Sunday, May 15, 2011

1972: Facing the Selective Service System, and The Draft

By Jack Brummet
Unexplained Phenomena Editor

It's hard to remember now what we faced in the late 60's and early 70's, when involuntary conscription was still the law of the land.  It wasn't so much the draft per se, as the fact that there was a bloody war raging in Vietnam (and vicinity) and every single day, the 'papers and news were filled with body bags and body counts.  And very little of the news was good news.  Before the war was over more than 58,000 American boys would die in Vietnam.

The debate over the war was constantly raging--between parents and sons, teachers and students, police and protesters. . .it happened constantly, and everywhere.  It was absolutely exacerbated by other changes in the "youth culture": drugs, sex, rock and roll, underground newspapers and radio stations, long hair and beards, strange clothes, rock festivals, gigantic marches, people dropping out of society for communes, and people joining political and action groups like the Students for a Democratic Society, The Yippies, The Panthers, The Weatherman, The Draft Resistance, and hundreds more.  It was a strange and wonderful time.  And always hanging over our heads (I turned 18 in 1971) was the draft, and being sent to Vietnam, or at the best, enlisting in the Navy or Coast Guard to avoid 'Nam.  When you were drafted, they did not send you to dig ditches in Omaha.

In 1970, the the Selective Service System instituted a national lottery for draft numbers.  The target draft age was 19.  In 1972, the picked the numbers for people born in 1953.  My birth date came in at 182; I was safe.  That guy born on March 6th--he was No. One.  If you were born on Christmas Day, you were No. Six.

The draft (not just the lottery) ended on July 1st, 1973.

This list shows the number of inductions into the military over the terrible arc of the Vietnam War.

Year   Inductees
1962     82,060
1963   119,265
1964   112,386
1965   230,991
1966   382,010
1967   228,263
1968   296,406
1969   283,586
1970   162,746
1971     94,092
1972     49,514
1973          646

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