When World War I ensued, many young boys were eager to enlist and protect the country even when they were still minors. The youngest ever who was able to sneak himself in and lie about his age was a British kid named Sidney Lewis, who was just 12 years old.

Minimum Age to Enlist

In most countries, you have to be at least 18 years old to enlist or, in some cases, 17 with parental consent. The 1977 Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions prohibit children who have not reached the age of 15 from taking ”direct part in hostilities,” although there were some loopholes in it.

David Balton, former Ambassador of the State Department’s Office of the Legal Advisers, said, ”In the U.S., it is possible to enlist at 17, with parental consent. We are not involved in an armed conflict, but we may be one day, and it would be very hard for the armed forces to guarantee that the 17-year-olds would be separated out from combat.”’

As the International Committee of the Red Cross stated, “Children are especially vulnerable in armed conflicts. Despite the protection provided by law, they continue to be recruited by armed forces and armed groups. They are often separated from their families, driven from their homes, killed, maimed, sexually abused or exploited in other ways.”