December first 1969, upwards of a million young men across America stare at their television screens. As an older gentleman begins to call out dates, many young men imagine their fate. Once the older man is done, millions of sighs are let out across the nation. However, many would see a low number and their heart would sink into their stomach.
Throughout the Vietnam War 27 million American men would come to be of draft age. This seems to be a large number and makes one think just how much of an effect the Vietnam War had on American society. But this number is deceptive, on top of all these people are the brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and friends that these individuals know. And suddenly the amount of people affected by the draft becomes much larger. In this sense (and many others) the draft helped make the Vietnam War more real in the minds of the American people.
The draft even effected the servicemen that volunteered. Enlistees in 1968 were comprised of about 54% of men that had volunteered simply due to draft pressure from having a low number. The logic was that if there’s a high chance that I will be drafted, I might as well volunteer and get some say in where I serve and possibly what my service is.
By its very nature the draft was something of permanence. It was something that stuck in your mind. The constant pressure of whether or not you or a family member would be called, building and gnawing, was something that made Americans very anxious. The draft deeply contributed to the reality of the war on the American home front. This reality was an image of stark death and chaos, consuming a poverty stricken nation in a supposedly just war. Fought, in part, by boys with forced patriotism burning in their hearts.
Working Class War by Christian G. Appy