When the lottery was announced, I was in Hong Kong, where I had gone to high school and where I had registered for the SSS at the U.S. Consulate and was appointed to Local Board 100 (Foreign). I was working as a photographer, my first job out of UNC. I was pretty busy and didn’t pay much attention to it.
In April of 1970 I was hired by UPITN to be a cameraman and soundman in Vietnam, so off I went to Saigon, with a Dutch cameraman and an English reporter to make combat footage for the News At Ten on British TV. It was quite interesting and there was not much combat until the U.S. invaded Cambodia. We worked mostly in the Fish Hook area with the 25th Infantry, traveling in and out of Cambodia by APC and chopper, with occasional trips back to Saigon and the peace of the Continental Palace Hotel to wash off the red dirt and eat 3 proper meals a day.
On one of those R&R trips, my draft notice caught up with me, forwarded to me by my wife, who had stayed in Hong Kong, so I began writing my appeal for Conscientious Objection. Though I was offered asylum and a job with the CBC in Canada, I felt that I didn’t want to never be able to go back to the farm in Virginia that had been in our family since 1740. Or New York for that matter, or San Francisco, etc. I had just turned 25 years old.
On the back of my ID card issued by the Military Assistance Command Vietnam, my assimilated rank /grade was Major and my religion was Quaker. Though I was never really a practicing Quaker, I felt strongly about their principles and had occasionally attended meetings in Hong Kong, where one of my uncles was the head of the American Friends Services Committee. Another uncle was assistant dean to William Sloan Coffin at Yale. I come from a family of missionaries, State Department and CIA, and the general trend throughout the family is philosophical thoughtfulness with no animosity for those who held different opinions.
I wrote a long paper and sent it to 100(Foreign) in Washington and went back to doing my job in Cambodia. Towards the end of May, the board wrote that my application had been denied and that I was to report immediately to Washington for induction. I informed the board that I wished to lodge an appeal and prepared to travel back to the USA.
My wife and I took our own time returning to the USA, via Thailand, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Yugoslavia, Italy, Switzerland, France and finally Belgium, all by land, mostly by hitching rides. All in all about four months. Life on the road was so interesting that I barely remember thinking about the draft until we touched down in New York.
To end a long story, when I went to the board for my final appeal, they told me that my appeal had been granted, because my letters of support had arrived. In addition to letters from my uncles, including the CIA officer who had spent 1963-1965 in Saigon as #2 in the company, I received support from the presidents of Dow, Atlas and Hercules Chemical companies, and I am convinced that it was the letters from those huge defense contractors that did the trick.
I spent two years working in Washington as a still photographer for Environmental Action, the nice people who started Earth Day in April 1970 and worked as a photographer there until the end of the Vietnam War before moving back to Asia in 1975. I haven’t picked up a movie or TV camera since and have had a good career as a professional photographer, mainly working for Time Magazine in Asia and the Middle East. You can see my work at http://www.robinmoyer.com.