Bearing in mind that as it’s been nearly 50 years, and as I kept no written record of the details of my experience with the draft, what I recount below is accurate to the best of my knowledge. When I registered for the draft in 1966, my draft board was located in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1969, I was living in Montana and had an occupational deferment that would expire in either November or December of 1970. The first lottery was held on December 1, 1969 and my lottery number was 211. I had no idea whether that number would be called up, but in any event, since I had that occupational deferment through November or December 1970, I was not particularly concerned. Also, at that time, I had assumed I would be able to renew my deferment for another year. At some point in 1970, however, I visited the local draft board in Missoula for some information. The woman staffing the office inquired about my birthdate and when I told her it was January 31 (#211), she told me that there was virtually no chance that #211 would be subject to an induction notice during the lottery year! I told her I had an occupational deferment and I thought that since I was not I-A at the time of the lottery I would have to wait until my deferment expired at which time I would be reclassified I-A and then be subject to the next lottery. She told me I was mistaken; I could simply request my Cleveland draft board to reclassify me I-A and she encouraged me to do so. Even with her assurance I found this hard to believe and questioned whether I was getting the “straight skinny,” Still, I decided to take her advice and the Cleveland draft board reclassified me I-A. Shortly thereafter, I got called for my pre-induction physical, which I passed. At that point the draft calls were still proceeding down the lottery numbers, and I was naturally still sweating the outcome of my reclassification and whether the Missoula draft board staff had it right. I forgot how long I was in lottery limbo, before I hear the 1970 draft quota for 1970 had been met with the number 195! What a relief, I could get on with my life. There but for the grace of God went I.
I had been opposed to the war since 1963 as junior in high school. I grew up in a military family, the son of an Air Force fighter pilot and veteran of WWII. Until my junior year in high school, my Plan A had been to get an appointment to the USAF Academy, if I could, but listening to a lecture one evening in 1963 by a high-ranking South Vietnamese military officer about the Strategic Hamlet program (forced relocation of civilians) was what convinced me that the U.S. and its citizens had no business fanning the flames in Vietnam. Still, even now I have survivor’s guilt that I stayed relatively safe in America, while others of my generation were being wounded and killed on foreign soil.