What did "Four-F." mean in the United States of the 1940s?

Here is the quote from Catch-22:

They had to send a guy from the draft board around to look me over. I was Four-F. I had examined myself pretty thoroughly and discovered that I was unfit for military service

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  • Nit: 4-F remained part of the military and social lingo until, post Viet Nam, Congress cancelled the Selective Service Act(s). – Carl Witthoft Mar 18 at 12:02
  • When I saw the question, before I saw context, I misremembered 4H(en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4-H ) and thought instead of "Head, Heart, Hands, and Health", the letter stood for Family, Faith, Farm and Friendship." Oops. :) – April Mar 18 at 14:26

It's a classification for military service. 4-F means "Registrant not acceptable for military service." See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_Service_System#Classifications

The context clue here you might have used to deduce an area of inquiry would be the reference to a "draft board", which is part of the Selective Service System that determines the eligibility and thus the classification of potential draftees.

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    yep, or straight from the horse’s mouth: sss.gov/Classifications – Jim Mar 17 at 17:22
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    Specifically, 4-F commonly implied you were ineligible for medical reasons. The character in the book who said that was a doctor; the implication is that he just didn't want to be drafted and so said "as a doctor, I find that I am medically unfit." – cpast Mar 17 at 18:29
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    @cpast PLEASE make that an answer! OP may never see the comment thread here, and I think it's crucial to understand that! – user45266 Mar 18 at 2:26
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    Specifically for the sake of catch 22, it means he's medically unfit for mental health reasons – Separatrix Mar 18 at 6:56

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