Draft Lottery (Not the NBA)

Here’s another one to try to explain to your kids. On the night of December 1, 1969 every college campus in the country came to a standstill. This was night of the lottery which would determine where you would be going after graduation.  Included in this group were every male born from 1944 to 1950, all 850,000 of us. Each birthdate was assigned a number based on the lottery. These numbers indicated the order of those called for the draft. Those with a birth date assigned a number below 150 were almost certain that they would be drafted unless they enlisted before the draft notice came in the mail. Those with dates over 225 were equally assured that they would not be drafted and could go on with their lives.

It was those of us in the middle who were left in limbo as to what the future would bring. Many of us in this group were able to experience the military’s pre draft physical. I would guess this is what the first day of prison is like. Several hundred boys/men walking around in only their boxers. Everyone of them was trying to figure out what they could say or do to fail the physical. Certainly the “doctors” had heard it all before but it was a desperation move, anything for a 4-F. Going from station to station was exciting – turn your head and cough, read the eye chart, stand here while draw blood (they were dropping like flys at this one), bend over and spread ‘em etc. Certainly there is no way they will take me with my terrible eyesight and the high arches on my feet.

Two weeks later you receive the joyous news that you have been deemed physically fit to serve in the Army. Now what? Do I enlist? Canada doesn’t seem like a bad place, even though I’ve never been there. In spite of the fact that vocational interest survey gives me a 1 out of 75 for being a minister maybe I could get a deferment by entering the seminary. (The same survey gives me a 21 for a mortician and 34 for an army officer so you can see how being a minister ranks).

It appears the only real alternative is the National Guard. So I went down to sign up. The officer there told me I needed to take the same test I had taken at the physical but they could not use those results. I had to make an appointment to take the test the following week. I came in at the appointed time and he told me he could not give me the test because he had to attend a funeral. I took this as a sign that it was not meant to be. Actually, I chickened out.

The draft continued during the spring and summer and closed in on #150. My 176 was looking dicey. The previous year they had gone to 195.  But then the clouds parted and let the sun shine through. In August the draft law expired and Congress fought over renewing it.  They did not agree on a new law until early 1972. They then began drafting starting with #1 in the new year. Those of us who were in the 1971 draft were no longer eligible.  Now this was surely a sign. A sign of what I never did figure out. If the National Guard would have given me the test on the scheduled day I would have been in the Guard for 7 years.

For more information on the draft lottery:


Leave a Reply