Draft Cards

I ran across a box with a bunch of my old press cards and other credentials. Stapled together was a stack of my old Draft Cards. I wrote earlier about my first meeting with Lola B. Gilbert when I went to register for the Draft. I’m pretty sure I didn’t make a good impression.

For those of you who have forgotten or were female or who are too young to remember the Selective Service, the most important thing on the card was the two or three letters that showed up at the end of the line, “is classified in Class ______.”

Draft Classifications

  • 1SH – My first classification. Student deferred by statute (High School). Induction can be deferred either until graduation or until reaching the age of 20. (As soon as you took an educational deferment, your eligibility was extended to age 35. That sounded like forever. You’d be in a wheelchair by that time, you thought.)
  • 2S – Registrant deferred because of collegiate study. Deferment lasted either until graduation or until the registrant reached the age of 24.
  • 1A – The next letter would be to schedule your draft physical. Depending on what happened there, you could get a letter that started out “Greetings” from the President of the United States telling you that you were the lucky recipient of an all-expenses-paid vacation in Southeast Asia.

1Y and 4F cards are missing

Two critical cards are kicking around, but weren’t with these.

After I showed up at my draft physical with a note from a doctor, I was given a temporary 1Y classification. That meant that I was available for military service, but qualified only in case of war or national emergency. It was usually given to registrants with medical conditions that were limiting, but not disabling. (My doctor said I had a possible ulcer and was being treated.)

(I used to repeat the old joke that I held a 4P classification: in case of war, I was a hostage.)

Before I was called back for a follow-up physical, the first Draft Lottery was held in 1969. For once, I held the winning ticket. My birth date was drawn as Number 258, which all but assured that I wouldn’t be called.

The board, recognizing that, classified me as 4F. At least, I HOPE that’s why. The 4F classification had carried some stigma because it meant that you didn’t meet established physical, mental or moral standards.

Me and the National Guard

I eventually ended up in uniform, anyway.

I wanted to do a story on the local guard unit going to Camp Blanding for summer training. The company commander gave me his blessing and I thought I was all set. A couple days before we were to leave, however, I got a call from the Master Sergeant, who said that the Higher Ups ruled that I couldn’t ride in the convoy. I’d have to get there POV (privately owned vehicle).

“We can work it out”

West Palm Beach National Guard unit at Camp Blanding summer campI expressed disappointment. That’s when I learned that there’s The Brass, and then there’s the guys who get ‘er done.

He said, “I’ve got it all worked out. Come on by and get fitted for a uniform. You’ll look like everybody else. Nobody’ll know.”

“Sarge, I worked really hard to NOT wear a uniform. I REALLY don’t want to wear a prison uniform. How much trouble can I get into if I’m caught?”

“Don’t worry. You won’t get caught.”

So, I showed up, drew my uniform and an instant promotion to E6. “That’s high enough that nobody will mess with you, but not so high somebody will salute you and get you all confused,” he explained.

As soon as the jeep stopped rolling, I jumped back into civvies for the rest of the week. I DID get to keep everything but the helmet, though.

Click here to see photos from National Guard camp. There are a few I really like.

20 Replies to “Draft Cards”

  1. Well…It just hit me…paper defines our lives…the little scraps of this and that with our names on them are what we are now based on and show what we did in years past. The record of our lives was in paper. The key word is was because now with the paperless world of the computers I wonder where the old draft cards and the signatures of Lolla Gilbert will appear for the future to see or remember?
    Ken made me think about the larger picture this morning, and the meaning of our existence …and made me wonder if we will be seeing Ken on a Hoarder Type show in the future, he sure saved a lot of stuff!

    1. Terry,

      Lila commented that Lola B. didn’t use a rubber stamp. She signed each card. This was the days before computers, too, so each card was typed individually.

      You can’t say she wasn’t industrious.

  2. To boys of our generation in Cape, the signature of Lolla B. Gilbert ranks right up there with that of John Hancock on the Declaration of Independence. A signature we will never forget.
    I never had the 1SH designation as I did not turn 18 until after graduation from Central ’68, but was happy to have the 2S until the first draft lottery when I was rewarded with the outstanding luck of number 339. I immediately dropped my student deferment, going to the usually dreaded 1A which in this case meant that if you were not called up during the next 12 months, you had fulfilled your military commitment. You were a done deal.

