20 questions about the draft, answered: How they did it during the Vietnam War

20 questions about the draft, answered

Note: This article may feature affiliate links, and purchases made may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. Find out more here.


20 questions about the draft, answered (1967)

Draft rules are undergoing the biggest shake-up in years, under a new law just signed by the President. On these pages is a guide to the more important changes and their meaning to students, parents, others.

How the new law will work

Confusion over the military draft, never minor, now is increased as officials move to close some loopholes. Under new regulations, flowing out of a law extending the draft four more years, an estimated 170,000 youths who would have been deferred in the past will be subject to call next year.

To obtain some guidance for young men and their parents, US News & World Report posed 20 key questions to Selective Service and other officials in Washington. The questions and official answers follow.

Military draft - Selective Service 1967

1. Briefly, what does the new law do?

Answer: It extends to July 1, 1971, the same basic draft system that Congress adopted in 1940 on the eve of World War II. Local boards remain in full control. Every American youth must register at age 18 and becomes draftable at age 19.

An individual’s chance of actually being drafted depends upon three things: size of draft calls, supply of nondeferred men in his local-board area and the youth’s own status as a deferred or nondeferred person.

2. Are draft calls headed up, or down?

Answer: Up. About 15,000 men a month have been drafted in the first six months of 1967. In the next six months, calls are due to average about twice as high, around 28,000 a month, just to keep Army strength at planned levels.

Calls can go much higher fast if voluntary enlistments drop for any reason; or if there is a bigger build-up in Vietnam — which the armed forces urgently want; or if a new war flares, as in the Mideast, and involves U. S.

3. Who is first in line to be drafted, under the new law?

Answer: Youths who fail to register, or keep their draft boards informed as to their whereabouts, or otherwise become delinquent. Next in line are those who volunteer for induction, which is in effect a two-year enlistment in the Army.

Third in line, and the big group that provides most draftees, are single men and those married after Aug. 26, 1965, who are between 19th and 26th birthdays and not deferred for some reason.

A numerous group within that category are former college students who have lost deferment because they completed college or dropped out. Usually healthy and intelligent, they head many draft boards’ lists.

Men: Here are your choices under the draft (from 1958)

4. At what age is a draft call most likely?

Answer: Around age 20, at least for the next 12 to 18 months, except for former college students, who usually are around 22 when their deferments end and the draft boards get them.

Before the Vietnam-war build-up began in mid-1965, the average draftee was between the ages of 22 and 23. Since mid-1965, higher manpower demands have pulled average draft age down to between 20 and 21, with some local boards taking youths in the latter part of their 19th year.

5. What about the plan to take 19-year-olds first?

Answer: This is being postponed for at least the next 12 months. The Secretary of Defense gets authority to call 19-year-olds first, but probably will wait until January 1969.

At that time the age priority may be juggled so as to focus draft calls among the 19-year-old group. Any shift to 19-year-olds as the “prime group” will lessen draft pressures on men who pass through age 19 without being drafted, even though students would be dropped back to the prime group regard-less of actual age, when their deferments end.

During the next year or so of transition policies, the oldest-first principle will apply. This means that draft chances stay high for able-bodied men in the 20-to-26 age group who leave college as graduates or dropouts.

Military draft notice from 1972

6. Will it be easier to get college deferments now?

Answer: Easier for undergraduates, much harder for graduate students. The new law guarantees deferment, on request, to any youth who is a full-time undergraduate student in any accredited college, as long as he is making satisfactory progress toward a degree.

So a student no longer has to be in any certain class rank, or have a certain score on a test, to stay deferred. But the new law specifies this deferment ends as soon as the student gets a degree, or at age 24, at the latest, although even a 24-year-old can finish a school year.

7. Will part-time college study provide deferment?

Answer: Usually, no. A youth trying to hold a job and attend college at night, for example, will have a hard time qualifying. However, the local board is the judge in each case. Some are rigid. Some bend rules to favor a student. Generally, a student has to take at least 12 semester hours to keep his deferment.

At the height of his fame, Elvis Presley was drafted into the US Army - See 20 photos of the man in uniform

8. Where do graduate students stand?

Answer: Those already accepted for a graduate school by Oct. 1, 1967, will be deferred for one year and then become vulnerable to the draft. Those with one year toward a master’s degree will be deferred for one more year to get their degrees.

Those with one year toward a Ph.D. will be deferred up to four more years to get that degree. Starting next summer, there will be no new deferments for graduate students except those in medicine, dentistry, allied health fields, and a few other technical courses listed as essential to the US.

