I had already been drafted out of graduate school, entering service Oct. 14, 1969, near the end of the pre-lottery draft. On Dec. 1, 1969, when the first drawing was held (after being announced Nov. 26, 1969) I probably was nearing the end of basic training in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and fearful that I would get an infantry assignment and face Vietnam service. The number 136 was assigned to my birthdate but by then it didn’t matter.
I do remember being suspicious prior to the lottery, and to this day, that those from prominent families and with connections to the local draft board and those with economic resources to fight induction seemed to escape the draft. I doubt that the lottery changed that much.
As an aside, I did not get an infantry assignment (and the stress level fell considerably). Rather I was designated for air defense artillery advanced training. I eventually ended up with a clerk assignment in Germany. So, with a bit of memory refreshment, the important numbers for me were my MOS (military occupation codes):
11B (infantry), which I luckily avoided.
16D (HAWK missile crew member), which was my advanced training assignment. Units were in Vietnam, Korea and Germany; I lucked out again being assigned to Germany. That probably was the end of most of my personal stress in relation to the likelihood of Vietnam service. But few in my age group escaped the angst of knowing that little separated them from the killing in Vietnam.
71A (clerk), my actual assignment in Germany as those who could type and run an office were quickly plucked from new arrivals rather than being sent to the field as air defense crew members.
S2: Security and intelligence, the office I ended up in in Germany. Part of my duties was physically filing and keeping track of documents from confidential to top secret. Some of the confidential documents pertained to security clearance disciplinary records for battalion members arriving from Vietnam. It was obvious from those records how traumatic the Vietnam service was for many, though few had been physically wounded.
As I look back, I can’t escape a little guilt and regret that I mostly lucked out as others were suffering Vietnam combat. At the same time I realize a toll I and others paid in stress and life disruption for serving during the war years despite no combat service.
I was happily discharged Sept. 18, 1971.