    I remember watching the lottery with friends that night. Pretty tense. As I recall, one of my buds, got number six. He was doing pre med so became an Air Force Doc. It was a life altering event.

    1. I knew a guy in my dorm who got a low lottery number. He left school that night for parts unknown.

      Here’s some info from the link at the top of the story about the high and low numbers drawn in Cape:

      Historical side note: The Southeast Missourian ran a story about the two 19-year-olds who were at the ends of the spectrum when birthdates were drawn in the Dec. 1, 1969, Draft Lottery. Gary Wayne Hurt, 1030 West Cape Rock Dr., was born April 24, the second date selected in the lottery.

      Lonnie Lee Brockmire, 1826 Woodlawn, celebrates his birthday on Feb. 26, the second to last date drawn. If you’d like to look up what your Draft Lottery number was, follow this link to the list in The Missourian.

  3. Mine number was 92 and I thought I was going in…but they stopped in Cape County at 90…so went to school as usual. It was a life altering event for sure.

  4. Lola B. Gilbert, oh how I remember her face. My number was 177 and I still have my card. The number was almost dead in the middle and when I came home from school in Colorado in December of 1971, I was intent on dropping my 2S deferment. The rules were that if I were exposed to be drafted and wasn’t by December 31st, I would have gone on ‘Second Priority’ meaning the local board would have to go all the way through to No. 366 and then back to 177 for me to be called. For that to happen, it would have been the Apocalypse. The Cape board was at number 150 when I called on Ms. Gilbert. We talked it over, the risks and rewards, and I signed the papers dropping the college deferment, confident of my skillful analysis. Oh, I could see myself working and skiing in Vail the rest of the Winter. The next day, President Nixon began a call up. I phoned or went by the draft board office daily, and watched as the local number rose past 160 and on to 170. I called the National Guard. No luck. Ms. Gilbert told me that there were no local registrants at No. 176 and two of us at 177. Daily the numbers climbed toward me until finally, mercifully, December 31st arrived and the local board had stopped at 175. It would be accurate to say that my New Years Eve was a bit more celebratory than had been the norm. I went back to school anyway. An opportunity lost. All that said, each time I have visited the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington, I find the names of my classmates and friends and weep for what they lost. There but for . . .

  5. I remember the cards, but mostly I remember Lola Gilbert, a one-of-a-kind if ever there was one. I think Marjorie Main would have played her well in the movie.

  6. SEMissourian January 25, 2006

    Lolla Bagby Gilbert, 89, of Cape Girardeau died at 10:16 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2006, at the Lutheran Home.
    She was born Oct. 6, 1916, in Cape Girardeau, daughter of Boca Homa Owley and Charles Monroe Gilbert.

    Miss Gilbert graduated from Southeast Missouri State Teachers College in 1939. Soon after graduation, she taught business classes at Patton, Mo.

    In 1940, she moved to Washington, D.C., where she held positions with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Justice, and the Veterans Administration.

    Miss Gilbert returned to Cape Girardeau in 1945 to help care for her aged parents, and taught business classes in schools at Risco and Illmo. Mo. In 1951, she became secretary of the Selective Service Board in Cape Girardeau. She retired from that position in 1974.

    She enjoyed studying the Bible, and was a graduate of Washington Bible Institute in Washington, D.C.

    Gifted in music, Miss Gilbert played piano, xylophone, accordion and bells. She played piano in her brother’s band and at First Christian Church, where she taught Sunday school. She was a member of Cape Girardeau Senior Citizens.

    Survivors include four nephews Gary K. “Sonny” Gilbert and Paul V. Gilbert, both of Cape Girardeau, John M. Gilbert of Jefferson City, Mo., and Donald C. Gilbert of Nevada, Texas; and six nieces, Betty R. Litzelfelner of Granbury, Texas, Judith R. Gilbert, Sarah L. Froemsdorf and Jan Ramey, all of Cape Girardeau, Monica J. Metzger of Jackson, and Barbara Stone of San Francisco, Calif.

    She was preceded in death by her parents; three brothers, Kelvin A. Gilbert, C. Wooten Gilbert and Homer M. Gilbert; and a nephew, Homer F. Gilbert.

