Draft Evasion, the avoidance of induction into compulsory military service. Legal as well as illegal means have been used to avoid the draft. Not reporting for induction and falsely claiming a physical ailment are examples of illegal means. Avoiding service by continued appeal on legal technicalities, however, is legal—although the spirit of the law may be violated. In the United States during the Vietnamese War, many young men attended college to take advantage of the exempt status of the student. Although not legally draft evasion, such a course of action is considered by some persons as evasion in an ethical sense.
Those who accept legal penalties in lieu of induction are not considered evaders, nor are those who are granted the status of conscientious objector. Abandonment of military service after induction is desertion, not draft evasion.
In the United States, the draft was first introduced during the Civil War. In the North, the Conscription Act of 1863 permitted a man to avoid service either by purchasing an exemption (for $300) or by hiring a substitute. These inequitable provisions caused serious riots by the poor in New York City in 1863. In the South, many avoided military service by taking up one of the many exempt occupations, such as pharmacy. In both North and South, many of the poor who could not avoid service legally did not answer the draft calls and fled to the West.
In the late 19th and the early 20th century, many immigrants who came to the United States were fleeing conscription (the draft) in their native countries.
During World War I, the United States reinstituted the draft and had some 200,000 evaders. The official number of evaders in World War II is 348,217, but it is inaccurate, as it includes many persons who simply reported on the wrong day. The Korean War had the lowest evasion rate of any United States war.
During the Vietnamese War, for the years 1964–73, there were more than 24,000 who evaded the draft by illegal means. Many sought refuge in Canada. A few later returned home and most were imprisoned. Many more, however, remained at large, and amnesty or pardon for evaders became a national issue. In 1974 President Ford offered a conditional amnesty for a six-month period, under which draft evaders and deserters could clear their records by working for a time in certain public-service jobs. In 1977 President Carter granted a general pardon to draft evaders.