Exploring the Impact of Draft Dodging during the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was a tumultuous period in American history, marked by widespread protest and controversy. One aspect that received considerable attention was the issue of draft dodging, as many young men sought ways to avoid the military draft. In this article, we will examine the issue of draft dodging during the Vietnam War, exploring the extent of draft dodging and the various methods used by individuals to avoid military service.

The Vietnam War Draft: Background and Purpose

To understand the context of draft dodging, it is important to first examine the Vietnam War draft itself. We provide an overview of the Selective Service System and its role in drafting men for military service. Examining the motivations behind the draft and the criteria for eligibility helps to shed light on the reasons why individuals sought to evade their call to service.

Scale of Draft Dodging: Estimating the Numbers

Determining the exact number of men who dodged the draft during the Vietnam War is difficult because of the clandestine nature of draft evasion and the limited data available. Nevertheless, we discuss several estimates and studies that provide insight into the extent of draft evasion. These estimates range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands, suggesting a significant impact on the draft process.

Motivations for Draft Dodging: Unraveling the Reasons

Understanding the motivations behind draft dodging is critical to gaining a full perspective on the phenomenon. We explore the various reasons that led men to avoid military service, including opposition to the war, moral objections, fear of combat and death, concerns about the fairness of the draft system, and the desire to pursue education or a career. By examining these motivations, we can better appreciate the complexity of individual decisions during this turbulent era.

Methods of Draft Evasion: Strategies and Consequences

Draft evaders used a variety of methods to avoid the draft, ranging from legal loopholes to more clandestine means. We discuss strategies such as obtaining deferments, enrolling in college or graduate school, seeking medical exemptions, fleeing to Canada or other countries, and participating in protests or resistance movements. We also examine the legal and social consequences for those caught evading the draft, which can include criminal charges, loss of rights, and social stigma.

Effects on Society and the Anti-War Movement

Widespread draft dodging had far-reaching consequences, both for individuals and for society as a whole. We examine the impact of draft dodging on the anti-war movement, highlighting how it strengthened opposition to the war and intensified public debate. We also explore the impact on families, communities, and the broader perception of the war in American society.

Legacies and Historical Reflections

Reflecting on the legacy of draft dodging during the Vietnam War is important to understanding its place in history. We discuss the lasting effects of this phenomenon on public opinion, military policy, and subsequent conflicts. By examining the lessons learned from the draft dodgers’ experiences, we can gain insight into how societal dissent and individual choices can shape the course of history.

Legal and Conscientious Objection

Some individuals sought to avoid the draft through legal means, such as obtaining conscientious objector (CO) status. CO status was granted to those who had sincere religious, ethical, or moral objections to war in any form. These individuals were required to prove their objection through a thorough application process and could be assigned to alternative service rather than military duty.

Underground Networks and Support Systems

Draft resisters often relied on underground networks and support systems to overcome the challenges of avoiding the draft. These networks provided assistance in a variety of ways, such as providing information on legal rights, offering safe houses for those on the run, or helping individuals flee to other countries. Support systems, including anti-war activists and organizations, played a critical role in providing resources, guidance, and advocacy for draft dodgers.

Effects on Military Recruitment and Morale

Widespread draft evasion had a significant impact on military recruitment and morale. As the number of draft dodgers increased, the military faced challenges in maintaining desired troop levels. This led to changes in recruitment strategies and increased pressure on those who did serve. In addition, awareness of draft dodging and opposition to the war within the military itself created internal tensions and affected morale among soldiers.

Post-War Consequences and Pardons

After the Vietnam War, there were efforts to address the legal consequences faced by draft dodgers. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter issued a blanket pardon to those who had avoided the draft, allowing them to reintegrate into society without fear of prosecution. This pardon was intended to heal some of the societal divisions caused by the war and its aftermath.

International Perspectives on Draft Dodging

Draft evasion during the Vietnam War was not unique to the United States. In several countries, notably Canada and Sweden, draft dodgers sought refuge and faced their own challenges in adapting to new environments. These individuals often formed communities and had a lasting impact on the societies that welcomed them.

Comparison with Other Historical Draft Evasion Movements

While draft evasion during the Vietnam War is widely known, it is worth noting that draft evasion has occurred in other historical contexts. For example, during World War II, some individuals avoided the draft by enlisting in the Coast Guard or obtaining deferments. Exploring these historical parallels can provide a broader understanding of the motivations and consequences of draft evasion.

Ethical and Moral Considerations

The issue of draft dodging raises ethical and moral questions that continue to spark debate. Supporters argue that it was a form of resistance to an unjust war, while critics contend that it was a violation of civic duty and undermined the integrity of the military and the draft system. Examining the different perspectives on this issue helps to foster a nuanced understanding of the complexities surrounding draft dodging.


