To celebrate Ken Burns’ newest documentary, “The Vietnam War,” PBS and USAToday have created a Vietnam War Draft Lottery calculator. Simply enter your birth month and day to find out if you would have been drafted for wartime service in Vietnam.

Check Out USAToday’s Draft Number Calculator.

The calculator, of course, does not use your birth year because many of us were born well after the Vietnam War. For those born in 1950, however, being drafted in 1970 was a very real prospect. In today’s all-volunteer military, the idea of someone being forced into that lifestyle change can seem very bizarre. Most of the men who rotated through the country were volunteers, but a significant number were not.

Read: 17 Wild Facts About the Vietnam War > 

Unlike World War II, there were no lines to sign up for service. And unlike the Civil War, there was no paying a substitute to take your place. But still, the perception existed that with money and connections, someone could avoid serving. So in an effort to make the draft more fair (or appear fair), a lottery was put in place.

Draft age men were assigned a number between 1 and 366, depending on their birthday. The lowest numbers were called first. This was all entirely at random.

Of course, that didn’t stop some of those who were called to service from further avoiding Selective Service. Some went to college or graduate school or faked medical conditions, while others fled to Canada. In all, half a million Americans dodged their Vietnam War service.

They were fugitives until 1977 when President Jimmy Carter ordered a general amnesty. Deserters, however, were not given amnesty.

Carter pardoned draft dodgers the day after his inauguration.

Related: 11 Ways People Dodged the Vietnam War Draft >

Ken Burns’ film recalls the accounts of more than 100 witnesses to the war in what he calls a “360-degree narrative.” The 10-part, 18-hour  documentary “The Vietnam War” is available for streaming on PBS. It began airing on Sept. 17, 2017.

 

2020-01-31T14:55:14-04:00

2 Comments

  1. STERLING SLOAN August 24, 2019 at 17:30 - Reply

    I iwas drafted on june 28th 1966 sent to ft bliss, IT WAS LIKE OUT OF THAT MOVIE FULL METAL JACKET. ONLY WORSE,I WAS ALREADY A PACIFIST. TASTED TO MUCH OF THE MILITARY DARK SIDE.I WITNESSSED SUICIDE,SADISTIC ABUSE,BROKEN BACKS, SIX MONTHS LATER MY D.I WAS FOUND HALF BEATEN TOI DEATH IN A BASE GUTTER.SO NOW I ,MWORKING OA BOOK BUT I TRY TO PRESENT A BALANCED VIEW OF THAT ERA.JSUT THE SAME.hOW EVER ,MY CONCLUSION IS.#1 ON THE WHOLE,CAREER MILITARY COME FROM A MUCH DIFFERENT MINDSET.ALMOST LIKE IN THEIR MILITRAY DNA.wHILE WAS RAISED IN A WHOLY PASIFIST LIFESTYLE.MY NO MILITRY AT ALL.fOR IN APRIL 67 I FACED COURT MARSHALL AN LEAVENWORTH FOR REFUSAL TO GO TO NAM.YET BY MUD MAY 67 I WAS AT OAKLAND ARMY TERMINAL FACING BEING SENT OVER.OR FLEE TO CANADA OR PRISON, BUT THE BASE GENERAL ASSISNED ME TO BE HIS SUBSTITUTE GENERAL BY PROXY aBOUT THE DRAFT/VONUTEER CONTROVESY? I HAVE A UNIQUE INSIGHT ON IT I NEVER READ ABOUTBEFORE IT WILL BE IN MY BOOK TOO.

  2. Maximino January 31, 2020 at 15:13 - Reply

    I volunteer in July 1973 at the age of eighteen and after the draft. Many of my cousins, friends and neighbors were drafted and few came back in a coffin.

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