Draft Resistance in the Vietnam Era

Number of Draft Resisters

The Vietnam War era produced unprecedented numbers of war resisters. If we examine the ratio of objector exemptions to actual inductions (per 100 inductions), we see very low numbers: World War I was 0.14 and World War II was 0.15. However, in the Vietnam years, these numbers went up, reaching 25 in 1970, and over 130 in 1972. This means that toward the end of the Vietnam War, conscientious objector (CO) exemptions reached previously unthinkable proportions. In 1972, more young men were exempted from the draft than were inducted into the armed services.

The following chart illustrates the growth of legal objections:

                                          Ratio of Objector Exemptions
                                                to Actual Inductions
              Year/War                          (per 100 Inductions)
              World War I                             0.14
              World War II                            0.15
              1966                                    6.10
              1967                                    8.11
              1968                                    8.50
              1969                                   13.45
              1970                                   25.55
              1971                                   42.62
              1972                                  130.72
              1973                                   73.30
Another indication of the rapid increase of CO during the Vietnam war was the fact that, in 1966, whereas about 200 CO's were completing their two-year civilian service each month, twice that number were embarking on it. In addition to the many men who worked with the government to obtain the legal conscientious objector exemption, there were thousands of men who resisted the draft. Such refusal to cooperate with the Selective Service System was illegal, and it led to the indictment of over 20,000 men for draft law violations.

The human tidal wave of all these resisters and objectors, each one protesting the Vietnam war, was much larger than any anti-war movement in the United States for the other wars of the 20th century.

You may now continue to Types of Resisters, go back to the Introduction, or skip ahead to the Conculsion.