1. Penforth
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    Penforth New Member

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    Vietnam draft process?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Penforth, Feb 27, 2011.

    Anyone out there knowledgeable about the Vietnam draft process?

    I've spent a good part of the day googling, but the information is sparse and conflicting.

    This is going to happen between (probably) 1966 and 1968, before the draft lottery. I know that all males were required to register when they turned 18, but then what happened? What was the process? I also need to know how long they were required to serve.

    It's just backstory, so I don't need a lot of detail, but I do need it to be accurate.

    Thanks for any help!
     
  2. Chudz
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    Chudz Contributing Member

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    Yah, let me answer this by asking a question. What can you imagine happening within the confines of the given situation?

    I remember when I turned eighteen. I made a prompt trip to my local post office and filled out the form that could absolutely change my life.

    I would suggest a Google search for further information--that may actually include images of the letters--to turn up more.

    For instance, I used "Draft Notice" and chose the images section. The results are pretty chilling if you spend any time thinking about it.

    Okay, I've edited to add the fact that I didn't answer your initial question. I apologize, and hope you will forgive me. There's no reason that I can give further information about this process, other than the fact that I was a young man who wasn't forced to fight for his country, but would have done so if called upon.
     
  3. Penforth
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    Penforth New Member

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    Thanks. I have tried googling. A lot of what I found was about the draft lottery, which happened after the time period I'm covering in my book. I can't seem to find specifics about the process of being drafted after signing up (and I'm usually pretty good with research).

    Specific questions I'm looking for answers to:
    ~When a person went to Induction, what happened? Did they say, "Ok, you're in, go get on the bus" or did they "You're in. Go home, and then report back in 2 weeks?"
    ~How long was bootcamp and/or training? How long before they were shipped overseas?
    ~How long was a tour of duty? (Some internet sources say 1 year, others say 2 years.) If it was, for example, 1 year, was that just time spent overseas, or did it include bootcamp, so that you were only in Vietnam for a few months?
    ~Were there opportunities to come home? Like between bootcamp and going overseas?
     
  4. Lothgar
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    Lothgar Contributing Member

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    Have you considered googling "Vietnam Veteran" or "Veteran Forums" or similar things to find forums or message boards by and for veterans? Maybe you could talk to some actual vets and pick their brains for details?
     
  5. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I registered for the draft in 1967. After registering, the Draft Board assigned you a status...most were classified as:
    1A - draftable
    2S - full-time student deferment from the draft
    4F - declined from the draft as unsuitable due to medical, moral or certain other special circumstances. For example, bad vision would get you classified 4-F. Admission of drug abuse...4F. Admission of homosexuality...4F.

    I went straight from high school to college, so I maintained a 2-S deferment and was exempt from the draft. During my 2nd year of college, I moved from Massachusetts to California with my family. Two college course were deemed NOT transferrable by Fullerton State College in California. The California State College system would not accept The History of the Commonwealth (Massachusetts) and the Government of the Commonwealth for credit.

    The Draft Board reclassified me from 2-S to the draftable status of 1-A, deeming the change necessary due to a "lapse in the progress of my education". I appealed and won a temporary reprieve from the change. By the end of that semester, the Draft Board completed their review and concluded that I would be returned to the 1-A status. Within a year, I was in Vietnam, carrying an M16 in combat patrols.

    What choices did young men have back then?

    1. Take your chances and hope you didn't get drafted.
    2. Do something to get yourself classified 4-F...most who took this approach, intentionally failed their piss-test by dropping a bit of illegal drugs into the urine sample.
    3. Join one of the reserves and become a week-end warrior.
    4. Join the Coast Guard to avoid Vietnam...this turned into a nightmare because Coast Guardsmen eventually got sent to Nam to man the swift-boats (armed shallow draft gunboats that patrolled the Mekong Delta)

    If you WERE drafted into the Army, it was only a two-year enlistment but it almost guaranteed you would be sent to Nam as a grunt. A lot of guys joined in a voluntary enlistment in order to get into a duty assignment that might avoid Vietnam.

    As far as boot camp and further training, it depended on several things:

    1) the needs of the military always trumped anything else.

    2) your score on the military's general aptitude test and scores on their 4 vocational aptitude tests. Your career choices were further limited by those scores. I scored the 95th percentile on all five tests so I had lots of choices.

