Riza Uddin, 11th grade Student Historian
This washed out card with the title Service System Registration Certificate represents a young man with the name of Joseph Francis Corrigan, III who will need to fight in the Vietnam War along with the rest of the drafted men. The selective service number is 36, 6, 42, 825. Through the card we learn a great deal about Mr. Corrigan; his place of birth is recorded as Pittsburgh, PA. His eye color (blue) and hair color (blond), height (6 ft) and weight (185). An obvious physical characteristic is recorded as a “scar above right eye – on eyebrow.” The predicted draft date was November 25, 1960. There is a signature on the bottom of the card from the local board clerk. Joseph signature appears on the side of the card. Another noticeable detail is the words “this is to certify that in accordance with the selective service law” stating that this is an official government document.
This card documents an official draftee. Being a draftee meant that you were forced to serve two to three years in the military. The Vietnam War was such a huge war that the government drafted more men than ever before. As young men graduated from high school, all males were subjected to the draft and had to register. The exception to this is if they had a medical condition or were attending college. Draft notices would commonly summons men who were not enrolled in college. While the draft was supposed to be universal, it often targeted people of color and the working class, and one could be drafted from the age 18 to 35 causing controversy. While some believed that it was the duty of U.S citizens to serve the country others argued that the government forcing registered men into the war was unfair and unjust. People would attempt to avoid being drafted by staying in school or moving to Canada. Hundreds of thousands of young men and women across the country gathered in rally’s and burned draft cards as an act of rebellion against the draft.
There are opportunities for conscientious objectors to complete alternative service. Beginning during World War II, the United States drafted Quakers, who refused to serve in War due to their religious beliefs, to do alternative service. Alternative service during the Vietnam War might include helping the Vietnamese people by providing them food and opening schools for them. This allowed young American men to serve their country while still holding onto their core values.
While people rebelled against the draft, there were those who supported the war and the draft. Veterans of the Vietnam War often do agree with the draft, arguing that the draft places people in situations where they have to help others and it is a duty of the people to help their country. Drafting also strengths the army as there are more variety of people who are educated. During the Vietnam War, older and more experienced individuals were drafted whereas now the majority of the soldiers serving are fresh out of high school and come from lower-income backgrounds.
The information written on this card is important. It recorded obvious physical characteristics, which if the draftee were wounded or killed in action would be used to identify his body. They would identify him by the feature that Joseph wrote; scar above right eye. This card symbolizes the hardships during that time as well as the controversy that followed it. Today the draft does not exist, rather the military is made up of brave volunteers.
Barbara Chiminello interview by Alliyah Nkrumah, Michael Rasin, Luis Reyes, and Madeleine Watts. July 26, 2017, The Vietnam War Oral History Project, New-York Historical Society, New York, New York.
Don Fedynak interview by Riza Uddin, Ben Ginsburg, Angelica Pomar, Jasmine Balderas, Josie Tavera. August 1, 2017, The Vietnam War Oral History Project, New-York Historical Society, New York, New York
Douglas Hostetter interview by Benjamin Wynter, Alexi Kaur Sandhu, George Schouten, Brianna Broderick. July 19, 2017, The Vietnam War Oral History Project, New- York Historical Society, New York, New York
“Draft Cards,” Selective Service System, Official Site Of The United States Government. Accessed August 10, 2017. https://www.sss.gov/About/Return-to-the-Draft/Draft-Cards.
Ed Blanco, interview by Sumin Chen, Aisha Martino, James Kunz, Soliman Aboutaam. July, 19 2017, The Vietnam War Oral History Project, New- York Historical Society, New York, New York.