Vietnam War Era Draft Lotteries

1970 – 1971 – 1972 Draft Lotteries

‘WINNING’ THE LOTTERY
The lowest numbers drawn were called for induction into the military first, so men always hoped to draw a high number in the draft lottery.
[Click here for the 1969 Draft Lottery]

Chinook helicopter preparing to lift a disabled Huey from a Vietnam War firebase in 1971

Chinook helicopter preparing to lift a disabled Huey from a Vietnam War firebase in late-1971.

Results for Men Facing the Draft in 1971

Lottery Numbers by Birth Date for Selective Service Lottery held on July 1, 1970. This lottery determined the order in which men born in 1951 were called to report for induction into the military.

July 1, 1970 Draft Lottery   Source: Selective Service System

July 1, 1970 Draft Lottery
Source: Selective Service System

Could I get drafted NOW?

Results for Men Facing the Draft in 1972

Lottery Numbers by Birth Date for Selective Service Lottery held on August 5, 1971. This lottery determined the order in which men born in 1952 were called to report for induction into the military.

August 5, 1971 Draft Lottery   Source: Selective Service System
August 5, 1971 Draft Lottery
Source: Selective Service System
Results for Men Facing the Draft in 1973

Lottery Numbers by Birth Date for Selective Service Lottery held on February 2, 1972. (The draft ended on July 1, 1973). This lottery determined the order in which men born in 1953 were called to report for induction into the military.

February 2, 1972 Draft Lottery   Source: Selective Service System
February 2, 1972 Draft Lottery
Source: Selective Service System

U.S. Induction Statistics 

Number of men who entered military service through the Selective Service System during major U.S. 20th Century conflicts:
CONFLICT / YEARS
NUMBER OF INDUCTIONS
(Source: Selective Service System)
WORLD WAR ONE 1917 – 1918
2,666,867
WORLD WAR TWO 1940 – 1946
(includes draftees before Pearl Harbor)
10,110,114
KOREA June 1950 – June 1953
1,529,537
VIETNAM Aug 1964 – Feb 1973
1,766,910

Inductions by Year

Inductions by year from World War I through the end of the draft on July 1, 1973
YEAR – INDUCTIONS (Source: Selective Service System)
1917 – 516,212
1918 – 2,294,084
1940 – 18,633
1941 – 923,842
1942 – 3,033,361
1943 – 3,323,970
1944 – 1,591,942
1945 – 945,862
1946 – 183,383
1948 – 20,348
1949 – 9,781
1950 – 219,771
1951 – 551,806
1952 – 438,479
1953 – 471,806
1954 – 253,230
1955 – 152,777
1956 – 137,940
1957 – 138,504
1958 – 142,246
1959 – 96,153
1960 – 86,602
1961 – 118,586
1962 – 82,060
1963 – 119,265
1964 – 112,386
1965 – 230,991
1966 – 382,010
1967 – 228,263
1968 – 296,406
1969 – 283,586
1970 – 162,746
1971 – 94,092
1972 – 49,514
1973 – 646
The draft ended on July 1, 1973

Email from Gerry L: 

As someone whose life was determined by that first draft in 1969, there is a missing story (today). It wasn’t actually a “random drawing.”

Oh, it looked like one. But if you went back (as some statisticians did much later) and looked at the outcome and then the process, you can clearly see a fundamental flaw.

Future drafts had two rotating barrels, one with birth dates and one with numbers. Those were, in fact, random.

But the 1969 draft had just one container, with birthdates, and the “number” was determined by when the date was pulled out, with the first date pulled getting #1, and so on.

But then they made a fundamental error. The dates were entered in that one barrel not randomly, but with December on the bottom up to January on the top. When it came time to do the drawing, the barrel was inverted and shaken a bit. That was enough to “sort of” disperse the dates, but not anywhere near enough to make them truly randomly distributed.

What happened then was the late summer/fall birthdays were more likely to be near the top and the winter/spring birthdays nearer the bottom. And low and behold, statistically it was proven later that fall birthdays had a whoppingly higher chance of being drawn in the first third of the draft, and it was those 1-120 numbers that ended up being called. (In my case, called in 1972. I realize the call went higher between 1969 and 1972)

This statistical anomaly was brought to you by November birthday #034, with a June birthday college roommate who got the ultimate: #366 (the first draft included leap years).

Turns out you don’t need to be a statistician to see the prevalence of lower numbers in the fall and not in the winter/spring.

Here are the frequency of draft numbers 1 to 120 in the initial 1969 Vietnam-era draft.
In a perfectly random world, they should be about 10 per month, recognizing the months are not all equal in length and some variation will always occur.

Jan – 8
Feb – 7
Mar – 3
Q1 – 18
Apr – 8
May – 8
Jun – 11
Q2 – 27
Jul – 10
Aug – 13
Sep – 8
Q3 – 31
Oct – 9
Nov – 11
Dec – 16
Q4 – 36

The Q4 (fall) birthdays saw double the rate of the Q1 (winter) birthdays! That is statistically nearly impossible, unless the methodology was flawed, as it was.

Hope you find this interesting, and perhaps even worthy of inclusion on your site.

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