Conscription or Greetings from The President of the United States
Conscription AKA The Draft has been around in one form or another almost since time immortal. China had conscription as early as 221BC. Primarily to keep an army big enough to be used in times or war, some countries have used it for civilian activities as well. A number of countries still have conscription for those 18 to even 64 years of age and lasting anywhere from 1 to 8 years.
The first major use of conscription in the US was during the civil war, which sparked off New York City draft riots. Then for WWI and for WWII. After WWII ended, in 1948 congress passed the Selective Service Act of 1948, from which combatants for the Korean War came. Then the Universal Military Training and Service Act in 1951 and Reserve Forces Act of 1955 with the aim of improving National Guard and federal Reserve Component readiness.
After Korea ended and before the Vietnam escalation, most people who were drafted would end up on US military bases in Japan and Europe, often in Germany. I have been told by many that German duty could be the best. There were of course deferments for college or if you had a high ranking job at a defence plant. Of course, there were also political deferments and for those very well to do.
The closest I ever came to the military was being part of the CAP or Civil Air Patrol. As an auxiliary of the Air Force, you got pretty much the same training as you would entering the Air Force using the same materials and covering the same subjects. If you completed the CAP/USAF training you could enlist in the USAF with a much higher rank and a less strenuous boot camp. I never did this having become disenchanted with it. Wound up with a 1Y deferment due to a scooter accident I had.
Resistance to the draft increased dramatically as LBJ and then Nixon committed more and more to the Vietnam war. By the late 1960s the Anti War movement was made up almost entirely of middle and and upper middle class students and kids who simply did not want their tails shot up, heads blown off and be on the receiving end of some surprise the Vietcong had dreamed up. Being sent to Vietnam was considered a death sentence and everyone who was drafted was sent there, unless you had “connections”.
By 1980, after the end of the Vietnam War, the draft officially ended. Though Jimmy Carter issued Presidential Proclamation 4771 and re-instated the requirement that young men register, nobody has ever been cited for not registering.
Say what you will about the military now, but during the era of the draft you got something. Your civilian status meant little in the military. Only your performance and your rank. Lousy attitudes and lousy behavior were not tolerated. Not by your commanding officers or your fellows. You learned self reliance and to rely on others. To be responsible. In short you were forced to become a mensch. We seem to have very few of them these days.
The GI Bill got you an education and helped you get a home. And at that time VA health care was one of the best.
Obama initially wanted a civilian mandatory service for education, community service, and renewal. Not surprisingly both the left and the right shot it down. Pity, one of the few good ideas he had. Forcing spoiled brat rich kids into the slums and actually see and help people was a great idea. No wonder congress hated it.