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Section I - Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 January 2023

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Summary

For 35 years of the twentieth century, US armed forces relied on the draft (also called required military service, conscription or Selective Service) to fight World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Men coming of age in 1917–18 and 1940–73 faced compulsory military service as they reached young manhood.

In the early 1970s, the unpopularity of the Vietnam War and changing public attitudes towards mandatory military service caused Congress to end the draft. The one remaining legacy of the draft was the requirement for young men to register with the Selective Service System in case Congress might again need to rely on conscription to staff its armed forces.

America now approaches 50 years during which all-volunteer military services have served the nation. The great majority of the current population probably view themselves as having “done their military duty” by putting “We Support Our Troops” stickers on their vehicles and paying taxes to support the world’s strongest military force. A wide gap exists between the present military and the large majority of the civilian population.

In the last few years, however, world circumstances have changed. America continues to have the world’s strongest military. But, its numbers are modest. Its strengths may not be suited to many of the challenges America is likely to face. It now faces potential conflict with China, Russia, North Korea and Iran.

The young men who faced the draft are now in their late 60s at their youngest. Most of the World War II “greatest generation” who are still living are in their 90s. As we eight authors look back from our mid-70s and early 80s on the draft and military service in our lives, many memories come to mind. As we have visited among ourselves and with other fellow veterans over half a century, we are reminded how varied the military (or non-military) experiences of the “draft generations” were. But, we also reflect on common experiences of military life shared by combat veterans and desk-bound soldiers, officers and enlisted personnel, career and single term soldiers.

Type
Chapter
Information
Military Memories
Draft Era Veterans Recall their Service
, pp. 1 - 2
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2022

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