    3) the nature of your enlistment...a two-yr enlistment meant, basic training and one short-duration technical school like AIT (Advanced Infantry Training back in '67...today AIT means Advanced Individual Training), artillery school, cook or Millitary Police (MP). Almost all the 2-yr draftees ended up in Nam. Guys who signed up for a four year hitch got access to longer duration technical schools. For example, I went to the Armed Forces Language Institute to study Vietnamese, along with three more schools before ending up in Nam in a top secret unit.

    Time for schools?

    Basic was about three months. Low level training schools would be another three months, things like cooks, artillery, truck driving, etc. Technical schools took longer...medics, intelligence, long range recon, mechanics, electronics, EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal), nuclear power plant operator (Navy), jet engine mechanic...these kinds of schools needed longer training time and were not available to 2-yr draftees. In fact, some schools like the Navy's nuclear propulsion school took over two years and they required the emlisted man to agree to extend their "hitch" for an additional 2 years to a total of six years. This was necessary because young men with nuclear reactor training would serve their one tour and leave the military to earn big bucks in the nuclear power industry.

    So, training could run from 6 weeks to over two years, depending on all the variable above.

    How long after completing training did we go to Nam? Depended on the individual. We were given "leave" before going overseas. The draft guys only had a week or so of leave earned at the end of training so they would usually take the week off. I had over a month of leave available so I took the month off.

    What about the tour of duty in Vietnam? The standard "tour" for most soldiers was one year "in country". Week-end warriors (reservists called to active duty) could be sent "TDY" to Nam for six months at a time. TDY is a designation for a temporary duty assignment.

    There was NO opportunity to "come home" during your tour. You were given two weeks of "R&R" (rest and relaxation) during the year. The approved places for R&R were Australia, Hong Kong (I went to Hong Kong), Thailand, Japan and Hawaii. Sad but funny story...one of my buddies avoided whore houses and drugs for the first nine months of his tour. We all respected him for that. When he went on R&R, he chose Hawaii so he and his wife could spend a couple weeks together. After being a really stand up guy, he caught the clap from his wife in Hawaii! Boy was he mad! It wasn't an unusual story in Nam. I got a "Dear John" letter from the "love of my life" about five months into my tour.

    Last thing in your list...the induction experience. Mine was in Los Angeles in a big induction center. We entered a large room where they treated us like cattle being guided through lines. The first thing was the physical exam to weed out those who are physically unfit. A hundred guys stripped to our underwear on command. Then, we went through a "medical exam"...line of doctors who asked us a bunch of medical questions while looking into our eyes and ears, listening to our heart/lungs, stucking a finger against the hole where our testicles emerge and telling us to "turn your head and cough". Then, they ordered the line into a long narrow room where and told us to drop our underwear and grab our ankles. A couple of doctors did a quick/intrusive rectal check. The urine sample came next...this is where a few creative guys got themselves disqualified. They would run their fingers through cocaine, opium, heroine or some other drug that would "stick" to their fingers before coming in for the exam. Then, they would pee down their fingers to taint their urine and get them rejected. Back in the mid 60's, there was a lot of patriotism, so very few guys were willing to go to such extremes to get out of the draft.

    Those who passed the physical dressed and entered the swearing-in room where we simultaneously took the oath that sealed our fate. Up until this point, the workers in the center were gruff but not authoritarian. We went directly from the induction center to the airport where we each went in different directions...Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard had different basic training bases. The flight was confortable. At the destination airport, a military bus picked us up and ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE! In my case, the bus went straight from the airport to the military haircut facility. My hair was fairly short so it was not a big deal, but the military barbers were brutal to guys with long hair...half cuttng, half ripping out their long hair. Guys who yelled in pain were blasted by screaming basic training staff. Those staff members screamed at us relentlessly as the processed us through three hours of administration, inoculations, learning to line up in military file...even the chow hall was severely regimented. When we fell into our bunks around midnight, we sighed in relief...until 3 am when the top staff sergeant threw an empty metal trash can down the row between beds to wake us up. For the next three months, it never stopped. Vietnam was actually a welcome relief from the instirutions of military training.

    Sorry you asked those questions? LOL
     
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  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    hey, salty!... where the heck y'been?... glad to see you back, regardless... hope all's well and you're still writing...

    love and lotsa catch-up missed-you hugs, maia
     
  7. Penforth
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    Penforth New Member

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    Thanks so much NaCI. That helps immensely!
     
