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Draft Card in an Old Cigar Box and Memories of a War Lottery

The law requires you to have this certificate on your personal possession at all times and to surrender it upon entering active duty in the Armed Forces.

The law requires you to notify your local board in writing within 10 days after it occurs, (1) of every change in your address, physical condition and occupational (including student), marital, family, dependency and military status, and (2) of any other fact which might change your classification.

Any person who alters, forges, knowingly destroys, knowingly mutilates or in any manner changes this certificate or who, for the purpose of false identification or representation, has in his possession a certificate to another [??], who delivers his certificate to another to be [??ed] for such purpose, may be fined not to succeed $10,000 or imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both.

Your Selective Service Number, shown on the reverse side, should appear on all communication with your local board. Sign this [??m] immediately upon receipt.

Local Board No. 30
Selective Service System
39 Federal Office Bldg
240 East 9th Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44199

The above is information printed on my Selective Service System Registration Certification. I was registered for the Selective Service System on September 6, 1966. My Registration Certificate was signed by Diane M. Beck. At the time I had blue eyes, brown hair, was 5ft 11in tall and weighed 150 pounds. My Selective Service Number was 33 30 48 360. My Selective Service System Notice of Classification was signed by Sallie Ferguson. On April 13 1972 my Classification was 1-H.

Classification 1-H meant: Registrant Not Subject to Processing for Induction. Registrant is not subject to processing for induction until a draft is enacted. All current registrants are classified 1-H until they reach the age of exemption, when they then receive the classification of 5-A.

I had had a college deferment, a 1-S(C) classification which meant: Student deferred by statute (College). Induction can be deferred either to the end of the student's current semester if an undergraduate or until the end of the academic year if a Senior. President Nixon’s Vietnam War Draft Lottery encouraged me to request my classification be changed from 1-S(C) to 1-H. (See Wikipedia)

I know all this because the other day I found my Registration Certificate and my Notice of Classification card in an old cigar box in the closet in my study. We called our Registration Certificate our Draft Card. Those were the days when the government “called up” young men to serve in the military for two years. From Wikipedia

The Selective Service System created by the 1940 Act was terminated by the Act of March 31, 1947, and the Selective Service Act of 1948 created a new and separate system, and is the basis for the modern system. All males 18 years and older had to register for Selective Service. All males between the ages of 19 to 26 were eligible to be drafted for a service requirement of 21 months. This was followed by a commitment for either 12 consecutive months of active service or 36 consecutive months of service in the reserves, with a statutory term of military service set at a minimum of five years total.

The Vietnam War changed all that too. On January 27, 1973, Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird announced the creation of an all-volunteer armed forces, thus ending 33 years of selective service, or what we all called The Draft.

Representative Alexander Pirnie (R-NY) The Nixon draft lottery took place when I was a junior in college on December 1, 1969. At that point I had my 1-S(C) college deferment. My cousin did not go to college and was “called up.” The evening the draft lottery took place he was fighting in Vietnam. Here’s how it worked: they put the date of each day of the year on a piece of paper and then placed them in plastic capsules. The capsules were but in a large class jar. Leading people in the nation then reached into the glass jar and pulled out a capsule, opened it up, and read the date inside. Each date was assigned a lottery number. (In future years the glass jar would become a large Plexiglas drum that could be turned with a handle just like on a TV game show.) The first date to be taken from the jar by Representative Alexander Pirnie (R-NY) was September 14th, which meant “all registrants with that birthday were assigned lottery number 1.”  That pretty much meant that young men born on September 14th were first in line to be drafted.

I was so offended by the whole game show lottery event that would determine the lives of thousands of men, me included, I refused to listen to it on the radio and instead went to the library to study. It was, of course, a foolish and futile protest. I couldn’t study. I was worried sick. I went back to the dorm and started listening with everyone else. When I got back to the dorm some man too old to be drafted was pulling the tenth date from the glass jar. This went on for what seemed like hours, all of us sitting around a radio waiting to hear our date of birth being announced along with its lottery number. I sat and listened. When the hundredth date was announced I started worrying, thinking maybe my birth date had been one of the first nine. I started asking guys what the first nine dates were, but, of course, no one knew. We were all just waiting for our birth dates to be announce. By the time we got to lottery number 250, I was really worried. At 300 I was panicking. As it turned out, my number was 352. No chance in hell, short of war with the Soviet Union, that I would be drafted. My roommate was 333. We put a sign on our door that read: I’m 333 and I’m 352. The next morning we found the sign with numerous burned holes in it. Two guys on our floor with numbers in the top ten actually left college. I have no idea where they went. Me? My girlfriend baked me a cake with the number 352 big and bold.

Sometime later, my cousin came home on leave. In a fit of guilt and burdened by the injustice of our situations, I told him I was going to volunteer for Vietnam. I looked at me like I was crazy. He described the war to me and ordered me to stay home and finish college. And so I did.

Copyright © 2014 Dale Rominger

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