UPDATE: I have been told through comments that Ron Paul did receive a draft notice and chose to join the Air Force, as an option he was given, in order to avoid service in the Army as an enlisted man. So, it is apparently okay for Ron Paul to use a legal means by which to avoid being drafted into the Army but not for Newt Gngrich. Well, at least he isn’t hypocritical or anything.
Let me say at the beginning that as a 20-year Air Force veteran who was raised by a 30-year Navy veteran who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars, I have no problem with legal and legitimate draft deferments during the Vietnam War (not deferments like Bill Clinton finagled). I also don’t believe that military service is for everyone and there are other respectable ways in which one can serve his country and I believe service in the National Guard to be honorable and important.
Now, having said that, this is the second time I have seen Ron Paul reference being drafted into the Air Force and it has bothered me each time because he is either lying, engaging in hyperbole or just plain senile. But this time he has used a reference to being drafted as a hammer with which to bash former Speaker Newt Gingrich, a man I am not supporting for president but cannot sit back and watch get unnecessarily bashed with lies and by lies.
Here is an excerpt from the latest story by CNN concerning Ron Paul being “drafted.”
Paul questions Gingrich’s draft deferment
CNN’s Kevin Liptak
(CNN) – Ron Paul issued a new hit on Newt Gingrich Thursday, suggesting his rival was incautious by taking a hawkish stance on U.S. defense while having deferred military service himself.
“He’s probably as aggressive with the military as anybody,” Paul said on Fox News. “He supports all the wars in the Middle East a thousand times more than I would. But you know in the nineteen-sixties when I was drafted in the military, he got several deferments. He chose not to go. Now he’ll send our kids to war.”
The fact that Ron Paul would use a false claim of being “drafted” in that type of attack in light of my research makes me ill. Notice that last sentence referencing the 1960′s and how Newt Gingrich chose not to go. Is that intended to imply that Ron Paul has a higher moral position on matters of war since he apparently “went” somewhere with a thinly veiled reference to Vietnam (service in the 1960′s)?
The first time I heard Ron Paul make a reference to being drafted was during one of the early debates when he claimed to have been drafted into the Air Force. As a retired 20-year Air Force veteran I really didn’t think the Air Force had ever used the draft. So, I did a little digging and found this article at Air Force-Magazine.com, an online journal of the Air Force Association:
Most draftees went into the Army. A Presidential panel studying the military manpower issue reported in 1970, “The Navy and Marine Corps have occasionally issued draft calls to meet temporary shortfalls, but the Air Force has never used the draft.”
So, the Air Force never used the draft, contrary to assertions made by Ron Paul on at least two occasions in this Republican presidential primary. But there is something else of significance in this Air Force-Magazine.com article with respect to Newt Gingrich’s draft deferments:
Meanwhile, Hershey and the Selective Service had a new problem on their hands: too many potential draftees. The Army could not possibly use all of them.
Between 1954 and 1964, the number of men eligible for the draft increased by 50 percent while draft inductions dropped from 250,000 to 112,000, respectively, in those years. “We deferred practically everybody,” Hershey said. “If they had a reason, we preferred it, but if they didn’t, we made them hunt one.”
From 1955 on, Hershey and the Selective Service were active in “channeling” men, via deferments, into vocations of national interest. These included science, engineering, medical professions, and teaching. Hershey described channeling as a new major task for the Selective Service.
Newt Gingrich was 22 years old when the Vietnam War ramped up in 1965, graduating college and enrolling in a master’s program. He pursued his advanced degrees and became – of all things – not just a teacher but a college History professor as the Selective Service was “channeling” young men to do.
Importantly, Newt Gingrich could not have enrolled in college in order to avoid the Vietnam era draft as many did during the mid to late 1960’s because he was already in college before the Vietnam War started and the draft accelerated.
According to Wikipedia, approximately 96% of men eligible for the draft during the Vietnam War were deferred for one reason or another.
But, there’s more. Gingrich was married in 1962 and there was an unofficial Kennedy doctrine regarding the draft and married men wherein they were put at the bottom of the draft list until LBJ changed it after Kennedy’s assassination, also according to Wikipedia.
But, enough about Newt Gingrich and his draft deferments, let’s get back to Ron Paul and his military service.
The entry for Ron Paul at Wikipedia states that he began his military service in the Air Force in 1963 before the Vietnam War and only served on active duty for two years.
In 1965 just as the war was ramping up and President Johnson sent in the first combat troops Ron Paul chose to leave active duty and serve out his time in the Air National Guard, which reduced the possibility of a deployment to Southeast Asia, and finally left the service all together in 1968.
Now remember, even though there was no war in 1963 there was still a draft and Ron Paul was already out of college and medical school, unlike Newt Gingrich, so he was not eligible for a college deferment although to be fare, he was still at the bottom of the list as a married man according to the unofficial Kennedy Doctrine.
So, did Ron Paul enlist in the Air Force, as many did, in order to avoid being drafted into the Army and then move to the Air National Guard in order to avoid war in Vietnam?
There is one way Ron Paul could have been “drafted.” Every supervisor I worked for when I first went into the Air Force had received their draft notice from the Army and, without opening it, ran to the nearest Air Force recruiting office and enlisted in order to avoid the draft. Is that what Ron Paul did?
Did Ron Paul dodge the draft, lie about being drafted or is he senile?