After the War

President Gerald Ford announcing amnesty for draft evaders at the White House, Washington, D.C.

President Gerald Ford announcing amnesty for draft evaders at the White House, Washington, D.C.

IX.      After the War

By the 1970s, more than half of people asked (57%) thought that the U.S. had made a mistake when the country decided to send troops to Vietnam.[1] On September 16. 1974, President Gerald Ford passed an executive order that established a clemency program for draft offenders.[2] Ford appointed Lawrence M. Baskir as the chief executive officer and general counsel of the Presidential Clemency Board.[3] William A. Strauss was named the director of planning, management, and evaluation.[4] Their “Vietnam Offender Study” officially started on December 1, 1975.[5] In the course of their work, Baskir and Strauss found that the majority of draft offenders were unprivileged, poor minorities who didn’t register for the draft and who didn’t have the resources to legally avoid conscription.[6] Many rich, upper middle-class college students were exempted from the draft because they were enrolled at a university.

Ford’s clemency program granted “amnesty” to more than 20,000 draft evaders and deserters.[7] However, the Presidents’ solution was far from perfect. At the end of the program, more than 500,000 men were still at risk of arrest or had criminal charges and dishonorable discharges on their records.[8] In 1975, President Gerald Ford terminated the remaining draft registration requirement.

The “Vietnam Offender Study” produced a report, which was made into a book titled, Chance and Circumstance: The Draft, The War, and the Vietnam Generation. Published in 1978, this book focused on the 27 million draft-age men often called the “Vietnam Generation.” Baskir and Strauss were interested in the 25 million men who didn’t fight in Vietnam. They focused on those who dodged and evaded the war.

By the time Jimmy Carter was sworn in as President, only 2% of the 570,000 offenders still faced criminal charges.[9] In 1977, Carter pardoned all people convicted of violating the Selective Service Act during the Vietnam War.[10] The country wanted to move on from the conflict. Days of war, protest, and death became part of the past, at least for a while. When President Carter reestablished the registration requirement for the draft, protests again spread throughout the country.[11]

[1] https://news.gallup.com/poll/2299/americans-look-back-vietnam-war.aspx

[2] Curry, G. David. 1985. Sunshine Patriots: Punishment and the Vietnam Offender. South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, pg. 17

[3] Baskir, Lawrence M. and William A. Strauss. 1977. Reconciliation after Vietnam: A Program for Relief for Vietnam Era Draft and Military Offenders. A Report of the Vietnam Offender Study. Center for Civil Rights. University of Notre Dame. South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press. Pg. xi

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Baskir, Lawrence M. and William A. Strauss. 1977. Reconciliation after Vietnam: A Program for Relief for Vietnam Era Draft and Military Offenders. A Report of the Vietnam Offender Study. Center for Civil Rights. University of Notre Dame. South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2

[7] Ibid, 4

[8] Ibid

[9] Baskir, Lawrence M. and William A. Strauss. 1978. Chance and Circumstance: The Draft, the War, and the Vietnam Generation. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. Pg. 88

[10] Kohn, Steven M. 1986. Jailed for Peace: The History of American Draft Law Violators, 1658-1985. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. Pg. 95

[11] Gettleman, Marvin E., Jane Franklin, Marilyn B. Young, and H. Bruce Franklin. 1995. 2nd Edition. Vietnam and America: A Documented History. New York: Grove Press, 301