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Draft Dodging

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#1 myheroes



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Posted 15 April 2004 - 10:45 PM

Hello, can anyone help? I just got into a slight argument with a friend about deserters and draft dodgers in WWII. We were actually talking about something a bit off that topic when she made a side comment something like, "..you know like how there was that problem with draft dodging in Vietnam and World War Two." I'm sure it happened and it was a problem in WWII, but I was under the impression it was not a crisis. This just isn't a topic I have come across at all so far in my reading about WWII. My friend stressed that draft dodging was not nearly as rampant as Vietnam, but that it was a substanial problem during the second world war in America. My gut instinct was that she was wrong, but I figured I'd go straight to the source! Am I being too romantic towards WWII? So, anyway my real question is: Was draft dodging a major major issue that just isn't mentioned as frequently as other WWII topics or was it basically nonexistent (as compared to say Vietnam anyway)?

#2 homefront41



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Posted 15 April 2004 - 10:50 PM

I don't know if we have any experts here, but I'm sure someone will google the subject for you and find an answer.

Meantime, I'm shifting it over to the Virtual Classroom. Random Musings is a category solely for NON-WW2 and NON-history material.

Enjoy the ride! BK

#3 stageboy


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Posted 15 April 2004 - 10:55 PM

As far as I know, there wasn't a problem with it at all. I'm sure there was some here and there, but I've never heard of anyone running off to Canada during WWII. Alot of people recieved deferments and were able to work in factories for the war effort and were looked upon by combat soldiers and sailors as "sissys" but alot of that was probably them wishing that they were able to do the same.

Edited by stageboy, 15 April 2004 - 10:56 PM.

#4 appell8



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Posted 15 April 2004 - 11:07 PM

Very hard to generalize. But remember the prologue in Ep. 1 about the three 4-F's in a small town who committed suicide? There was very much a social stigma in the early '40's for any draft-age able-bodied single male who wasn't in uniform -- or in a war industy or other obvious exception to service.

My mother was in college in Knoxville at the time. And everyone was acutely conscious of what any given individual appeared to be doing for the war effort. Or not.

Draft dodging wasn't easy in WWII. And it sure wasn't a route to enhanced social status, as it became in some circles during Vietnam.

#5 skypilotson


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Posted 15 April 2004 - 11:33 PM

I recall from WSAT, I think it was Paul Rogers who said something akin to: It was a different time then, we was attacked. One of the others (unfortunately the old grey cells can't recall at the moment) referred to several young men in their community committing suicide because there wer classified 4F. (Sorry Doug, you beat me to it.)

I also recall the story of a man who registered as a conscientious objector during WWII. He was willing to serve his country but wanted to save lives instead of taking lives. He became a medic in the 77th Infantry Division. He suffered great ridicule at the hands of his fellow soldiers, one barracks-mate promised he would kill him the first time they were in combat and one of his officers even filed for a Section Eight claiming he was unsuitable for service due to basic instability. Although he was exemplary in his conduct, he suffered harsh treatment because of his beliefs.

His tormentors had a change in attitude when they landed in Guam and saw how dedicated this CO was to caring for the wounded. Later on Okinawa when the 307th Infantry was met with a relentless counterattack on the Maeda escarpment, he once again proved his worth. Over one hundred men were injured and this medic exposed himself to constant fire and company officers credited him with single-handedly rescued one hundred men, he said more like fifty so they met halfway at seventy-five.

He was later wounded himself. While being carried away on a litter he saw other wounded men, he then rolled off the litter instructing the bearers to take the other man to the rear. Only after the others were tended to did he allow himself to be taken to the aid station.

For his selfless acts, Desmond T. Doss was awarded the Medal of Honor.

#6 Jumpmaster482



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Posted 15 April 2004 - 11:35 PM

WWII and Viet Nam were two very different wars, and seen as such by the American people.

Our country was attacked on Dec. 7th by the Japanese who had made an alliance with Germany - Axis powers. (Our base in Manila was creamed on Dec. 8th and many service members died there as well.) The President went after them with the mission to destroy them before they could attack us on our soil again. The American public strongly supported the action. Men were eager to prevent further attacks on our shores and thus took the fight to the enemy.

Kennedy slowly increased military involvement into Viet Nam, unbeknownst to the American public at first, to prevent a political group from gaining power in a country far from our own and with few ties economically or politically. When American soldiers began coming home in body bags from a country most could not find on a map, the public felt betrayed. It was also too late to pull out without enormous consequences. Men did not want to go to fight a war they did not understand in a place and enemy they were unfamiliar with.

In a nutshell.


#7 myheroes



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Posted 16 April 2004 - 12:31 AM

well i'll start off by saying sorry if i put this in the wrong category, but i just wasn't sure where this topic belonged. and thanks to those that responded, you basically confirmed what i already believed - I just wanted to make sure I hadn't missed out on something i should know. I'm not sure where my friend got her information but I truly believe she's got it all wrong as far as WWII draft dodging goes. It feels weird to even put "draft dodging" and WWII in the same sentence. I have the highest admiration for that generation (and I know that Vietnam and WWII could not have been more opposite - unfortunately i don't think my friend quite understands the difference) so I basically dropped my jaw when she argued with me about this. I found it extremely hard to believe that even a small movement of draft dodging existed, but I had no facts to back my feelings up-but this helps make it clear. thank you and let me know if you discover anything else on this (I myself am attempting to find more...don't think i'll find much.)

