On December 1 1969 at Selective Service National Headquarters in Washington, D.C a lottery was held. It was not the type of lottery that too many people wanted to win. There would be no cash involved. No fast cars or houses in the Hamptons, no luxury yachts or beautiful girls. This was the Draft Lottery. It’s purpose would be to decide which of the USA’s young men would be going to fight in Vietnam.
Previously America’s young men had been called up according to the oldest man first method. It was President Nixon who established the commission to find the best ways to establish the methods of recruitment for the Vietnam war. This culminated in the establishment of the Selective Service System on November 26, 1969.
The method of the selection was somewhat bizarre. It was made using blue plastic capsules containing the birth dates of the men of eligible age (18-26) and done manually. The draw was also a pretty big event, covered by radio and film and even televised live. The Draft Lottery was probably watched back then by as many people as watch the state lottery draws now. Then again it did have an effect on an awful lot of people all over the USA, not only prospective draftees, but mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives and girlfriends and children too. All watching and hoping. Hoping that their father, husband, son was not the one whose birth date would be drawn. The tension at that time in the average American household had to be intense.
The first capsule for the draft lottery, drawn by Congressman Alexander Pirnie of the House Armed Services Committee, contained the date September 14. Subsequently all men born on September 14 in any year between 1944 and 1950 were assigned draft lottery number 1. The draw continued until all days of the year had been paired with sequence numbers. This peculiar system of selection continued right up until the end of the Vietnam war in 1975
The last draft call was made on December 7, 1972, and the authority to induct expired on June 30, 1973. The date of the last drawing for the draft lottery was on March 12, 1975. Registration with the Selective Service System was suspended on April 1, 1975, and registrant processing was suspended on January 27, 1976.
Registration for the armed services was resumed in July 1980 for men born in 1960 and later, and is in effect to this day. American men are required to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday.
If you are interested to learn more about the men that were called up as a result of the Vietnam war draft lotteries, then you may want to pay a visit to: http://www.vietnamwardraftlottery.com/