40 Years Ago: October 1972 – The Draft Board

Since my draft number was so low (002), I thought I would be doing some sort of alternative service in 1973.

After getting a letter from the Selective Service, a/k/a, the draft board, indicating that I was reclassified 1-A (eligible for military service) over the summer, I filed an appeal. Though I was living in my college town of New Paltz, NY, I had to return to my hometown of Binghamton, NY.

There were three men on the draft board. The chairman said that his daughter talked about me all the time when we were in high school; I was president of student government and involved in the theater club, among other things. Did I remember her? I said, “Oh, yeah!” I had no idea who she was, at least by name, though maybe I would have recognized her by sight.

One guy said, after introducing himself, said absolutely nothing.

The third man was Garland Hamlin. This was a man I had known all my life. We attended the same church. His wife was organist at that church, and she had tried for about a year to teach me to play piano, so I had been in the Hamlin house dozens of times. I went to school with his two daughters. So I believe that he found it necessary to ask the toughest questions.

I know that he invoked Hitler. He wondered if a Hitler were attacking my mother what I would do. I said I would defend her, but that was different than initiating conflict by going to war.

Around the same time, I had to go for my military physical in Syracuse, NY, which I passed. even though I have a minor heart murmur which I’ve lived with since I was born; the doctor didn’t even notice until I had brought it to his attention.

It did take them a month to ascertain that I was moral enough to go to war. I was asked if had ever given money to a variety of groups, only two of which I had even heard of, the Communist Party of the USA and the Socialist Workers Party. I certainly spent some nominal amount on an antiwar button or two from the SWP, so I wrote yes re: them.

Finally, the word came from the draft board. I was reclassified 1-A-O, a conscientious objector available for noncombatant military service only. I’m sure it was vital that I had indicated my CO status when I had first registered for the draft a year and a half earlier. My thanks to Jean Hagopian, mother of my friend Amy, who was my informal draft counselor through this period.

Here’s the kicker, though. Since my draft number was so low (002), I thought I would be doing some sort of alternative service in 1973. But since the Vietnam war was winding down, and there were many older people whose temporary deferments had lapsed, they drafted NO ONE born in 1953 before the draft law ended on June 30, 1973. Moreover, on January 27, 1973, Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird announced the creation of an all-volunteer armed forces, negating the need for the military draft. So all of that rigamarole had been for nothing, as it turned out.

Those were interesting times.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

5 thoughts on “40 Years Ago: October 1972 – The Draft Board”

  1. I drew #025, and figured that as a 1-A, my number was effectively up. At the end of March ’72, I signed up for three plus three (active, then reserve).

    On the upside, nobody actually shot at me the whole time. 😉

  2. I recall the night they drew the lottery numbers. Not something you wanted to win back then. I remember several seniors brought to tears when they drew low numbers. I lucked out with a moderately high number and the draught ended just as I was graduating from college. My older brother wasn’t as quite lucky but ended up serving in Japan.

  3. My draft year was 1971, with a number of, I think, 137 (?). Anyhow, it was sufficiently low that I went for my draft physical in May. Even though I was (& am) very near-sighted, I was classified 1-A. I figured I was a goner, so I made contingency plans to join the Navy, picking submarines & nuclear-propulsion specialist, since there were no subs or reactors in Vietnam. Got up to the point of signing on the dotted line, & waited. They stopped 2 numbers short. After New Years day 1972, I dropped the whole idea.

  4. I remember those times, and the feeling of horror of you having a draft number of #2, and of relief when they pulled the draft lottery.

    Love you.

  5. What I think about these days is how the current wars would be conducted differently if we had a draft. Now that the only people who “serve” are those who “volunteer,” we have a very different calculus about the conduct of war. Volunteers are mostly working class kids who hope their service will get them access to a college education or a ticket out of their small town. Since middle class and rich kids don’t typically serve, politicians and war contractors don’t have to do much to “sell” their wars. We now seem to be in a cycle of endless wars, with no accountability. The toll on our society is immense, but few connect the dots to notice this. I appreciate your column!

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