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It’s a cold December night in 1957 and a young man receives a military draft notice
calling him to serve in the United States Army.
At 22 years old he has a promising future ahead of him, and at such a young age he is
already successful, but he knows that his career will have to be put to the side as
this draft notice is not a request to serve, but an order.
It may be hard to imagine, but this young man was none other than Elvis Presley who
served in the U.S. Army for nearly three years before being honorably discharged and continuing
one of the most famous music careers in history.
But what would have happened if Elvis stood up to the U.S. Army in 1957 and threw away
his draft notice to continue his music career?
What if you received a draft notice today and didn’t answer the call to duty?
In this episode of the Infographics Show we explore the question, “what happens if you
dodge the draft?”
Let’s travel back to the 1950s when the draft was still being implemented, and millions
of men like the King of Rock were subject to being called up.
Following a few short years of peace after the end of World War II, the U.S. found itself
embroiled in another international conflict commonly referred to as the Korean War.
While a passive military draft was in effect, the United States government was on edge as
international threats felt closer to home thanks to nuclear weapons.
This is one reason why the United States government felt it necessary to ramp up their efforts
in increasing the size of the military.
It is no surprise then that Congress passed the Universal Military Training and Service
Act in 1951 which required all men aged 18 to 26 to register for the draft.
For men that didn’t even want to serve in the military in the first place, being pulled
away against their will was incredibly terrifying!
Can you imagine leaving home and halting your life at the demand of the U.S. government?
Even someone as famous as Elvis Presley, despite passionate protests from his fans, could not
escape this requirement.
As a result, according to the U.S. Justice Department, over 80,000 men attempted to dodge
the draft from 1950 to 1953 during the Korean War, but it wasn’t until the Vietnam War
in the 60’s that dodging the draft became well documented and increasingly punished.
According to global researchers, over 570,000 men were classified as “draft offenders”
by the U.S. Justice Department during the 1960s when the Vietnam War became increasingly
To put that number into perspective, that’s basically the entire population of Wyoming!
It’s important to keep in mind though that of those 570,000 men, only 210,000 were formally
accused of “dodging the draft” and of those 210,000, only 3,250 men were jailed.
That means that less than 2% of accused “draft dodgers” were significantly punished according
to these statistics.
That seems like an awfully low percentage when you consider that “dodging the draft”
is classified as a felony crime.
In fact, you have better odds of being asked to “come on down!” on the Price is Right.
So why does it seem like the consequences of “dodging the draft” are so low?
It turns out that there are many creative ways to “dodge the draft” and avoid doing
the time for the crime.
According to researchers, some of those men drafted to serve the U.S. military in the
Vietnam War avoided service through a number of outrageous, but perfectly legal means including
emigrating to Canada, purposefully failing their physicals, and even becoming missionaries.
In fact, in what was possibly a regrettable interview for the Free Press, American singer,
Ted Nugent, allegedly admitted that he stopped all personal hygiene and made sure to urinate
and defecate on himself before his physical just to avoid serving in the Vietnam War.
Can you imagine being the physician that had to examine him?!
Perhaps unsurprisingly, his stunt allegedly worked!
According to Nugent in this interview, he was successfully able to defer his service.
While he probably made a physician second-guess their career choices, perhaps it was for the
best that Nugent did not serve in the Vietnam War as he is reported to have said, “The
men who went should be applauded, but if I would have gone over there, I'd have been
killed, or I'd have killed all the hippies in the foxholes...I would have killed everybody.”
It is worth noting that the facts behind this story are extremely controversial, but if
true, this would definitely make for one of the most interesting draft dodging stories
in U.S. history!
Like Ted Nugent’s story, we will never truly know the full extent to which men “dodged
the draft,” but needless to say, men were highly motivated to do just about anything
to avoid serving in the military or serving time in jail.
Flash forward to present day, some may be surprised to know that while a draft does
not exist in the United States today, young men are still required to register as if one
existed or could exist in the future.
Men between the ages of 18 and 25 are still required to register into what is called the
Selective Service System which is essentially a backup plan in case a draft needs to take
place, and not registering can have some pretty big consequences including lack of access
to federal loans, not being able to apply for government jobs, and in some states - they
even forbid you from getting a driver’s license!
The reality today is that dodging the draft is not the issue, but dodging the registration
for the draft is, and it’s a harsh reality that many young men are living with.
One young man in particular, Danieldevel Davis, found himself in a situation where he did
not register for the Selective Service between the ages of 18 and 25.
He was in various foster homes and prisons when he was younger and didn’t even know
that he had to register for the Selective Service until he came face-to-face with an
opportunity to turn his life around.
Tragically, when he finally had the opportunity to go to college, he found out that he was
unable to because he could not apply for a federal student loan due to his lack of registration
into the Selective Service.
He said quote, “as far as the Selective Service goes, I don’t feel as though I should
I am someone trying to rehabilitate myself and go to school.”
Davis is currently trying to build a legal case, but it’s quite clear that not registering
for the Selective Service has already taken a toll on his life.
We imagine that some of our fans may be double checking their Selective Service registrations
Beyond punishing young men for not registering into a military draft system that does not
actively exist, there is significant controversy surrounding if women should have to register
into the Selective Service System.
As recent as February 2019, a federal judge ruled that banning women from Selective Service
registration is unconstitutional.
This is not a new thought though as even President Eisenhower was quoted in 1948 on the issue
of women being drafted saying, “I am convinced that in another war they have got to be drafted
just like men.
I am convinced of that.”
Will we see young women have to register for the Selective Service just like men in our
Or could involuntary military service be abandoned altogether because of the negative impact
it has on people like Danieldevel Davis?
These are questions that may have to be answered soon as global politics seemingly become more
Let us know in the comments what you think about the draft!
What would you do to “dodge the draft?”
Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe.
See you next time!