A Whole Generation Rushing to Volunteer

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

I wouldn’t call the US a nation of cowards, but Bryan Caplan would — after calculating how few young men volunteered after Pearl Harbor:

According to the 1940 Census (table No. 11), the U.S. had 6.2 million males ages 15-19, 5.7 million males ages 20-24, and and 5.5 million ages 25-29.  That’s 17.4 million men of combat age.  Let’s use David’s high figure of 140k [volunteers] for all three months.  This means that during the first three months of U.S. involvement — a period where our national mythology describes a whole generation rushing to volunteer — just 2.4% actually did.


  1. So much for the greatest generation. Feeling better about my boomer self, or at least not as bad.

  2. Kudzu Bob says:

    It makes me feel a little better about that generation to learn that so few of its members were eager to be slaughtered in a stupid war that was not in America’s national interest.

  3. Purpleslog says:

    I am pretty sure men were asked to wait for their draft call-ups (the selective service and the draft were already running). Lots of volunteers would have been going into the marines (not really part of the draft) and the Navy.

  4. I did not read everything in the link, but I suspect Bryan Caplan has not flown to the colors at any point in his life.

    Good to know he is one of us (except I did enlist).

  5. Redan says:

    My father and uncles were working in Henry J. Kaiser’s Richmond Shipyards in California at the time (a damn good job in the Depression).

    They all tried to volunteer for military service on Monday 8 December, but were initially turned away, as shipbuilders were ‘essential war workers.’

    Once replacements could be hired by Kaiser, they re-volunteered and were accepted — in 1942.

    Today, the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park occupies the site of Richmond Shipyard Number Two. It is well worth a visit.

Leave a Reply