Which combatant forces brought teenagers to battle in WWII?

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,572
Australia
#11
Even without lying about their age teenagers were enlisted by most armed forces during WWII, although in Australia's case 20 was the age at which someone could be deployed overseas. (supposedly)
 
Last edited:
Oct 2018
26
Belgium
#12
All of them. There are countess examples of kids lying about their age so they could enlist.
The question is about WWII. It would be impossible for someone to lie about his age to join the military in most European countries. Unless perhaps he managed to steal the identity papers of someone older, who in some countries would also have had to look enough like him to make the ID card photograph match somewhat. Or unless someone obtained entirely forged documents, and no cross-checking with the population registers was done. Enlisting by lying about one's age is something that happens in countries without population registers and associated identity documents. Plus, it only happens when there is a system of volunteering rather than universal conscription. In a country where every male is called up for military service at 18, there is no way of someone under 18 to get in the military by lying about his age - he just won't be on the conscription list, which is derived from the population register. Even if someone volunteers to be a professional soldier rather than an ordinary conscript he must be on that list.
 
May 2011
13,684
Navan, Ireland
#13
One of the first things to remember is 'context' the world of the 1940's is not that of today-- we consider an 18 year old still pretty much as a child or at least not really an adult (or barely) in the past he or she would have ben considered an adult.

I was always shocked that my grandmothers beloved little brother was sent to sea on the eve of WWII (they of course didn't know that WWII was about to start) at the tender age of 14 ---- today he'd have not even reached basic school leaving age-- and he fought in the merchant navy in the Atlantic and Arctic convoys and was decorated for bravery at the age of 18.

How could they send a child to war?

But at 14 in those days you went to work -- dangerous or not.

At 14 the boys went down the mines in South Wales-- dirty, hard and dangerous work -- war was not that much different.
 

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,478
#16
My grandpa lied to enlist at age 16 for WWII. He tried twice and was turned away and finally took his older brother's identity paperwork and travelled to a city over 100 miles away so that his family and previous attempts were probably not known about. He had just finished Marine Corp basic training when the lie was discovered but due to the travel times and that he would be 17 by the time his unit was scheduled to arrive for the final phase of Gilbert islands campaign (where combat operations were expected to be nearly over) he was allowed to stay. He arrived at Tarawa after the battle was over then fought at Saipan and was wounded on Tinian, shot in the buttocks and grenade shrapnel. He was put onto a hospital ship and returned to San Fransisco and then he turned right around and ended up in Formosa working with some U.S businesses who were trying to assess the status of foreign property seized by Japan in Formosa on the outbreak of war.
 
Aug 2014
3,804
Australia
#17
The question is about WWII. It would be impossible for someone to lie about his age to join the military in most European countries. Unless perhaps he managed to steal the identity papers of someone older, who in some countries would also have had to look enough like him to make the ID card photograph match somewhat. Or unless someone obtained entirely forged documents, and no cross-checking with the population registers was done. Enlisting by lying about one's age is something that happens in countries without population registers and associated identity documents. Plus, it only happens when there is a system of volunteering rather than universal conscription. In a country where every male is called up for military service at 18, there is no way of someone under 18 to get in the military by lying about his age - he just won't be on the conscription list, which is derived from the population register. Even if someone volunteers to be a professional soldier rather than an ordinary conscript he must be on that list.
It wasn't hard to get fake IDs at the time. Every army had underage children.
 
Oct 2018
26
Belgium
#18
It wasn't hard to get fake IDs at the time. Every army had underage children.
(1)
In which western European countries do you think it was easy for someone under 18 to get a fake ID c. 1939/1940?

(2)
A fake ID would be completely useless for this purpose, in a country with obligatory military service, whether in peacetime or wartime, which most European countries had. An ID wouldn't get you on the conscription list, which was derived from the population register. Here in Belgium, that happened on your 17th birthday. You got a letter telling notifying you of that fact, and that this meant that in a year's time you could be called up for military service. (Even under German occupation , this administrative system kept on functioning, even though nobody was ever called up. The militia lists, as they're officially called, were always kept up to date.) After having done your required service, you would remain on the list for an additional number of years as a reservist, who could be called up again in wartime. In a general mobilisation everyone over the age of 18 on that list was called up. Both the letter notifying someone of their inclusion on the list, and the actual call-up letter a year later, were hand-delivered by the local neighbourhood policeman, who knew everybody in their little neck of the woods, to the recipient in person. I know equivalent systems operated in neighbouring countries.

Nobody could go to an army office, say "I'm 18, and I want to become a soldier". You needed to be on the list of people called up, and bring your call-up letter, which told you where you needed to report to. It would be in fact completely impossible to enlist someone under a fake identity, because of the population registers. When somebody joins the military, that change of status must be reflected in the population register of the municipality they're from. A fake identity would therefore immediately be spotted when the municipal clerk found that no such person existed. Even if some very clever teenager under 18 had managed to steal someone else's identity card, and that person hadn''t noticed that and reported it to the police, and he had managed to somehow intercept his call-up letter as well, and had successfully managed to get through the medical checks without anybody getting suspicuous about his age, that would mean there would now be a person of military age walking around who wasn't called up, unlike all his peers. During a general mobilisation, that isn't something that passes unnoticed. The moment anyone got curious about why that person hadn't been called up, it would immediately emerge that someone was already serving under that identity.
 

macon

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
3,539
Slovenia
#19
I'm sure that Soviet WWII army was full of male teenagers soon after 1941 and 1942 disasters because they were most of the replacements.