Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium / University of Washington

Antiwar and Radical History Project – Pacific Northwest
 Home |  Brief History | Oral Histories |  World War I |  Vietnam War | Anti-Nuke | GI Movement | Photos & Documents 
About | Site Map | Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium
WWI | WWII | Cold War & Korean War | Vietnam War | 1970s/80s
Vietnam Home | Student Activism | Draft Resistance | Photos & Documents
GI Home | History | Oral Histories | Underground Newspapers | Timeline | Resources
Gallery Overview | GI Papers | Ludwig Collection | Lonidier Collection | SDS News | UW Students | 1970 Student Strike
Anti-Nuke Home | Oral Histories | Ground Zero History | Bangor Naval History
World War I Home| Reds, Labor, and the Great War |Antiwar radicalism

Click the images to go to a gallery of Draft Resistance-Seattle photographs and documents.

Demonstrators burning draft cards outside the Selective Service Office in Seattle, c. 1969. Copyright (c) Fred Lonidier.

A collection of DR member Fred Lonidier's photographs in the December 21, 1967 issue of The Agitator, an antiwar newsletter for the Northwest, published in Portland. (Courtesy of Fred Lonidier Collection)

Vietnam War: Draft Resistance

This page includes a short history, documents, and over two hundred photographs of the draft resistance movement in the Northwest. Click images on the sidebar to explore Vietnam-era draft resistance photographs and documents, or scroll down to read a short history of the movement both regionally and nationally. Special thanks to Fred Lonidier for donating images and documents from his private collection.

This is part of the Vietnam War Special Section. Click below to tour the section further:
Vietnam Section Home
Student Activism | Photos and Documents

Draft Resistance in the Vietnam Era

by Jessie Kindig

Protest to conscription has been a feature of all American wars, since the Spanish-American War in 1898 and continuing through the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Yet during the Vietnam War, draft evasion and draft resistance reached a historic peak, nearly crippling the Selective Service System. Combined with the revolt inside the military and the larger civilian antiwar movement, draft resistance acted as another fetter on the government’s ability to wage a war in Vietnam, and brought the war home in a very personal way for a generation of young men. Draft resisters filed for conscientious objector status, didn’t report for induction when called, or attempted to claim disability. Soldiers went AWOL and fled to Canada through underground railroad networks of antiwar supporters.

As the 1960s went on, the campuses became crucibles of antiwar protest, as students came to protest an unjust war, campus bureaucracy, and a graduation that would bring them draft eligibility. Since the draft loomed over students’ futures and provided an avenue for direct resistance to war on an individual level, much student activism was concerned with the draft. Beginning in 1964, students began burning their draft cards as acts of defiance.[1] By 1969, student body presidents of 253 universities wrote to the White House to say that they personally planned to refuse induction, joining the half million others who would do so during the course of the war.[2] Selective Service Centers and campus military recruiters, like the ROTC, became targets for protest.

By the later years of the war in the early 1970s, draft resistance reached its peak. In 1972, there were more conscientious objectors than actual draftees, all major cities faced backlogs of induction-refusal legal cases, and the Selective Service later reported that 206,000 persons were reported delinquent during the entire war period.[3] Yet draft resisters, combined with the larger antiwar movement on campuses and inside the military, was successful: there were too many people to punish or send to prison. So great were the numbers of draft resisters that in 1977, President Carter passed a general amnesty to all those who had fled abroad in defiance of the draft, allowing them to return to the United States, and out of 209,517 accused draft offenders, less than 9,000 were convicted.[4]

Draft Resistance-Seattle

One of the most active draft resistance groups in Seattle was Draft Resistance-Seattle (DR), the local chapter of a larger national network that included a chapter in Portland, Oregon. When the founder of DR-Seattle, Earnest Dudley, refused to be inducted on April 14, 1967, DR organized a protest campaign around his trial. DR worked at both Seattle Central Community College and the University of Washington to organize seniors and first-year graduate students whose draft status was changing to 1-A, which made them immediately available for military service. Together with Students for a Democratic Society at UW, DR organized antiwar organizations at area high schools (Queen Anne, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Rainier Beach, Ingraham, West Seattle, Shorecrest, Bellevue, Sammammish, and Sealth) in February of 1968, and the following April, put on a Northwest Draft Resistance Conference. According to their literature, DR was successful in “delaying the induction of from 5 to 10 persons a week” by 1968, and continued support campaigns for draft resisters, solidarity protests at the Canadian border, and marches to the Selective Service system throughout the late 1960s.[5]

Copyright (c) 2008 Jessie Kindig.

[1] Sherry Gershon Gottlieb, Hell No, We Won’t Go! Resisting the Draft During the Vietnam War (New York: Viking, 1991), xix-xxii.

[2] Baskir and Strauss, Chance and Circumstance, 68.

[3] David Cortright, Soldiers in Revolt 5.

[4] Laurence M. Baskir and William A. Strauss, Chance and Circumstance: The Draft, the War, and the Vietnam Generation (New York: Knopf, 1978), 69.

[5] DR papers in “Students for a Democratic Society, UW Chapter Records, 1964-1969,” Special Collections Library, University of Washington (Accession 1080); SDS News vol. 1, no. 1 (30 October 1967), p. 2.