Vietnam Selective Service Lottery


“Uncle Sam”

The summer of 1969 I got my induction papers from “Uncle Sam.” I think it read “I Want You.” I had orders to enter the United States Army on September 2, 1969. That letter didn’t surprise me one bit. I knew it was inevitable. Just because I got drafted into the Army didn’t necessarily mean Vietnam duty. Some men got orders for Korea, Germany or other duty station after training.

I was informed to report to Fort Polk, Louisiana for basic training. That’s when I knew Vietnam was in my future.

The Military Selective Service Act of 1967 expanded the years of the draft to the ages of 18 to 35. It still granted student deferments but ended them upon either the student’s completion of a four-year degree or his 24th birthday, whichever came first. There was also an exemption from the draft for married men between the ages of 19 and 26. That may have had an impact on the rise of teenage couples getting married in the sixties. Moving up to Canada to avoid the draft  (draft dodgers) also became popular. On January 21, 1977, President Jimmy Carter, on his first day in office, fulfilled a campaign promise by granting unconditional pardons to hundreds of thousands of men who had evaded the draft during the Vietnam War by fleeing the country or by failing to register.


In 1972, Curtis Tarr spins a plexiglass drum holding capsules with the birth dates and orders for men born in 1953 at the beginning of the fourth annual Selective Service lottery in Washington. (Charles W. Harrity / Associated Press)

On December 1, 1969, the Selective Service System of the United States conducted two lotteries to determine the order of call to military service in the Vietnam War for men born from 1944 to 1950. These lotteries occurred during “the draft”—a period of conscription, controlled by the President, from just before World War II to 1973.

The lottery numbers assigned in December 1969 were used during calendar year 1970 both to call for induction and to call for physical examination, a preliminary call covering more men.

vietnam-lottery-draft-december-1-1969I received my draft notice three months before the draft lottery went into effect on December 1, 1969. Looking at this chart, my lottery number would have been 69.






Filed under Vietnam War

15 responses to “Vietnam Selective Service Lottery

  1. Bill Hipple

    Got a kick out of it when I heard I probably wouldn’t be drafted, while sitting in the EM club at the 31st Engr Bn HQ, Phouc Vinh (#335).

  2. Charles Wheeler C Trp 69-70 Lift-Scouts

    My mother sent me MY draft notice when I WAS IN Vietnam. Talk about left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.

  3. Kim

    Love the details about the legislation to expand the draft age. I never knew that and found it sad and interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Al WAY

    Oh yes, we graduated from Iowa in February 69..and Al left for the service the following June..and the rest is history! Date: Sat, 2 Jan 2016 22:05:56 +0000 To:

  5. Thomas Keating

    There is a facebook page called, which has a lot of information about guys like us who served. Check it out. Tom Keating, HQ, HQ Co., 1st Logistical Command, 1969-1970.

  6. Arthur J. Kent

    I had heard of the lottery. My number would have been 310. I passed through Phouc Vinh on my way to Cambodia. I was in C 1/5 and later E 1/5. We were at “The City” and FSB David and later worked out of FSB Nancy. We had a guy from Waterloo with us – good people! Thanks for letting me see the photos and blog – I did not keep anything

  7. Tommy Wilson

    Induction was 6/13/69 Jacksonville Fl. Induction was at NAS JAX and the on to Ft Jackson SC the same day.

    • Arthur Kent

      I remember that well. I was drafted/inducted about that time at the same place and on to Ft. Jackson for Basic and AIT. Sure was different than the reception center at Jackson. I remember we dropped some guys off at Paris Island on the way.

  8. Shirley Saltarelli

    Thank you for the details of the draft.

    I graduated HS in 1971 and remember the draft and how it affected guys I knew.
    I was just trying to explain about the draft to my 28 yr old son. I could remember a few details, but your blog fills it in.

    Thank you for your service .🇺🇸

  9. Harald Lohn

    Received an “early out” from the Army in 1969 to go to graduate school. At school while watching the draft lottery I almost fainted – my lottery number was 1 (September 14)

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