Draft Resistance in the Vietnam Era

Some Different Types of Draft Resisters

During wars prior to Vietnam that the U.S. fought in the 20th century, there was not much talk of draft "evasion" or "resistance." If a young man did not want to fight, he would seek a deferment by getting a defense-related job. Just being a student was not enough to keep him from being called to fight during World War II, unless he was studying a "defense- related" field, such as Japanese or Nuclear Physics. During the induction process, a few young men would fail the physical exam, due to bad eyes or low height, and would "feel ashamed as `unfit' to fight." Also, WW II was considered a "just" war; the U.S. was justifiably responding to the aggression of Germany and Japan.

We've seen how the World War II era men, for the most part, were proud to be able to go off and fight for their country, and that a young man who failed his army physical would often feel ashamed. Also, due to the "just" nature of the conflict, there was no protest to the actions of the United States military, who were seen as the defenders, not the aggressors. Now, we will examine the types of resistance used by men during the Vietnam era.

To avoid being drafted to fight in Vietnam, young men in America could choose from four basic types of draft evasion:

  1. Ethical Deferment
  2. Un-Ethical Deferment
  3. Conscientious Objection
  4. Full Resistance
Normal, healthy 18-year-olds were classified as I-A, which means they were available for military service. A young man was required by law to register for the draft within five days of his eighteenth birthday. After registering, the Selective Service System would assign him a classification, using the following codes:
                      Classification of Inductees

       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

You may now continue on with Reasons for Resistance, return to the Introduction, or skip ahead to the Conculsion.