21 January 1977: President Carter Pardons 10,000 Vietnam War Draft Dodgers

Two days after being elected President of the United States, Jimmy Carter pardoned all Vietnam War draft evaders. At the beginning of 1977, Carter officially fulfilled his campaign promise by granting unconditional pardons to 10,000 men who had evaded the draft during the Vietnam War by fleeing the country or by failing to register with their Selective Service boards, a requirement initiated by the draft lottery in 1969.

Since the draft lottery, the American government had been heavily criticised by journalists and the general public for the role of conscripted soldiers drafted into the Vietnam War. Unlike professional military personnel, or “lifers”, conscripted soldiers were seen to be used as cannon fodder, often assigned dangerous missions disproportionate to their level of training and expertise.

As a result, many potential draftees evaded the draft. Some sought refuge in college or parental deferments; others intentionally failed aptitude tests or otherwise evaded; thousands fled to Canada; the politically connected sought refuge in the National Guard; and increasing numbers engaged in direct resistance.

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