During the late 1960’s, Johnson pushed for more troops to be sent to Vietnam. The main way that the military gained troops was through volunteers. Around two thirds of the men who served in the Vietnam War were there because they wanted to be. The final third of troops were acquired through the draft and by court orders. The Vietnam War draft was done in the fashion of a lottery. It was carried out by assigning a number to each day of the year. All 366 dates were mixed into a container from which they were randomly drawn. The date picked was then posted on a board showing the order that birthdays would be selected for the draft. Over 1.7 million men were selected for service this way over the course of the draft. Still, the government tried to find other ways to require that men enlist.
Due to this rising need for soldiers, the U.S. government attempted to acquire troops in almost any way possible. In “Born in the U.S.A.”, Springsteen sheds light on the fact that many eligible men who faced criminal charges were given the option of joining the military as an alternative to other forms of punishment. In the song he writes: “Got in a little hometown jam, So they put a rifle in my hand. Sent me off to a foreign land, To go and kill the yellow man.” While this technique of recruitment yielded greater volume of troops, the quality was much poorer. Most of the men enlisted because of criminal charges didn’t want to serve to begin with. Troops acquired this way caused problems for the military because many of them didn’t feel the same need to try since they were being forced to join.
Bruce Springsteen was one of the men drafted during the Vietnam War. Springsteen didn’t agree with the war and wanted to get out of enlistment. Springsteen made sure to fail his physical so that he wouldn’t have to join. Due to a concussion he had sustained, as well as a failed physical, Springsteen was deemed unfit for military service. Although Springsteen himself didn’t serve, he had friends who did. After losing friends in the war, Springsteen felt a need to expose some of the U.S. governments questionable decisions during this time.