The FBI’s nationwide arrest of draft violators reached its peak the night of May 15, as 638 men across 20 cities were seized from their homes over the weekend.
The 24-hour stream of arrests started on Friday with 552 men held on draft charges, said FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover. This is the largest one-day assembly of alleged draft dodgers ever made by the FBI.
An additional number of “innocent delinquents” flooded the bureau’s offices last night in an attempt to avoid arrest after Friday’s seizures became public, said the FBI. The definite number of these “not willful violators” remains unknown, according to the FBI.
Arrests occurred in New York City; San Francisco; Detroit; Baltimore; Los Angeles; Birmingham; Cincinnati; New Orleans; Chicago; Boston; Boston; Newark; St. Louis; Philadelphia; Charlotte, NC; Jackson, Miss.; Houston, Tex; Washington D.C.; Seattle; Cleveland; and Miami.
The largest number of draft evaders came from New York City with 144 arrests, with 103 on Friday alone. It is the largest in New York history for any federal regulation violation, said E. E. Conroy, special agent in charge of the local New York FBI office.
One New Yorker, John Raymond Sonnenberg, was arrested for failure to register for the draft. “I thought I might be able to stay out of the army but now that I have been caught, I am willing to serve,” he said. Sonnenberg now awaits a punishment decision at the Federal Building.
Alex Simon from Brooklyn said that he failed to appear before his local draft board for induction because he believes “the United States [doesn’t need him] to win the war.”
Despite the record-breaking number of arrests, this is not the first time New York has been host to a mass seizure of draft dodgers. Just two months ago, on March 8, 52 men were arrested for violation of the Selective Service Act, said Conroy, who was the investigation chief for the sweep.
Sonnenberg and Simon are just two of 302 New York violators of Selective Service Act since its enforcement. Conroy said that the state’s collective sentences reach over 841 years in prison.
Overall, the FBI has obtained convictions against 4002 violators of the Selective Service Act nationwide, Hoover said. With about two years each, the sentences accumulate to 8742 years in prison.
Draft violations of the weekend’s arrests included failure to register, failure to report for induction, failure to report for physical examinations, failure to return questionnaires, failure to notify the Draft Board of change in address, and failure to carry proper classification or registration cards.
According to the FBI, one out of a thousand men registered for the draft are delinquent dodgers, far less than the seven out of a thousand men registered during the First World War.
Also unlike the First World War, the FBI did not use “tactics of the mass raid or dragnet” to obtain arrests but rather “painstaking investigation”, Hoover said.
He said the primary goal of the FBI is getting men into the armed forces rather than into jails.
Claude V. Jackson, arrested in Washington D.C. for failure to report for induction, had charges against him dismissed after proving his “delinquency” had cleared up. He was inducted into the army at Fort Myer one hour after his arraignment.
Two other Washington D.C. men who had charges dropped and now face induction are George Lawson Smith, arrested for failure to notify a change of address and failure to report for his physical exam, and Brooks Julius Montgomery, who failed to show a classification card, said the FBI.
Jackson, Smith, and Montgomery were 3 out of 10 arrested in Washington D.C. to have charges dismissed after “remedial steps had been taken to remove [their] delinquency,” the FBI said.
In Baltimore, 32 draft dodgers were seized during the raid, however, the FBI persuaded an additional 186 men to report for induction without prosecution, said special agent E. A Soucy, in charge of the FBI Baltimore field office.
Because of such “persuasion,” the FBI said they made 86,543 men available to the armed forces out of more than 200,000 complaints received against the Selective Service Act.
Despite the FBI’s efforts, Hover said there are still 3000 possible draft delinquents to investigate.
He advises all Selective Service registrants to remain in contact with their respective draft boards, report to all physical exams, and to carry registration and classification cards at all times.
Whether all violations by the 638 draft delinquents were purposeful or not, Hoover’s message remains the same: Every man registered for the draft should consider it an obligation “in the most serious light” especially as the demand for manpower “is becoming greater day by day.”
“144 SEIZED IN CITY AS DRAFT DODGERS: 638 Arrested in Nation as the F.B.I. Intensifies Its Drive Against the Slackers” New York Times, May 16, 1943, pg. 1
“10 Persons Taken Here as Draft-Dodgers” The Washington Post, May 16, 1943, pg. M15
“52 MEN ROUNDED UP AS DRAFT VIOLATORS: Fake Lieutenant and a Wife Dodger Among F.B.I. Quarry” New York Times, Mar 9, 1943, pg. 15
“Draft-Dodger Arrests Climb to 638 as FBI Presses Wide Drive: 10 Seized in District; 6 Put Under Bond for Federal Hearings Later” The Sunday Star, May 16, 1943, pg. A18
“G-Men Seize 552 in Nation In Draft Evasion Roundup; 17 Are Arraigned in Phila.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 16, 1943, pg. 31, 35