Conscription in Australia During the Vietnam War
Written by Linda and Amber
Edited by Gabi and Vy
Edited by Maddy and Holly


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Information from Wikipedia:
More Information on the Vietnam War:[PDF]
The Birthday Ballot
Wikipedia Info on the Australian and American Moratoriums



Mandatory service in the military during war time, called conscription or National Service, was enforced during the Vietnam War.

In 1964, National Service for 20-year-old men was made compulsory under the National Service Act. The selection of conscripted boys was based on date of birth, and they were required to complete a full-time two years service, and another three years on the active reserve list. Seven years later, in 1971, the full-time service that was required was reduced to 18 months.

The Defence Act was amended in 1965, saying that National Servicemen may be obliged to serve overseas. This has only been applied as a law once before - in World War II. In March, 1966, the Government announced that National Servicemen could be sent to Vietnam to join the units of the Australian Regular Army and for secondment to the American forces. There was only a few ways to get out of conscription, and in turn fighting. Claim a student deferment - meaning you were a student in university and you had a prior commitment, or to attempt a conscientious objection application - meaning you were morally against war, and you refused to take part. You could also join the Citizen Military Forces, and only serve in Australia.


Under the National Service Scheme, twenty-year-old males were required to register with the Department of Labour and National Service (DLNS). This meant that you would be subject to a ballot to be conscripted to the Vietnam War. Conscription was managed by picking out birthdays from a lottery machine. This was called the Lottery, 'The Birthday Ballot' or 'The Lottery of Death'. Birthdates were picked out of this lottery machine, and if your birthday came out and you had no disabilities, you were to be sent to Vietnam to fight for Australia, possibly for a full two years of Regular Service; The Birthday Ballot was televised. The way conscription worked was by using numbered marbles that represented birthdates that were then put in a barrel, the men picked were notified within a month if they were required to participate.

Conscription was extremely strict. If you somehow misled the army to thinking that you didn't have to fight, you would be prosecuted, and possibly convicted, with a jail term as long as the regular period of National Service. Ways you could mislead and protest against the system were: making false and misleading statements, misleading the medical board (upon medical examination, pretending to be unfit for war), or failing to comply and not registering. In America, many who were conscripted or were in fear of being conscripted fled to because Canada was free from conscription. Those who were lucky and got a spot into a university could also vchdavoid conscription, however, if they failed a subject their place would be reviewed and they may be forced to enter the army.

The issue of Conscription, and the fact that Vietnam was the first war to be aired on television - see The Television War within this wiki - made the public realise how horrible all wars were. Protests (also known as moratoriums) were loud, and often turned violent. Before the war started, leaflets were handed out (see below for an example) about the consequences of war and signing up. Many people who handed these pamphlets out could be arrested and/or imprisoned. Huge moratoriums were organised on a regular basis in both America and Australia. The Australian moratorium was organised AFTER the Americans huge success with their's. In late 1969, the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign, or VMC was formed. They began to work on organising the Moratorium, and on May 8th, 9th, and 10th, it was to take place. Over these days, the demonstration in Melbourne brought together about 100,000 people. Across the whole of Australia, an estimated 200,000 people gathered to protest against the Vietnam war. - More information here

The following picture is an advertisement for a moratorium.
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The following video is an example of the Drafting System, a program broadcast in America - I was unable to find an example of an Australia Lottery. This show was shown in 1969, for the America introduction of troops in 1970.


This is a video of a protest that took place in 1970
protest
The following is from a pamphlet printed in the times, spreading word about why not to conscript and other information pertaining to the subject.

WHY REGISTER FOR NATIONAL SERVICE stop press
Nine arrests have now been made in Melbourne of people distributing this leaflet. Those arrested were charged with breaking laws that ranged from the Commonwealth Crimes Act to a Melbourne City Council By-law. Four young men arrested in Melbourne and Hobart, for inciting persons to break the National Service Act by non-registration, face sentences of up to three years gaol. To show support for those who are imprisoned for their conscientious non-compliance with conscription, five people spent the Australia Day weekend in gaol. Others are in police custody this morning. All of those who authorise this leaflet are liable to be charged under the Commonwealth Crimes Act. By handing you this leaflet, I am risking arrest and imprisonment.
IF YOUR SON OR BOYFRIEND IS DUE TO REGISTER, PLEASE PASS THIS ON TO HIM.

These are two poems written about Vietnam. Each poem corresponds to a different side of conscription. Both sources are unknown, but they were both on a page which appeared to be from a newsletter or magazine from the times.

"There is No War in Vietnam"
Take a man and put him alone,
Put him 4000 miles from home,
Empty his heart of all but blood,
Make him live in sweat and mud,
There is a life I have to live,
And while my soul to the devil I give,
You free boys being in your easy chair
But you don't know what it's like over there,
You all have a a ball without near trying,
While over there our boys are dying,
You burn your draft cards, march at dawn,
Plant your signs on the parliament lawn.
You all want to ban the bomb.
There is no war in Vietnam.
Use your drugs and have your fun,
And then refuse to carry a gun,
There is nothing else for you to do,
Am I supposed to die for you?
I'll hate you till the day I die,
You made me hear my mate cry.
I saw his arm in a bloody shred.
I heard them say: This one's dead.
It's a heavy price he had to pay,
Not to live another day
He had the guts to fight and die
He paid the price, but what did he buy?
He bought a life by giving his,
But who gives a damn what a soldier gives?
His wife, his mum, maybe his son,
But they're about the only ones.
There is no war in Vietnam.
~ Written by several returned servicemen

The following poem was written in response to the one above.

Don't carry your gun for me brother,
My mind is set
Nor decieve yourself you carry it for your mother,
When you fight in Tet
Acceptance of an argument without a base
To callously sacrificing life,
Can hardly be a means of saving your own face.
Killing mates and your enemy's wife
If you think it's right to kill
For government, by all means take no rest
But not in my name; it does not thrill
Or bring national power to my breast.
Fight on, murder if you must
Not in the name of dignity or justice
But in the plain murdering lust
Of a regime founded on gross avarice.
~ anonymous contribution