associated Press news agency.

"We were just totally dumbfounded."

Clerical error

In a statement, the SSS said it regretted "any inconvenience caused the families of these men and assures them that the error has been corrected and no action is required on their part".

Agency spokesman Pat Schuback said they did not catch the error because Pennsylvania used a two-digit code for the year of birth, meaning those born in 1893 and in 1993 had the same code.

"It's never happened before," Mr Schuback said.

Pennsylvania transport spokeswoman Jan McKnight said the error occurred when a clerk at the department, which manages driving licence information, transferred records to the SSS but forgot to select only the 20th Century.

She said the state was taking steps to prevent the error from happening again.

"We're really sorry," Ms McKnight said. "We apologise."

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