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.
I 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.
So much for receiving a good conduct medal
Forty-three years ago today there was a party in our hooch which lasted into the wee hours of the night. After all, how often does a guy turn 21, and in Vietnam no less? I didn’t report for perimeter guard duty that night and it cost me an Article 15. For certain minor offenses, the military offers non judicial punishment – also known as NJP, Article 15.
PBR time in my AO…
Dave Roger, Tom Connell & Rob Struck
Charlie Troop Blues relaxing with a cold one after a hot day in the bush.
Mike Melton, Jim Debolt, Bob Porter, George Burns, Dave Parkhurst & Dave Roger
I don’t recall what my fine was, probable just a token amount of one months pay, if that. The bulk of my pay was sent home because Uncle Sam provided just about everything we needed. I remember paying $2.00 for a carton of KOOL Filters at the Phuoc Vinh PX. That’s right $2.00, which is a good indication of how cheap thing were back then. Upon landing in Vietnam, I was promoted to PFC (E-3-Private First Class). As an E-3 I drew approximately $65.00 overseas pay, $30.00 combat pay and with my basic rank pay of $200.00, my total pay came out to about $300.00 per month…
Compulsory Military Service
About 60% of eligible men escaped military service during the Vietnam era; I was not one of them. The summer of 1969 I received my induction papers from Uncle Sam.
The last military draft in the United States (U.S.) was during the Vietnam War and resulted in protests that helped engender anti-war sentiment. Though the government has not required military service since then, all men currently living in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 25 must register with the Selective Service System so that the government will have an idea of the population available in case the need for a draft in the future should arise.
Draft Board Classifications
The following is a list of Selective Service classifications
that could be assigned by draft boards:
A. Class I
1. I-A: available for military service
2. I-A-O: CO available for noncombatant military service
3. I-C: already in the military
4. I-D: reserve or ROTC
5. I-O: CO available for civilian work
6. I-S: student
7. I-W: CO performing civilian work
8. I-Y: other (catch-all classification)
B. Class II
1. II-A: Occupational deferment
2. II-C: Agricultural deferment
3. II-S: Student deferment
C. Class III
1. III-A: Extreme hardship, i.e. has a child or children
D. Class IV
1. IV-A: Prior active service or sole surviving son
2. IV-B: Official deferred by law
3. IV-C: Alien not currently liable for military service
4. IV-D: Minister of religion or divinity student
5. IV-F: Registrant not qualified for military service
E. Class V
1. V. Registrant over the age of liability for military service
The little-known protest of the Vietnam War staged from within the ranks of the military is explored in director David Zeiger’s 2005 revealing documentary. Despite the well-documented media coverage of Vietnam War protests that took place on college campuses across the nation, few people but the most ardent history buffs remain aware of the massive protests that flourished in U.S. barracks and military bases at home and abroad.
Sir! No Sir! A Film About The Gi Movement Against The War In Vietnam.
Back to the ‘World’
Although 26 March 1971 officially marked the end of duties in Vietnam for the 1st Cavalry Division, President Nixon’s program of “Vietnamization” required the continued presence of a strong U.S. fighting force.
My DEROS (Date of Expected Return from Overseas) was near so the first part of April, I transferred to Firebase Di An about 12 miles north of Saigon where I waited for my official orders to depart from Vietnam.
My final days in Vietnam were either uneventful or perhaps my mind shut down wanting to forget it all. I do not recall boarding the ‘Freedom Bird’ or where we flew out of, but I did take these pictures.
‘Freedom Bird’ leaving Vietnam taking us back to Oakland Army Base where the journey began.
I remember arriving at Oakland Army Base around midnight to process out of the Army. I thought back thirteen months earlier when I was processing for my entry to Vietnam. The men coming back looked burned out and lacked emotion. That night I understood why because that’s how I felt. Although we physically left Vietnam at the end of our tour of duty, the awesome experiences of combat had a profound and life long effect on all of us.
After receiving my last payment from ‘Uncle Sam’ (about seven-hundred bucks) I signed a bunch of papers, releasing me from active duty in the United States Army.
In the wee hours of the morning, a bus took a bunch of us to a nearby airport where I caught a flight to Los Angeles International Airport. There I boarded a non stop flight to Eppley Airfield in Omaha, where I would be greeted by my family. I recall the strange looks I got from people as I walked through the airport terminal at LAX carrying my war trophy.
My eyes closed as soon as I boarded my last flight and didn’t open until our approach into Eppley. I looked out the window and saw the Missouri River.
I was home at last…
Eppley Airfield Omaha, Nebraska where my parents, two of my brothers and girlfriend (now wife) waited for my arrival…