Author: Susan H. Davis
Unit Title: Vietnam War
Lesson Title: Impact of the Draft during the Vietnam War
Subject: United States History
Level: 11th Grade
The Vietnam War was one of the most controversial and opposed wars this country has ever fought. It divided the nation and a protest movement began. The “hawks” led by Senator Barry Goldwater (Rep), wanted a military victory to hold communism. The “doves”, led by Senator George McGovern (Dem.) demanded the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam in order to spare the lives of young American men. When President Johnson doubled the draft calls, protesters staged “sit-ins” and “draft card burning” events. Evading the draft was on many young men minds as the average age of the American G.I. in Vietnam was 19 years of age. Many protesters of this war were young people and college students. This lesson examines how the draft during the Vietnam War affected American society. Students will understand the lottery system used to draft young men, the choices available to the young men drafted, and the consequences of their choices. The possibility of the draft may face students, even today. Part of this lesson will contain comparison of Vietnam era draft laws with today’s laws.
This is a one-day lesson of a larger unit on the Vietnam War. Students need background information about the causes of the Vietnam War and why LBJ escalated the war before this lesson is taught. This lesson will introduce the students to the opposition of the Vietnam War on the home front.
In this lesson, students will examine primary documents that will help them determine the positive and negative aspects of the choices available to young men of draft age. They will analyze charts, songs, articles, and letters to help them understand the impact of the draft on young men during the Vietnam War.
Students will be able to compare and contrast the laws, penalties, and exemptions of the Selective Service System of the Vietnam era and of today.
Students will be able to analyze the choices that faced young Americans drafted during the Vietnam War.
Standard 9.0: The Twentieth Century, a Changing World: 1945 to 1990: Students understand the shift of international relationships and power as well as the significant developments in American culture.
Benchmark Standard: 9.12.9 Describe the causes, course, character, and effects of the Vietnam war, including; draft and lottery
In Class Student Activities:
- Students will analyze a lottery draft chart of 1968 and determine what their lottery number might have been based on their birth date (10 minutes)
- Students will understand the lottery system and why the draft was necessary in the Vietnam War based on teacher lecture. (10 minutes)
- Students and teacher will brainstorm the possible choices that a young adult of draftee age might select.(15 minutes)
- Teacher will assign and place students in small groups of 3 in the following areas based on the brainstorming session.
- Flee to Canada
- Enlist into the military
- File as a conscientious objector
- File for a student deferment
- File for a medical or other deferment Take the chance and be drafted
- Refuse to report to the draft board
Each group will then analyze the primary sources provided by the teacher and develop a short presentation of 3 minutes and explain to the rest of the class the pros and cons of that choice. The students will place their findings on an overhead and present this to the class. (15 minutes for researching and 15 minutes for class presentations).
- Students will create a propaganda poster that will reflect their decision regarding the draft. (20 minutes)
Describe/Identify primary source:
- Chart of Vietnam War casualties by military Service from the Dept. of Defense
- Chart of Vietnam War deaths by age from Dept. of Defense
- Article from Canadian TV broadcasting on the Waves of U.S. immigration to Canada-1964-1977
- Article from U.S. News about Muhammad Ali and the draft
- Bill Clinton’s Letter to Col Eugene Holmes about the draft
- Laws regarding failure to register and report to the draft board from the Selective Service System
- Charts of the lottery from Vietnam in 1968-1973 from the Selective Service System
- Photograph of a draft card from the National Archives
- Supreme Court decision Rostker v Goldberg regarding females registration for the draft
- Law regarding age and the draft from the SSS
- Law regarding Surviving Sons and the draft from SSS
- Law regarding Marriage and Fatherhood on draft eligibility from SSS
- Chart on number of men drafted from 1917 – 1973 from SSS
- Law pertaining to Conscientious Objection and Alternative Service from SSS
- Letters written by Vietnam soldiers during the war.
- Song and words to Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater
Extended Enrichment Materials:
Students will listen to two Vietnam veterans’ experiences of the war.
Students will write a poem or song about the Vietnam War and include a picture of the Vietnam experience.
• Article from Canadian TV broadcasting on the Waves of U.S. immigration to Canada-1964-1977 http://www.tv.cbc.ca/national/pgminfo/border/waves.html
• Chart of Vietnam War casualties by military Service from the Dept. of Defense
• Chart of Vietnam War deaths by age from Dept. of Defense
• Article from U.S. News about Muhammad Ali and the draft
• Bill Clinton’s Letter to Col Eugene Holmes about the draft
• Laws regarding failure to register and report to the draft board from the Selective Service System http://www.afsc.org/youthmil/html/news/may00/resist_prt.htm
• Charts of the lottery from Vietnam in 1968-1973 from the Selective Service System
• Photograph of a draft card from the National Archives
• Photograph of a Registration Certificate (Download image)
• Supreme Court decision Rostker v Goldberg regarding females registration for the draft http://www.americanhistory.anc-clio.com/liberary/searches/searchdisplay.aspx?entryid=25
• Law regarding age and the draft from the SSS
• Law regarding Surviving Sons and the draft from SSS
• Law regarding Marriage and Fatherhood on draft eligibility from SSS
• Chart on number of men drafted from 1917 – 1973 from SSS
• Law pertaining to Conscientious Objection and Alternative Service from SSS
• Song and words to Fortunate Son by Credence Clear Water http://www.ntl.matrix.com.br/pfilho/html/lyrics/f/forutnate_son.txt
• Letters written by soldiers while they were in Vietnam. Lewis, Jon E. War Diaries and Letter; Life on the Battlefield in the Words of the Ordinary Soldier. New York; Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1998.
• NA, We refused to go: The Anti-War Movement in Canada and the US. (television clip), (Canadian Broadcast Corp: October 23, 1967) • Fogerty, J.C.( Creedence Clearwater Revival) Fortunate Son (song) (Fantasy Records: 1969)
• Department of Defense: Vietnam War: U.S. Deaths by Age (chart), Directorate for Information Operations: April 4, 1973)
• Department of Defense: Vietnam War: US Casualties By Military Service (chart) Directorate for Information Operations: 2003)
• U.S. News World and Report: Muhammad Ali-He fought with his fists..and his words (article) (U.S. News.com: Feb. 8, 2003)
• Bill Clinton to Colonel Holmes: (Draft Letter) (Oxford University, Great Britain: Dec. 3, 1969)
• Supreme Court of the United States: Rostker v. Goldberg, 453 U.S. 57 (1981).
• Selective Service System (fact sheets: updated 2000):
- Men Cannot Register After Reaching Age 26
- Effects of Marriage and Fatherhood on Draft Eligibility
- Conscientious Objection and Alternative Service
- Result from Lottery for Men Facing the Draft in 1972, 1971, 1970, 1969, 1968
• Department of Selective Service, form 2: Registration Certificate, (draft card) (Washington D.C. revised 6/9/41) National Archives
• Lewis, Jon E. War Diaries and Letter; Life on the Battlefield in the Words of the Ordinary Soldier. New York; Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1998.
The completion of a poster that shows understanding of the Vietnam Era draft choices.
A poem or song that reflects the effects of the draft on young adults.
The understanding of today’s draft laws and laws of the Vietnam era.