Resistance to Military Service

March 20, 1968

Report Outline
Resistance to Draft for Viet Nam War
Expansion of the Resistance Movement
Issues in Resistance to Military Service
Special Focus

Resistance to Draft for Viet Nam War

Resistance to military service in the Viet Nam war is losing its sporadic character and beginning to stabilize as a national movement with an abundance of muscle and growing power. The agencies of government, which once bore patiently with the few eccentrics who burned their draft cards, are starting to tighten the screws. The change of attitude has been made apparent in a number of ways: Police putting down anti-war demonstrations on college campuses; draft boards withdrawing deferments from student anti-war activists; judges handing out harsher sentences to draft law violators; and, finally, the indictment on Jan. 5, 1968, of Dr. Benjamin M. Spock, the anti-war crusading pediatrician, Dr. William Sloane Coffin Jr., Presbyterian chaplain of Yale University, and three others for “aiding and abetting” draft resistance—a charge which could net each of them a five-year jail sentence and a $10,000 fine. Their trial, possibly as early as this spring, will focus public attention as never before on the issues raised by resistance to military service.

Escalation of the counter-attack has only served to escalate the resistance. A new test of the strength of the movement will come on April 3, the third in a series of days designated for demonstrations against the draft wherever the resistance movement has taken root. An anti-draft showing of some kind is expected in nearly 100 different locations. There will be rallies, speeches, concerts, interfaith peace services, marches, teach-ins, workshops, draft counseling, and the inevitable all-night bull sessions of activist youth get-togethers. The biggest event of the day will be a mass turning back (and a few burnings) of draft cards.

The draft resistance movement asserts that 2,500 young men disposed of their draft cards in this fashion on two previous resistance demonstration days, Oct. 16 and Dec. 4, 1967. Planners of the coming demonstration are hoping that another 2,500 youths will do the same on April 3. The loss to military manpower may be miniscule, but leaders of the movement believe that “as few as 5,000 resisters nationally could effectively disrupt Selective Service altogether.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Military Draft
Aug. 19, 2005  Draft Debates
Jan. 11, 1991  Should the U.S. Reinstate the Draft?
Jun. 13, 1980  Draft Registration
Jun. 20, 1975  Volunteer Army
Nov. 17, 1971  Rebuilding the Army
Nov. 18, 1970  Expatriate Americans
Mar. 20, 1968  Resistance to Military Service
Jun. 22, 1966  Draft Law Revision
Jan. 20, 1965  Reserve Forces and the Draft
Feb. 14, 1962  Military Manpower Policies
Jun. 03, 1954  Military Manpower
Sep. 24, 1952  National Health and Manpower Resources
Oct. 24, 1950  Training for War Service
Aug. 21, 1950  Manpower Controls
Aug. 13, 1945  Peacetime Conscription
Sep. 09, 1944  The Voting Age
Apr. 15, 1944  Universal Military Service
Feb. 17, 1942  Compulsory Labor Service
Jun. 11, 1941  Revision of the Draft System
Aug. 14, 1940  Conscription in the United States
Apr. 24, 1939  Conscription for Military Service
Freedom of Speech and Press
Military Draft
U.S. at War: Vietnam