Monday, August 26, 2013

Does Anybody Feel A Draft?

When we were in school and somebody said the word "draft", it wasn't because they felt a sudden rush of cold air. It meant getting that "Greeetings from United Sam" letter that was a prelude to a physical, and then possible induction into the armed forces.

In those days, students over 18 got deferrals if they were enrolled full time in college. But I can remember once when that almost didn't happen.....

I haven't told many stories on this Blog about being a Peabody student. But for my first two years in college (1969-1971), I was enrolled across 21st Avenue even though I spent a good bit of time on the Vandy campus, working at WRVU and taking what classes I could at Vanderbilt. I tranferred full time to VU in the fall of 1971.

I distinctly remember the fall of 1970, when suddenly all the men at Peabody started getting letters from their draft boards informing them they were under consideration to lose their 2S deferred status for the draft and might soon become re-classified 1A and at the top of the list (depending on their birth date) to begin the military induction process. I am pretty sure this was 1970, because in the fall of 1969 I wasn't yet 18 and therefore had not had to register for the draft.

Wow! What happened? Apparently somebody at Peabody had forgotten to fill out or send in the proper paperwork. That was soon corrected and college deferments continued although the military draft was already undergoing major changes that would see it basically disappear by the time we graduated in May, 1973......

On December 1, 1969 a lottery was held to determine the priority for who would be called for military service. Actually, it was two lotteries, one for day of the year (your birthday) and then for alphabetical order if that day was high (or low) enough for those on that date to be inducted.

There was no CNN or FOX NEWS in those days and no way to scrawl the selected numbers across the bottom of the TV screen. So everyone called and descended on WRVU because the station had a UPI wire machine which received all the lottery information by teletype.

To say the least the phone lines were jammed and people stood in line on the steps leading up to the studios waiting to find out what their number (or their boyfriend's number) was. We posted the list on the wall and tried to answer the phone.

We quit saying "WRVU" when we picked up the phone as people desparately just yelled out the month and day and we gave back the lottery number. That was followed by screams of joy or sorrow (sometimes it was hard to tell which) as then the line went dead and callers then went out to either celebrate or try and drown their sorrows (especially if your lottery number was between 1 and 195, which was expected to be the cutoff for possible inductions going forward if you became 1A).

Actually as the Vietnam War began to wind down, inductions became much less than that. The December, 1969 lottery did not actually include our class (men born in 1951). That came the next year in July, 1970. Of course, school had already ended for the term by then and we were home for the summer. So I don't remember much about that lottery, although I remember my number was 151 (December 13).

As the armed forces went more and more to volunteers, the lotteries were held for two more years but by 1973 no one was called up that way although I think we were still required by law to keep our draft registration cards on our person until age 35. I did, and I think I still have it somewhere in a dresser drawer at home.

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