Vietnam War Draft

In the United States, military conscription has been used many times during its wars, particularly in the Cold War. Even though the draft was abolished in 1973, men of draft age (between 18-25 years) still have to register with the Selective Service System within 30 days of the 18th birthday so a draft can be readily resumed if needed.

During the Vietnam War, about two-third of American troops were volunteered, the rest were selected for military service through the drafts. In the beginning of the war, the names of all American men in draft-age were collected by the Selective Service. When someone’s name was called, he had to report to his local draft broad, which was made up of various community members, so that they could begin to evaluate. By this manner, local draft broads had an enormous power to decide who had to go and who would stay.

Most of U.S. soldiers drafted during the Vietnam War were men from poor and working-class families. The least political power sections were mistreated. As a matter of fact, American forces in Vietnam included twenty-five percent poor, fifty-five percent working-class, twenty percent middle-class men, but very few came from upper-classes families. Many soldiers came from rural towns and farming communities.

For many reasons, a lot of people tried to avoid or delay their military service and there were some legal way to do that. Men who had physical problems, were attending college, or were needed at home to support their families might be granted deferments. A lot of draft-age men received deferments were from wealthy and educated families. Highly prominent political figures who were accused of improperly avoiding the draft includes Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney. Some other Americans fled to Canada to avoid the drafts. These people were derogatorily referred as “draft dodgers” – a very popular term during the Vietnam war. These facts led the public to believe that U.S. draft policies were unfair.

In an attempt to make the draft more equal, on December 1, 1969, the Selective Service System conducted the first lottery draft since 1942. This is the method: There were 366 plastic capsules, each capsule had a date of a year inside, were mixed into a deep glass jar. The capsules were pulled out and opened one by one. The first date was drawn was September 14, which meant men who were of draft-eligible age had the first priority to be called to serve. After the first, the second lottery was held for all of the 26 letters of alphabet to order the priority among the men with the same birthdays. In 1970 and 1971, draft lotteries were conducted again. In 1972, the draft was held but the issue was never used due to the abolition of the draft in 1973.

As anti-Vietnam War protests increased remarkably in the United States during the late 1960s, the draft apparently became a target of many criticism. In 1964, many students burnt their draft cards. In the early 1970s, draft resistance reached its peak. In 1972, the number of induction-refusal legal cases tremendously increased to 200,600. Those who had practiced draft invasion by flying abroad faced forced military service or imprisonment if they went back home. Although draft dodgers were still prosecuted after the end of U.S. direct involvement in Vietnam, in September 1974 President Gerald Ford granted a conditional amnesty that required them to be of service from 6 to 24 months. In 1977, on his first day in office, President Jimmy Carter controversially offered a full pardon to any draft dodgers who requested one.


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