  8. Christiedella
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    Christiedella New Member

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    Just ran across your post with some of the research I'm doing for my novel. What a great post--I learned a lot more about the draft process. Makes me wonder if I should have my main character enlist--I want him to be able to survive the war. If someone wanted to be a medic, would they take a draftee or would you have to enlist? I love the details you gave, I've copied your post for future reference.
     
  9. Mark_Archibald
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    Mark_Archibald Active Member

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    Interesting read from NaCl.

    I've watched some documentary's on youtube. One guy finished basic training after three months like NaCl said, than he accepted training to be an officer so he could stay in the country an extra 6 months, not knowing the war hadn't even reached its peak.

    Also a lot of draftees failed to report for duty during Vietnam, and a large number of recruits went AWOL. And there were a lot of protests against the war, and of course the famous quote by Muhammad Ali.
     
  10. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    Draftees who had moral qualms about killing for one's country were often made into medics, as this satisfied both the service's need for a warm body and the conscientious objector's moral views on soldiering. Indeed, one in Vietnam went on to win the Medal of Honor for his valor.
     
  11. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    This - and there are a lot of outfits that have websites with information and contacts as well. I found tons and tons of information that way - and people were more than happy to answer questions or direct me to other sites/people.
     
  12. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Don't know if you need any more, but here are a couple other items. As far as alternative service, one could enroll in a Reserve Officer Training Corps program while in college (this became a somewhat popular program after the student deferment was curtailed in the late '60s). One attended additional courses in Military Science while in college and went through physical training in the summer, and then when you graduated, you went into the reserves as an officer. Most ROTC programs were army ROTC, but the navy had them, too (when I graduated from high school, I was offered a naval ROTC scholarship; I declined, but a year later, when I pulled #57 in the draft lottery, I kind of regretted it). I actually went as far as my pre-induction exam. When we sat down to take the intelligence test, a HUGE sergeant stood before us and explained that we were about to take the Armed Forces Intelligence Test, passing grade - 35. If we failed it, we would take the Army Intelligence Test (easier), passing grade - 35. If we failed THAT, we would be interviewed by a panel of three army psychiatrists, and if they determined we were faking, "you can throw away your doctor's notes. We don't care what's wrong with you. We don't care if you have no arms or legs. You're going and we will find something for you to do!" That got our attention.

    In my case, I had just had surgery on my back that summer, and so I was temporarily deferred. But this was October, 1972, and they never called me back. The following year, I was reclassified 1-H.
     
  13. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Here are a few sites to get you started. (Especially check out “Called to Serve”. It is a collection of memories and revelations from VN era vets including induction.) This is not a wholly comprehensive collection but it will give you a fairly broad spectrum of insight to help get you started.
    Good luck.

    http://conservapedia.com/Selective_Service_System
    http://www.calledtoservevietnam.com/
    http://www.calledtoservevietnam.com/blog/information-about-the-vietnam-era-draft/draft-classifications-during-the-vietnam-war/
    http://www.evesmaster.com/US%20Military%20Draft%20Induction%20Station.html
    http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Did_the_marine_corps_draft_during_Vietnam_war
    http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/s_z/stevens/africanamer.htm
    http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1527673/Selective-Service-Acts
     
  14. Ray1942
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    Ray1942 New Member

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    Selective Service System Draft Questions

    The draft existed long before Vitenam, yet, the first Vietnam Draft Lottery wasn't unti 1969. Can anyond describe the Vitenam era draft process before 1969? I fully understand how the Draft Lottery worked fron 1969 to 1973and don't need that information. I need to know how it worked from 1966 t 1968.

    Also, the Selective Service System sent out the following letters:
    1. Order to Report for Armed Forces Physical Examination
    2. Order to Report for Induction
    What was the time span between the 1 abd 2 above, 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 1 yest, Etc.?
     
  15. Christiedella
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    Christiedella New Member

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    Selective Service Info

    I'm writing a novel based in the '60's also. There is a lot of information online but you are getting some great info here too.

    During my research I discovered another deferment, which allowed graduate students or students enrolled in college a bit of time to finish a course, perhaps a semester reprieve, then they reverted to 1-A. There is a good article in the following:

    http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1967/9/28/the-1967-draft-act-where-you/

    Here is a quote

    It works for my book, I am able to get my protagonist through a semester of grad school, so he isn't inducted until July, a reprieve of three months. Enough time to finish class, get his life in order and decide if he still wants to take off to Canada.
     

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