Going to The University of North Carolina and The 1972 Vietnam War Draft Lottery

By February 2, 1972 I was into the routine of being a 2nd semester freshman at the University of North Carolina. That particular Wednesday was no different than any other day. I got up, showered, dressed and headed off to classes, which started at eight that morning. It was cold and rainy but there was nothing else to indicate this day would be any different than any other day.

That afternoon when I got back to Graham Dorm the first thing I noticed was everyone standing around in the halls talking. As soon as I walked in a couple of my friends came over and asked me, “Have they drawn your number yet?” I remember replying, “Number, what number?” When I was at UNC we did not have television sets in our rooms and I seldom listen to the radio, except for music, so I had very little information and no idea what was going on in the world. Lonnie, my next door neighbor, laugh and replied, “Your draft number you big DA. They are drawing the draft numbers now.”

The Vietnam War was in full swing and one of the rites of passage every male had to do when they turned 18 years old was to register with the Selective Service Board and be available to be drafted into military service if needed. In 1969 the method of selection was change to a lottery drawing and the first was held on December 1, 1969.

In a large glass container 365 (366 in a leap year) blue capsules, each containing a birth date, were mixed up and randomly drawn by hand and assigned an “order-of-call” number. The first date drawn was assigned the number one and so on until all 365 number and dates were matched.

The lottery drawing held on February 2, 1972 was for all men born in the year 1953 and would be used to determine the order they would be called drafting services to report to a military induction center during the year of 1973. The first date drawn that year was March 6 and it was assigned the number one. The second date was March 7 and the third date was August 3.

The entire lottery was covered by radio, film, and had TV coverage. As each capsule was pulled and opened, the dates were posted in order. It was a long slow process closely monitored by the media and political officials to insure it was totally random.

The lower your number the more likely you were to be drafted. The call-up during the previous lottery years had reached between 95 and 195. If you had a low number you would soon be wading in rice paddies in Vietnam.

Once I heard the lottery was taking place panic set in and all I could see was my big butt standing waste deep in a rice paddy being shot at. There was never a thought about not going and running to Canada as some did, I knew if my number was low I would serve. As I calmed down I remembered my plan. By 1972 there were no deferments for college students so if I had a low number

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