Draft evasion during the Vietnam War was a complex and multifaceted aspect of this tumultuous era. The extent of draft evasion and the motivations behind it demonstrated the deep divisions and dissent within American society. By exploring the methods of draft evasion, the impact on society, and the historical reflections on this period, we gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of war, citizenship, and individual choice. The legacy of draft evasion continues to serve as a reminder of the power of dissent and the lasting impact of the Vietnam War on American society.


How many USA men dodged the draft in Vietnam, and how?

It’s difficult to estimate the exact number of American men who avoided the draft during the Vietnam War because of the clandestine nature of many of these efforts. But it’s clear that many thousands of men took steps to avoid military service in Vietnam. Here are some of the ways men avoided the draft:

  • Obtaining deferments: Many men received draft deferments by claiming student or medical exemptions, or by getting married.
  • Fleeing the country: Some men fled to Canada or other countries to avoid the draft. It’s estimated that between 30,000 and 60,000 Americans moved to Canada during the Vietnam War, with many staying there permanently.
  • Faking medical conditions: Some men obtained false medical diagnoses to avoid the draft. Others deliberately injured themselves in order to be disqualified from service.
  • Conscientious objection: Some men objected to the war on moral or religious grounds and became conscientious objectors. They were required to perform alternative service in a noncombatant role.
  • Going underground: A small number of men went underground, changing their identities and living off the grid to avoid detection by the authorities.

It’s worth noting that draft dodging was illegal, and those who were caught faced significant legal consequences, including fines and imprisonment. However, many people were strongly opposed to the Vietnam War and believed that avoiding the draft was a moral obligation.

How many men dodged the draft in Vietnam?

In all, half a million Americans dodged their Vietnam War service. They were fugitives until 1977 when President Jimmy Carter ordered a general amnesty.

How long did a draftee have to serve in Vietnam?

Draftees during the Vietnam War were required to serve for two years. During the first year, draftees underwent basic training, followed by Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) training in a branch of the military. This draft was the fourth incarnation of conscription in the United States and ended in 1973. Draftees had no choice in their military occupational specialty and were required to serve for two years.

Why did people dodge the draft Vietnam War?

While the reasons for being “anti-war” were mostly religious during the First and Second World Wars, in the 1960’s, the reasons given by young men who were resisting the draft included not only religious beliefs but ethical considerations as well.

How long was a Marine tour of duty in Vietnam?

A tour of duty in Vietnam for most ground forces lasted one year.

What birthdays were called for the Vietnam draft?

A lottery drawing – the first since 1942 – was held on December 1, 1969, at Selective Service National Headquarters in Washington, D.C. This event determined the order of call for induction during calendar year 1970; that is, for registrants born between January 1, 1944, and December 31, 1950.

How long was basic training in Vietnam?

8 weeks

During the Vietnam War, more than 200,000 recruits graduated from Parris Island with the peak load being 10,979 in March 1966. No new battalions were added, but training was cut from 11 weeks to 8 weeks and the size of the recruit platoons was increased.

How many conscientious objectors were there in Vietnam?

171,000 conscientious objectors

Vietnam War
Over the duration of the conflict, the Selective Service recognized 171,000 conscientious objectors; 3,275 soldiers received discharges for conscientious objector status that developed after their induction into the military.

Did the Marines draft during Vietnam?

For Marines it had been a long and especially costly war. About 450,000 Leathernecks, mostly volunteers, served in Vietnam (42,600 were draftees). Some 13,000 were killed and 88,000 wounded (51,392 badly enough to be hospitalized).

Can an only son be drafted?

the “only son”, “the last son to carry the family name,” and ” sole surviving son” must register with Selective Service. These sons can be drafted. However, they may be entitled to peacetime deferment if there is a military death in the immediate family.

How long was a tour in Vietnam War?


During the Vietnam War, the U.S. Army used a personnel rotation policy that at first blush defies military logic. The Army rotated soldiers through Vietnam on one-year tours. Officers also spent a year in country, but only six of those months were in a troop command.

Is Fort Polk still active?

Fort Polk changed from a Continental Army Command (CONARC) post in July 1975 and became a Forces Command (FORSCOM) member. In the spring of 1976, the Infantry Training Center at Fort Polk closed its doors and ceased operations. The final chapter of the Vietnam War ended for Fort Polk.

What was boot camp like during Vietnam?

In some training camps, recruits were forced to repeatedly cross the horizontal ladder, colloquially known as monkey bars, before each and every meal. It was a tough order, and one that could take a serious toll on your hands, according to Larry Lettie, who belonged to the Signal Corps from 1971-74.

Why do Vietnam vets not talk about the war?

Civilians do not like to hear about killing, and combat soldiers do not want to talk about it. There is no euphemistic way to talk about killing, and there is no eloquent way to describe a violent death. So, in order to cope, soldiers have invented their own private language to talk about these subjects.

Who served the most tours in Vietnam?

He earned 38 military decorations during his career, and has been called the most decorated U.S. soldier of the Vietnam War.

Jorge Otero Barreto
Years of service 1959–1970
Rank Sergeant First Class
Unit 101st Airborne 25th Infantry 82nd Airborne 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team

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