Being Drafted in the event of War

I know the current age for a draft is 26, but with the whole point of the merchant marine being to keep cargo rolling in war, What’s the deal with compulsory Service for a non SSO mariner. Frankly, I have no interest in being target practice for a submarine or aviator armed with quick sink. I’ve read in the CFRs that some licenses like those working as harbor pilots specifically are not eligible to be drafted, however I’m not sure where to look to see how voluntary service would be.


It’s all pretty words on paper. If there was ever a point in the the future where non SSO civmars were being called up to sail, after exhausting their list of volunteers, we would be in a pretty fucked up situation. It would be the type of situation where the government is drafting heavily for every service, and a full shift to a wartime economy. Chances are if we entered that scale of war with Russia or China, our current Sealift fleet would be sunk/incapacitated pretty quickly, and we have very poor ability to replace that tonnage considering the state of our shipyards. Another consideration is that anyone drafted might end up getting placed on domestic vessels to keep our domestic infrastructure running. Russia has already lost more troops/equipment then we did in Vietnam, and while China still posses a risk, some speculate that their equipment & defense organization would suffer from same weaknesses that Russia displayed. They’ve definitely worked to close the gap in the last 2 decades though.

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I knew a few engineers that got drafted in previous ramp ups

Really, all this fantastic information… Not very accurate though- see the following:

46 USC 7113

“Section 7113 exempts licensed masters, mates, pilots, and engineers of inspected vessels that are propelled by machinery or carrying hazardous liquid cargo from the Selective Service draft in time of war.”

This of course does NOT apply to Cadets of the Merchant Marine Academy- who are classified 1A.
This does not exempt a Reserve Officer from being ordered to active duty.

So we wont get drafted the Army, which is encouraging, but what about being pressganged onto the USNS LCPL Roy M. Wheat?

The guys I knew got drafted into transport vessels, usually not being shot at.

Obviously a different era, but I knew a (MEBA) Calhoun grad that got drafted after finishing school and ended up in Vietnam as a helicopter mechanic. I asked him how that happened and just got a shoulder shrug.

There used to be a part of your USCG license that asked if you would be willing to serve in case of a national emergency. You either signed or not. If you signed you could be called up. Not a big deal.
Much of the civilian so called boomer generation were subject to being drafted and many were… It was all part of being a citizen and serving your country. Not a big deal for them either


Correct if I am wrong, but wouldn’t only the unlimited tonnage merchant mariners be eligible to be drafted onto transport ships? Or maybe they would just train everyone up?

True but anybody we are going to fight in the future probably will have the capability to attack transport that say the Iraqis or Afghans did not.

That’s what I’m trying to figure out. The box on the CG719B that @tengineer1 mentions only says MARAD will send your information to employers in an emergency, not that you are going to actually be drafted.

When you consider that every 100 ton master has to fill out a CG719B, I suppose they can be recruited to be an OS maybe.

But this is the best answer I think we can come up with:

I’m not sure there is a plan. I love a good pro-Jones act protectionist rally as much as the next guy, but I’m not sure how useful the current merchant marine is to National Security when you consider how many folks are going to disappear when things get hot. All the unlicensed disappeared when they talked about vaccine mandates, how is everyone going to react when the first TSP tanker gets blown out of the water. There’s gotta be something on the book saying we’re getting drafted, they cant just rely on all of us going to work because the day rate is suddenly 1,000 a day for Junior officers.

Remember, US Merchant Mariners had the greatest proportional loss than any other group in WWII.


She’s hanging out on the JRRF, ready to spring into action!

It will all depends on the situation. First unlimited, when unlimited are no more or few left they will call for limited, probably giving them some training to qualify. When those people are all gone they will train everyone they can draft.

But for this to happen you will need all out war with China. And there is nor reason for such a war.

Somebody can correct me if I’m wrong but…

The way it worked in WW2, Korea and Vietnam was that all military age men (except those exempted for shoreside war work) were subject to the draft.

(I am ignoring deferments, / rejections etc.)

One exempted profession was the merchant marine, though of course the exception was oxymoronic in WW2, since the MM was just another service in most ways, albeit a relatively highly paid one.

The USNR officers in the MM would choose between joining the Navy or staying in the Merchant marine.

The non-USNR officers would have the choice of staying in the MM, or getting drafted/enlisted into another service.

Civilians would have a de facto choice of joining the MM as an exempted profession, or joining another, more recognized, branch of service

The bottom line is that conscription would be general, and non-service work would be the exception in time of war. Military age males would , by and large, serve one way or the other unless they fled the country.


That doesn’t really seem to matter much. Nobody listened to Ike.

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This makes sense. If I’m understanding you correctly, If you did not want to be drafted in the military, you could opt to become a merchant mariner instead. I could see how that would provide enough mariners.

One of my uncles was a MM in WW2. Murmansk run, for awhile. There was a lot of positive press about MM in WW2. They were highly lauded as part of the war effort. But what was not publicized was this: often when a ship came back to places like NYC or Bayonne MPs were at the dock. The voyages were so dangerous that large parts of the crew would desert rather than go out again, or at least that is how the Brass saw it. The MPs were there to make sure no one got off the ship, except officers.

As the war went on, and the U-boat menace declined, he said, they were later allowed to go ashore more or less freely.


A-10’s, F-35’s, B-52’s, Apache helicopters, a lot of flying hardware is being staged in Poland as we speak.


Not that it matters in the context of this thread, but I’m pretty sure the Wheat is already half razor blades in Brownsville.

Another consideration from WWII is that MM ship losses to enemy action were often hidden from the press. The true amount of casualty was never publicised at the time. Additionally they were actually considered basically a military branch, even though they were quickly vilified shortly after the war ended by some groups. An 18year old at the time looking to serve their country might’ve given equal consideration to the MM as they would the Army or Navy.