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64Vietnam War: Primary SourcesA young man burning his draft card. Reproduced by permission of AP/Wide World Photos.
Although tens of thousands of young men relocated toCanada and elsewhere to avoid military service, this strategywas commonly seen as a last resort. It was usually chosen onlyafter other possible “draft dodging” alternatives had beenexhausted. After all, men who fled to Canada knew that theymight never be able to return home to America to see theirfamily and friends without risking arrest. Draft resisters.Another popular strategy for avoidingmilitary induction was outright defiance. Hundreds of thou-sands of young American men openly resisted the SelectiveService System during the war. Some refused to register for theTim O’Brien65Some North Vietnamese men triedto evade their own country’s military draftduring the Vietnam War. Many familiessupported their sons in this effort.Important officials in the government oftenarranged to keep their sons out of themilitary by sending them overseas tostudy. Ordinary families, meanwhile, hidtheir sons or bribed doctors to disqualifythem from service. “Many parents tried to keep theirsons out of the army,” recalled one NorthVietnamese man in Vietnam: A Portrait of ItsPeople at War.“They would hide themwhen they were called up by the recruitingcenter. Anyone who didn’t show upautomatically had his rice ration cut off.But families would buy food on the blackmarket or just get along by sharingwhatever they had. They would survivethat way while they tried to scrape upenough to bribe a recruiting official to fixup the files. Other draftees mutilatedthemselves or managed to find other waysto fail the physical. People with moneywere able to pay doctors to disqualify theirchildren. These kinds of things were easierto do in the three big cities—Hanoi,Haiphong, and Nam Dinh . . . where thegovernment officials and Party leaderslived. Many of them were looking for waysto keep their children out too. . . . Andpeople had more money in these places,so corruption was more a normal thing.Also, it was simply easier to hide in thecities and there was more informationabout how to stay out. The result was thatthe big majority of the Northern army wasmade up of young people from thecountryside. They were just more naive.They believed the propaganda more easily.They didn’t have the same chances to getout of it.”Avoiding the Draft in North Vietnam
66Vietnam War: Primary SourcesDraft card burning in New York City’s Central Park. Reproduced by permission of AP/Wide World Photos.
draft. Others burned their draft cards to protest the war. “Hellno, we won’t go!” became a popular rallying cry within theantiwar movement. Active resistance to the draft became particularly com-monplace during the mid- and late 1960s, when the Americanpublic became divided about supporting the war. “The growthin public opposition to the war . . . enhanced draft resistance’sappeal,” confirmed Tom Wells in The War Within.“Resisters