9. Do you have to attend summer school to stay deferred?

Answer: No. The standard college course leading to a bachelor-of-arts degree, for example, including a three-month vacation each summer, qualifies a youth for deferment.

10. What if a student drops out for a year, then re-enters? A Draft boards generally feel a student is entitled to no more than four years’ deferment, from the date of his high-school graduation. A student who goes to college for two years, drops out for a year, then returns to college can find himself drafted at the end of his junior year.

11. Is anyone exempt from service, under the new law?

Answer: Technically, no able-bodied man under age 35 is exempt unless he is the sole surviving son of a family in which the father, or a son or daughter, has died as a result of duty in the armed forces.

Actually, barring an all-out war that nobody foresees, the following groups are so far down in the “draft pool” that they are virtually exempt: men who have passed their 26th birthday, men who become fathers before July 1, 1967, and are supporting their families; men who were married on or before Aug. 26, 1965, and are supporting their wives; men who convince their draft boards induction would cause extreme hardship on a dependent, such as an aged parent.

Also exempt, in practical terms, as long as they maintain present activities, are ministers, divinity students and key workers in essential industries. There were about 4 million in all these virtually exempt groups in June.

12. What about men becoming fathers after July 1, 1967?

Answer: Those who have received no deferment, as students, for example, will automatically get a father’s deferment, which means virtual exemption, like fathers before them.

Those once deferred as students will gain a father’s deferment only if they convince the draft board that their induction would cause extreme hardship on their wife or child. The intent is to narrow the loophole created by the “daisy chain” of the past: deferment as a student, followed by marriage and fatherhood.

13. Is there any change in deferments for apprentices?

Answer: Opportunities for this kind of deferment are going to be widened. Apprentice and job-training deferments now are limited to approved programs training men for a few critical occupations, such as tool and die maker. Liberalizing to include more technical training is planned.

14. Can Peace Corps or VISTA service bring deferment?

Answer: Perhaps. Practices vary with different draft boards. Some defer youths who get overseas before their numbers come up, then draft them when they get back. Others have called youths back from overseas. Still others have put the files of Peace Corpsmen at the bottom of the pile because they had plenty of other youths available. The Peace Corps law says that service “shall not in any way exempt” a youth from “any obligations or duties” under the draft.

15. Has the outlook changed for men in 4-F and 1-Y?

Answer: No. The 3 million 4-F’s, disqualified for mental, physical or moral reasons, will not be called in any foreseeable circumstances. The 3 million 1-Y’s, disqualified for lesser physical defects or low mental-test scores, will remain subject to re-examination if needed in an emergency. No significant changes are expected in standards for these classifications.

The truth about Hollywood draft deferments during WW2 (1942)

16. If drafted, how long must a youth serve?

Answer: For 24 months on active duty. Only the Army takes draftees now, although the Marines and Navy have taken some in recent years and may do so again if volunteering lags. Each man is guaranteed by law a minimum of four months’ basic training before going overseas, and there is a move in Congress to extend that to six months.

After 24 months on active duty, a veteran is in the reserves for 48 months. On June 27, the Defense Department announced that veterans will not have to serve in the active, drilling reserves, as some have been required to do in the past.

17. Can you still enlist in the National Guard or other reserves and escape the draft?

Answer: Yes, if you can find a vacancy. You buy “escape from the draft” by signing up for six years in the National Guard or reserves. That includes six months of active-duty training followed by five and one half years of weekly drills, summer camps, and the chance of being called out for riot duty, floods and other emergencies.

Some reserve programs, as in the Navy, require two years of active duty. Under the new law, you can enlist in the Guard or reserves as late as the day you are ordered for draft induction. Formerly, you had to enlist before any induction order.

LIFE Aug 20, 1965 - Vietnam War draft

18. Are rules for conscientious objectors changed?

Answer: Yes. A conscientious objector will be required to show that his case rests upon a religious belief.

19. Does the draft of doctors go on?

Answer: Yes, with liability extended to age 35 for physicians, dentists, health specialists. Also, military credit cannot be claimed for service in civilian units except Public Health Service and Bureau of Prisons.

20. What about the draft-by-lottery proposal?

Answer: A system still is being studied. Any proposal will be linked with a shift to 19-year-olds as the prime age group, and must be approved by Congress.

Ex-POW John McCain tells the story of his captivity in Vietnam (1973)

PS: If you liked this article, please share it! You can also get our free newsletter, follow us on Facebook & Pinterest. Thanks for visiting and for supporting a small business! 🤩 


You might also like...

The fun never ends:

Comments on this story

Leave a comment here!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.