In April, 1917, the United States was forced into war with the German nation, and it immediately became necessary for our nation to raise an army to be sent against the enemy.
Our Government, after determining the number of men needed to wage this war, and checking over her standing army, decided that more men were needed at once. Volunteers were then called for, and owing to the very short time that it must take to put such an enormous army across the waters, congress passed the draft law, and it then became necessary to shape some plan by which the draft law might be put into effect.
Our Government realized that there was a certain class of men in the draft that could be spared sooner than others, and decided they must have, what they afterwards called district and local boards, to pass upon claims of exemption. It was at this time the several district and local boards were organized, this state having two district boards and a local board for each county of the state.
The local board of Saunders County was then organized, with the following members: D. H. Templeton, sheriff, president; Jos. B. Hines, county clerk, secretary; and Dr. J. G. Smith, the third member.
The first duty of the board was the registration of all men between the ages of 21 and 30 inclusive. The local board after a meeting decided to appoint three parties to represent it in each precinct of the county, and aid them in the registering of these men. This was done, and thru the different papers all were notified to register in their precinct on the appointed registration day. Then on June 5, 1917, the appointed registration was had, and the number registered in this county between said ages was 1,947. The work of the local board had just commenced. It became the duty of the board to send out forms for claims of exemption to each of such registrants. The registrants then returned said claims for the local board to pass upon. The local board passed only on claims of exemption relating to dependency, while all other claims were referred to the district boards. It was soon found out by the local board that some of the claims presented were not just, and at this time the local board devised a plan of calling in a committee of men from the various precincts to aid in determining these claims. This committee was presented with a list of questions in regard to the registrants of their precinct, which were to be answered in private. This was a great deal of extra work and as it was but a short time afterward that the Government adopted the questionnaire system, this was done away with.
The Government then issued an order to the local boards to make copies of the total registration. This was no small task, as the registration cards contained quite a little history of the registrant. It was not long after the Government made a call for men, and this county was asked to furnish 70 men as its quota, but in order to have men in readiness for any future calls, the local board was required to call for physical examination three times the number of men required to fill the quota. At this time the Government had not as yet adopted the questionnaire system, and each man had to first be examined and if found physically fit, he then had the opportunity to file with the board his claim for exemption, if he had any. It would be well here to say something about how the physical examination was conducted. Of course you will understand that these examinations were given entirely under the direction of the local board, by doctors appointed by the Government. Later as the task grew larger, the Government, delegating this power to the local boards, to call in extra physicians to aid in this work. Practically all the doctors in this county helped in these examinations, but there were only two doctors in the county who assisted in every examination held, Dr. Smith, a member of the board, and Dr. Way, deserve special mention.
The local board would send out cards calling for examination the desired number of men to appear at the court house in Wahoo, at a certain hour of the designated day. The first examination held all men needed for that call, and the usual reserve were all called in at the same hour, and as this examination was not completed until 11 P. M. of that day, it was found that some of these men were required to stay here from early morning until late at night.
Thereafter another plan was put into use by the local board whereby the waiting of these men could be eliminated. This plan was to call just enough men at each hour of the day that could be handled easily by the examining physicians. The Government sent out regular blanks for these examinations, and the local board was later asked to make several copies of these examinations, which was a considerable task in itself.
There was a large percentage of registrants who claimed exemption from the draft, but statistics will show that this was true thruout the land. The local board soon realized that there were a great many claims without merit, so in order to satisfy themselves as to these claims decided to drive thru the county. This plan proved to be very good as it placed the board in a position to pass on these claims fairly. But there was a big drawback to this system, as it took more time than the board could spare.
About this time the work of the local board had increased to such an extent they could not handle it without extra help. This board, however, had the privilege to call in extra help before this time, but were trying to do this work by working late at night in order to save the Government that expense. Mrs. Jos. B. Hines was then drafted into the service of the board, and she continued in such service until the end.
The local board passed only on dependency claims, and this the registrants could not understand, and if the claims came back not approved, the local board received the kick with a smile and went right on about their business.
This exemption system did not prove satisfactory, and proper classification could not be made. Under this system there were only two classes, drafted or exempt. In many cases a person should not have been immediately drafted, and still his case was not good enough to be exempted for the duration of the war. This would have compelled the board to again pass on the claims of these men after all the available ones had been sent to training camps. For this reason the Government changed and adopted the questionnaire system. This system enabled the board to place the men in five different classes, so that when one class was exhausted the remaining classes could be called upon. The passing on claims by the board under this system was no different than in the other, only in that there were five different classes that the men could be placed in and which only tended to make it still more complicated, and the board was always blamed if the registrant was placed in the most deferred class.
The second registration made by the board totaled 176, being those who had attained the age of 21 years since the first registration. This registration was held on June 5, 1918, a year later. The third registration totaled 2,445, being the men between the ages of 30 to 45 inclusive, held on September 12, 1918. The grand total of registrants registered by this board was 4,576. In the last registration each precinct took care of their registrants, and the board had less trouble as the registrants seemed to understand the rulings better.
The local board did all the work with only one assistant, Mrs. Jos. B. Hines, up to the last registration, when the government added a soldier clerk (Mr. E. N. Torell). According to the government ruling for the number of registrants this board was entitled to a chief clerk and a stenographer in the first registration, and later they were entitled to two additional helpers.
The total expense to the Government for the two years' work of this board was only $50.00. All the members of the board served free of charge. Mrs. Jos. B. Hines served 9 months free, and after that drew $50.00 a month from the county. Altho the soldier clerk was paid by the Government the Government did not charge this expense against the county local board.
Statement of Local Board--"We would like to enumerate the names of all of those who volunteered their help to the local board, but the records are not available at this time, having been sent to Washington, D. C., and it is with regret that we must omit these."