Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of History

Committee Chair

Harry Fritz


underage soldiers, World War Two


University of Montana


For partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History, this thesis examines a heretofore unstudied aspect of American military history, underage Americans illegally fighting the Second World War. Nothing has been written specifically addressing this topic. The bulk of the research is drawn from oral history interviews with the veterans themselves and primary source documents, intertwined with the minimal amount of secondary source material written on children in contemporary armed conflict, and secondary sources relevant to the period studied. The thesis introduces the unintended legacy constructed of underage Americans fighting America’s wars throughout its history leading up to the Second World War. The research then examines the experiences of America’s underage war veterans who actively participated in World War Two, specifically addressing the difficulties they faced in enlisting illegally underage in the armed forces of the United States, how they succeeded in achieving their goal, their motivations for enlisting underage, and their experiences at war. The study concludes that through elaborate schemes, cleverly altered documents, and with assistance from military recruiters and parents, underage recruits managed to join underage. They volunteered for multiple factors and influences compounded that made them the exception to the 16 million American servicemen and women that served during the Second World War. Their experiences exemplify the distinction with which Americans served during the war, tying into the legacy of American children at war.



© Copyright 2008 Joshua Pollarine