The Vietnam War Draft

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The Vietnam War Draft

Many people in the 1960s and early 1970s did not understand why the United States was involved in the Vietnam War. Therefore, they had no desire to be a part of it. The Selective Service System, which was used to conduct the draft, had aspirations of directing people into areas where they were most needed during wartime. However, people took advantage of the draft system’s deferment policies to avoid going to war. Others refused induction or simply did not register. There were also people who left the country to escape the draft. The Vietnam War proved to be an event that many Americans did not agree with, and as a result, citizens took action to elude the draft entirely or to beat the draft system.

Before improvements in the draft system in 1971, there were many excuses for deferments. Draft boards were not representative in terms of race and national origin within the communities they served, and the lottery system left draftees in suspense for almost seven years.1 For these reasons, the draft system was inefficient, leading to much disapproval among the people. The Selective Service System had the right idea, but it needed some modifications.

During the majority of the war, men were guided into civilian and military positions through a policy that the Selective Service Director Lewis B. Hershey called "channeling." The draft system used induction as a threat to "channel" people into more desirable pursuits that were in the interests of the nation. For instance, an engineer earned a deferment from the war because he was needed at home while a person who did not have a deferment could be inducted into the army. For every solider in combat, there were many other positions that needed to be filled...

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... Circumstance, 29-32.

5. Baskir, Chance and Circumstance, 33.

6. Baskir, Chance and Circumstance, 34.

7. Baskir, Chance and Circumstance, 33-34.

8. Baskir, Chance and Circumstance, 83-85.

9. Williams, Roger Neville. The New Exiles: American War Resisters in Canada (New York:

Liveright Publishers,1971), 49-51.

10. Baskir, Chance and Circumstance, 36-37.

11. Baskir, Chance and Circumstance, 37.


1. Baskir, Lawrence M. and William A. Strauss. Chance and Circumstance: the Draft, the

War, and the Vietnam Generation. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1978.

2. "How the Draft was Changed Since Vietnam." Selective Service System. 22 April 99> (29 Oct 1999).

3. Williams, Roger Neville. The New Exiles: American War Resisters in Canada. New York:

Liveright Publishers, 1971.
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