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snopes 08 August 2014 07:09 PM

4F origins
Comment: I visited the National Museum of Civil War Medicine recently and
was told by a docent that the classification of 4F originated during the
Civil War. The story goes that if a recruit did not have his four front
teeth that he would be unable to tear the paper cartridges in use during
that time. Thus the classification of "four front"(4F). It sounds suspect
to me but I also read it on this site:

Gutter Monkey 08 August 2014 07:27 PM

Merriam-Webster lists the earliest recorded use of the term as 1942 which is decidedly post-Civil War.

Gutter Monkey 08 August 2014 07:44 PM

Note also that the categories for rejecting draftees for active duty in WW2 ranged from 4A to 4G under the Selective Service System.

In WW1 according to the Office of Medical History for the US Army the designations were " A, fit for full military service; B, accepted for remediable treatment; C, accepted for limited service; D, rejected at mobilization camps; and Vg, rejected by local boards." Draftees rejected for duty were classified D or Vg and not 4F.

queen of the caramels 09 August 2014 01:10 AM

I'm not sure in which book I read it, but I remember some description of WWI volunteers being rejected for not having the correct number of molar teeth in order o chew the standard army rations of the time.

eta..this US report say that 20.9 of men rejected in WWII were for dental defects

This from the Q&A On the Selective Draft for WWI


Q 45. — Do men with bad teeth need to serve under the draft?

A.—A man must have at least eight serviceable, natural masticating molars, four above and four below opposing, and six serviceable natural incisors, three above and three below opposing. These teeth must be so opposed that a person can cut his food and chew it.
Teeth restored by crown or fixed bridge work, when such work is well placed and thoroughly serviceable, are considered as serviceable natural teeth.
If dental work will restore the teeth to meet the requirements outlined in the preceding paragraph, the man will be accepted and sent to his cantonment, where dental work needed by him will be carried out.

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