What’s Your Number? The Vietnam War Selective Service Lottery

14 Sep

(Selective Service Archive)
During the Vietnam War, young men gathered in college dorms and friends’ homes to listen to live TV and radio broadcasts of the U.S. Selective Service System drawing lottery numbers to determine who would and would not be drafted. This serves as a short, yet painful reminded of that stressful time. (The 2010 issue of Vietnam magazine revisits those days in the article, “Live from Washington, It’s Lottery Night 1969!!”) Approximately 850,000 men were affected by the 1969 draft lottery. For the lottery, 366 blue plastic capsules, each containing one date of the calendar year, were dumped in a large glass container. The capsules were then drawn out and opened, one by one, and assigned sequentially rising numbers. Congressman Alexander Pirnie (R-NY) drew the first capsule, which contained the date September 14. Thus, all men born on that date, from 1944 through 1950, received the first priority for call to duty. The remaining capsules were drawn by youth delegates who had been selected for that purpose from around the country. The last date drawn was June 8, which was assigned draft number 366. This initial Vietnam draft lottery drawing was on December 1, 1969. The first birth date drawn that night, assigned the lowest number, “001,” was September 14. As I sat with about 20 people in the living room of the Middle Tennessee Christian Center in Murfreesboro, I remember that at least three of us had numbers well below 100…mine was 38, which meant that when my college deferment ended I would be guaranteed to report for service. Some of those that day graduated at the end of the spring semester (1970) and joined the service, to keep it to only two years. Some served as medics. I began service in the fall of 1972 as a conscientious objector at a non-profit organization. The war was very unpopular and beginning to end, so the draft board was much more willing to allow some to serve in this way. “Conscientious objector” status was granted to those who could demonstrate “sincerity of belief in religious teachings combined with a profound moral aversion to war and killing.” Find your birthday in the chart below to see what order you would have been called to service. 
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Posted by on September 14, 2018 in Article


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