#8 Kiwiwriter


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Posted 16 April 2004 - 11:29 AM

You'll find the reminscences of a conscientious objector in WW2 in Studs Terkel's "The Good War," which is his oral history of WW2. Most of these guys were sent to lumber camps in California and Oregon to work on cutting down trees. Conditions were harsh, but most of the guys in the camps were people with religious objections, like Jehovah's Witnesses.

Interestingly, the war created a backlash against them, and they were accused of treason for their refusal to serve and salute the flag. They were called "Hitler's 5th Column." It was only when the concentration camps were opened that the world found out that Hitler was killing them en masse, too.

There was also an upsurge in anti-Semitism during the war, as pre-war America First speakers blamed the war on the Jews, and that had an impact. Public opinion polls in 1941 said that 50 percent of those polled said Jews "had too much power in the United States." By 1945, that went up to 56 percent of those polled!

Among the Conscientious Objectors who went to a camp during the war was actor Lew Ayres, who gained his Best Actor Oscar for "All Quiet on the Western Front."

Very different war. Unlike Vietnam, it was a "Total War," in which the entire nation was mobilized and the war was fought across the world (as I note on my web page). Every aspect of American life was attuned to the war effort in some way. Schools replaced peacetime teaching with "war curricula," which included map-reading and world geography, so the classes that graduated to the draft knew where they were going. That didn't happen in Korea, Vietnam, or even in Iraq. The "war on terror" is close to a "total war," in that it started on our soil. But it's not the same.

In England, it was even more total...the government even regulated the size of jacket lapels.

#9 myheroes



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Posted 16 April 2004 - 12:06 PM

Kiwiwriter- that's really interesting, i knew there were some religous objectors but i didn't know that they were sent away. i'm going to have to check out your site. so, would you say that conscientious objectors (religous ones mostly) would basically be the majority of the "draft dodgers?" (which was a minority group anyway)
I haven't seen the movie version of "All Quiet on the Western Front" I read the book in 6th grade (don't ask me why i chose it for summer reading!) but i'll have to read it again because i only vaguely remember it.

#10 Captain RWF

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Posted 16 April 2004 - 12:22 PM

I think the Americans that headed to Canada in WW2 were going to join up before 1941 to fight in groups like the Eagle Squadrons.

#11 Kiwiwriter


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Posted 16 April 2004 - 01:11 PM

Kiwiwriter- that's really interesting, i knew there were some religous objectors but i didn't know that they were sent away.  i'm going to have to check out your site.  so, would you say that  conscientious objectors (religous ones mostly) would basically be the majority of the "draft dodgers?"  (which was a minority group anyway)
I haven't seen the movie version of "All Quiet on the Western Front" I read the book in 6th grade (don't ask me why i chose it for summer reading!) but i'll have to read it again because i only vaguely remember it.

Most of the objectors were religious objectors or conscientious pacifists. While their camps were not fun, they were not as bad as WW1, where they were sent to prisons and brutalized. Amish objectors in WW1 were forced to wear prison uniforms with buttons, which is against their religion -- buttons are seen as a police or army uniform accoutrement. When the Amish got their prison issue uniforms with buttons, they refused to wear them. So the guards beat the tar out of them.

There were, of course, a lot of 4Fs, which varied the gamut from gay drag queens to guys with a lot of children. Stan Musial, for example, the ballplayer, avoided uniform until 1945, because his salary for winning batting titles for the St. Louis Cardinals was the sole support for his large family. By 1945, it wasn't, and he got yanked into service.

What you didn't have in WW2 was any protest against the war. The Klan folded up for the duration. It was actually their weakest period until the present day. The American Nazis also scrambled for cover, with their leadership going in clack for sedition and tax evasion. The Communists, of course, supported the war after the invasion of the Soviet Union. Hitler and Tojo were such pure and powerful evils that nobody could sympathize with them except the most racist crank, as we see today in the make-up of modern neo-Nazis and their ilk.

Any protests at the time were not against the war, but the way it was conducted: Communists demanding a "Second Front" now, conservatives shuddering against plans for the United Nations, mothers distraught over the high casualty bills on Iwo Jima, and anti-Britons who disliked any campaign fought at Churchill's behest.

There was also a lot of debate over how the war was conducted, with the sugar mess, the rubber mess, rationing, wildcat strikes, the president of Montgomery Ward getting carried out by troops in his fancy chair, and so on.

But you didn't see objections to the "why." Pearl Harbor ended that. Pacifists and other folks who oppose war in general on their traditional or religious grounds did not argue over the use of force against Hitler. It was very hard to find a peaceful way to defeat that genocidal maniac. However, the revelations of Hitler's death camps, the atomic bombs, and the other horrors did give weight to postwar pacifist movements, with considerable justification. Hiroshima showed that humanity now could incinerate itself, which led to Einstein's comments on World Wars III and IV.

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