    Visitation will be at Ford and Sons Mount Auburn Funeral Home Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m.

    The funeral will be held at the funeral home Saturday at 3 p.m., with family members John M. Gilbert, John K. Ramey and Ty Metzger officiating. Interment will be in Cape County Memorial Park.

    Pallbearers will be Gary Gilbert, Joe Armistead, David Baughman, Heath Darrow, Marty Vines, John H. Ramey and Tye DeCramer.

    In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Homer Gilbert Scholarship Fund at Southeast Missouri State University.

    © Copyright 2006 Southeast Missourian. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  7. I came across 2 of my fathers draft cards. One is dated Sept. 16, 1971 and is classified at 1-SH. The othe is dated Feb 28 and looks like the years is 1972 and classified as 1-H. I have browsed a bunch of different websites to research what the classifications meant but have not really came to a clear understanding. I understand the timetable of the war and draft but not the classifications. I read the meanings but still can’t decifer what they meant. I am posting because it seems you all went through this horrifying process and could give me some incite on it. Also how do I know what my fathers lottery number was? Any help would be great.

    1. 1-SH was easy. I had one of those. It means you were in high school.
      1-H was a new one for me. It is “Registrant Not Subject to Processing for Induction. Registrant is not subject to processing for induction until a draft is enacted. All current registrants are classified 1-H until they reach the age of exemption. They then receive the classification of 5-A.” A 5-A is someone who is over the age of liability.

      I’m going to guess that your dad came along right about the time the draft ended and the all-voluntary forces began. That’s why he wouldn’t be subject for processing until and unless the draft was re-instated.

      Here is a fairly good overview of how the draft worked and the classifications.

      Here’s where you can find out more about the Vietnam Lotteries and which numbers were picked.

  8. IN 1969 I was called up to go to Atlanta GA along with about 150 other young men take a physical and other test for the Military services, but was classified 4-F. I was never told what I was turned down for. If any body can tell me how to find out Thanks, also over the years I lost my draft card any way of getting a copy. I also tried getting into the National Guard but was told no.I did work at Robins A.F.B. for 31 years for the DOD. May be some body can help.

    1. Your best bet would be to check with the draft board where you registered for the draft. I’m not sure how much information was passed on from the folks giving the physical to the draft board. When I got to the last stop at my physical, I was told that I was 1Y and that I’d be called back in a few months to see if I passed.

      In the meantime, I drew a high lottery number and got a 4F in the mail without requesting anything. I assumed that they saw the 1Y and my lottery number and decided to close the books on me.

  9. Enjoyed the trip down memory lane…#63 USMC…Worked out as IM here and met the girl of my dreams on the beach just South of Camp Lejeune…Soo Thankful, every day is a bonus !

  10. Wow , so proud to not serving your country. Proud of anything else a Clinton would be proud of?
    I am sure President Johnson thought long and hard about how he could lose the war without you

    1. Doc

      I’ll probably kick myself for responding to a troll, but I’d like for you to point out anywhere in the story that I said I was PROUD that I didn’t serve my country in uniform. My draft board was the one who established my draft status up until the lottery where, by the luck of the draw, I received a high number.

      Bill Clinton gamed the system, but so did George W. Bush and Dan Quayle, who hid out in the National Guard, a know safe spot during the war. At least they donned a uniform, unlike many of the chicken hawks like Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, Jeb Bush, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorium who didn’t serve (in the case of Cheney, “because I had other priorities than military service’) but beat the drums of war to invade Iraq.

      Do I have twinges of conscience because some kid who didn’t have the resources to go to college and qualify for a student deferment might have gone in my place? Sure. If called, I would have gone, but the fact is that I WASN’T called, and I sure wasn’t going to volunteer to fight in a war that we shouldn’t have been in.

      So, Doc, troll away.

  11. I have one of your cards I’m not sure where you are now but I was amazed to find out about you through the draft card in an amperes meter dated in 1937 11 11 that I found. If you ever want it back let me know. Have a great life brother

    1. A card with MY name on it? If so, sure. I’d like to have it back to complete my collection. I thought I still had them all. (Actually, they may be at the Southeast Ohio History Center, left over from an exhibit I did there.)

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