U.S. Capitol Visitor Center

Welcome to the U.S. Capitol

Fighting the Wars

If it were possible to raise a sufficient number of men by voluntary enlistment and they would come from all sections in equal percentages the selective service might not be necessary.

Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn of Texas, Constituent Correspondence, August 22, 1940


More than 4.7 million Americans served in World War I, and approximately 16.1 million served in World War II. Congress authorized the draft during both wars to raise the necessary military personnel. Casualties (i.e., battle deaths, other deaths, and wounds not mortal) amounted to approximately 320,500 during World War I and approximately 1,076,200 during World War II. Women and minorities were given new or additional opportunities to serve, which eventually resulted in greater rights for many Americans.

3 Images Serving the Nation: Puerto Ricans Featured H.R. 9533, An Act to provide a civil government for Porto Rico (Jones-Shafroth Act), June 30, 1916
5 Images Serving the Nation: The Draft Featured H.R. 3545, An Act to authorize the President to increase temporarily the Military Establishment of the United States (Selective Service Act), April 28, 1917
5 Images Serving the Nation: American Indians Featured Letter from Chief Matt Semple to Mr. President of the House, July 14, 1919
2 Images Representative Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts Featured Representative Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts Opening House Session, photograph by Harris & Ewing, September 27, 1929
4 Images Serving the Nation: Women’s Army Corps Featured S. 495, A Bill to establish a Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps for service in the Army of the United States, January 21, 1943
4 Images The G.I. Bill of Rights Featured Telegram to the Chairman, G.I. Bill Committee, May 20, 1944