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Mayor Alarmed by Letter Seeking Recruits for Draft Boards

November 14, 1990

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ A New Jersey mayor expressed alarm Tuesday over an official request for help in recruiting volunteers to serve on draft boards, reading it as a sign that the United States is headed for war.

The Selective Service System said a letter seeking recruits was routine and had nothing to do with the military buildup in the Persian Gulf in response to Iraq’s Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.

The disclaimer didn’t mollify Mayor Frank Grout of Upper Saddle River. Grout said he feared the letter represented the next step in a war against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

″I’m very upset we are in a situation where we have to do this, but we do have to do this,″ Grout said.

Copies of the letter were mailed Nov. 4 to all of New Jersey’s mayors.

The letter said there was no plan to draft young men into military service and asked for names of candidates qualified to serve on local draft boards ″should it become necessary.″

The draft was abolished in 1973 and Selective Service registration was suspended in early 1975. Registration was resumed in 1980, requiring all young men to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday.

Reinstatement of the draft would require congressional legislation and the approval of the president. Draft spokesman Larry Waltman said he knew of no bills in Congress seeking a reintroduction of the draft.

Col. Gunther Mark, director of the Selective Service System’s northeast region, said 25 seats are empty on New Jersey draft boards. A total of 305 volunteers serve on the boards.

Mark, who said he had been pressuring New Jersey officials to fill the open slots, described the letters to the mayors as a ″new means of advertising.″

He said 700 additional letters were sent to civic and professional organizations in New Jersey in the past two months, seeking the names of prospective board candidates.

There are six regional headquarters of the Selective Service. Officials at the other five said they had not received instructions from Washington to add staff to their local boards. They characterized the letters as nothing out of the ordinary.

Col. Edward Henderson, director of the state headquarters of the Selective Service System, was not in the Lawrenceville office Tuesday. Office manager Gerald Brody, who signed the letter to the mayors, was not in the office Tuesday.