Pennsylvania government authorities admitted they mistakenly sent out more than 14,000 military draft notification letters to men who were born between 1893 and 1897, calling it a “serious” glitch at the hands of a computer inputting error.
The notices from the Selective Service System were mailed to at least 14,250 men born more than a century ago — all believed to be dead — warning them that failure to register is “punishable by a fine and imprisonment,” The Associated Press reported.
“I said, ‘Geez, what the hell is this about?’ ” said Chuck Huey, 73, about the notice he received that was addressed to his late grandfather, Bert Huey, who was born in 1894, served in World War I, then died in 1995 at the age of 100, AP reported. “It said he was subject to heavy fines and imprisonment if he didn’t sign up for the draft board. We were just totally dumbfounded.”
Mr. Huey said he tried to call Selective Service but couldn’t get a live voice on the phone — something that only added to the frustration.
“You just never know,” he said, in the AP report. “You don’t want to mess around with the federal government.”
Turns out, the genesis for the glitch was the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which was transferring about 400,000 records to Selective Service. A clerk didn’t select the century for the records of those who were born between 1993 and 1997, so the system scooped up those who had been born between 1893 and 1897, too.
“We made a mistake, a quite serious selection error,” said PennDOT spokeswoman Jan McKnight, in the AP report.
Selective Service, meanwhile, didn’t catch the error until people started calling, because the fed system only uses the last two numbers of a year on its computer records — so 93 and 97 was interpreted as 1893 and 1993, and 1897 and 1997, respectively.
“It’s never happened before,” said Selective Service spokesman Pat Schuback.