I knew 'Better Dead than Red'
But when I got to my ol' draft board, buddy
This is what I said:
Sarge, I'm only 18
I got a ruptured spleen
And I always carry a purse
I got eyes like a bat
And my feet are flat
And my asthma's getting worse!"
It's about this: A character (Always Male for obvious reasons) doesn't want to be conscripted by the armed forces. He may have different reasons, and find different ways to do it, which may or may not work. The type of hero that usually gets put in this kind of situation is often an average worker, or even outright poor, as a person from the higher classes of society usually have relatively easy methods to exempt themselves from serving while avoiding the negative repercussions in the process.
- He simply is not willing to risk his life for his country
- He does not want to fight
- He objects for ideological reasons
Possible ways to dodge:
- Claim you're too sick. Maybe all you need for this option is a note from your doctor; but you may also go through some pain, which can go as far as self-mutilation.
- Act like/openly claim you're gay. This may have other repercussions, though. (This mainly applied to the US before and during the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" era, when openly gay citizens were barred from military service. The repeal of that policy in favor of accepting the openly gay to serve has closed off this escape route, making it a Dead Horse Trope outside of period works.)
- Pretend to be crazy.
- Commit a lesser crime.
- Flee to another country. For Americans, this often meant Canada; for West Germany, there was the option of West Berlin, since men living there were exempted from the draft for complicated legal reasons.note
- Earlier forms of military conscriptions, e. g. that in France during the Revolutionary and The Napoleonic Wars and that in the US during the The American Civil War, offered a legal way to avoid the draft that no longer exists: hire a substitute to serve in your place. Of course only the more affluent could take advantage of that option, especially when a war wore on and the casualty rates rose, causing the fees men asked to serve as substitutes to rise considerably.
- Declare yourself a "conscientious objector" and convince a military tribunal that you're objecting for ideological reasons (easier for members of certain religions, such as Quakers). There is a very chequered history of countries (a) allowing you the right to do this (although it's in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights) and (b) actually abiding by it if they do. Some objectors agree to serve as The Medic, as stretcher-bearers, or in other non-combatant roles. Others are delegated for non-military work that can be every bit as dangerous as combat - fighting forest fires, disaster or marine rescue services, tending quarantined patients in contagious-disease wards - but doesn't force them to hurt anyone.
- Volunteer to fight for armed forces of another country. For some people, the objection is not so much objection to fighting as much as fighting for a particular country. Many people avoided draft in the country that they were citizens of and went to war as soldiers for another country. A particularly glaring example is a certain Austro-Hungarian citizen named Adolf Hitler who avoided draft into his own country's army by volunteering for the German Army during World War I. He did so as a matter of principle as a German (broadly defined) nationalist.
- Get a job that makes you more valuable to the war effort as a worker than as a soldier.
An alternative for Draft Dodging is getting smart. That means volunteering in a unit with little to do with actual military, such as National Guard, Coast Guard, or Border Guard, or pulling the strings and/or gaming the system by getting yourself in a non-fighting position, such as company clerk, vehicle mechanic or drill instructor. Of course, even this isn't foolproof, as in the US, the Coast Guard and National Guard can both be (and especially in recent years, often are) mobilized to the front lines, and even Soldiers at the Rear might find themselves on the front due to the needs of the service or surprise enemy attacks.
This is a trope that may become a Dead Horse Trope in the next few decades, as more and more western states abolish conscription. There is still draft registration in the United States, but it is so politically unacceptable that the laws regarding registration are not enforced. note Whether American conscription is ever revived is debatable. The US has proven it can fight protracted wars without conscription, but the full impact of this has yet to be seen and a future war with higher casualties may force the draft to be revived. This is also something of a required trope for the "chickenhawk" variant of Miles Gloriosus: the War Hawk who claims the nation's military is their greatest pride, while quietly shoving a heavily doctored medical report under the table.
- Mentioned in Maus. The grandfather of the artist had 16 of his teeth pulled so he wouldn't have to join the army; the artist's father (the protagonist) would willingly ruin his health with a salted herring-only diet and no sleep and coffee during the last three days before the test. (It was the grandfather who insisted that he'd do this. But the artist's father found doing it was so terrible, he preferred to be drafted the second time around.)
- Averted by Will Eisner's father in his autobiographical graphic novel To the Heart of the Storm. He opts not to have his eye put out (by a doctor!) to avoid service in World War I, instead he emigrates to America.
- In Tigerland two soldiers about to depart to Vietnam contemplate jumping from a roof to injure themselves and avoid deployment. At the end of the film a soldier deliberately injures another soldier's eye so that he will be discharged.
- In M*A*S*H, the main characters try to help a local boy avoid the draft. They make him take amphetamines to speed up his heartbeat and fake a heart condition. The doctor sees through this and keeps him for further examination, which reveals the fraud.
- In the Laurel and Hardy movie Great Guns, the eponymous duo were servants to a rich family. When a man from said family was drafted, the family (not the draftee himself) tried this.
- In a Finnish military farce movie Vääpeli Körmy (Sergeant Major Körmy) a young man tries to avoid draft by pretending to have so bad eyes he can't even see the eye test. When the doctor says he will be released from service and asks him to bring him a form from the third pile by the wall the man makes the mistake by walking to the papers and bringing in the right one.
- There's the joke about the fox, the bunny, and the bear who want to avoid conscription. The fox thinks he is going into military intelligence and pretends to be stupid. The bunny thinks he is going to be a spy and cuts off his ears. The bear thinks he is going to become a fighter and pulls his teeth and claws... then is rejected because he is too fat (or has flat feet).
- A guy asked his older friend how he managed to dodge the draft. "Do you see that tree over there?" asks the latter. "Yes", says the former. "Well, I don't".note
- Thomas Mann's novel Confessions of Felix Krull subverts this: The character knows that the doctors are very generous in declaring even sick people fit for the army; so he instead fakes being a sick but enthusiastic guy, who plays down his obvious-but-fake maladies. It works.
- In The Good Soldier vejk, set right before and during World War I, there are a variety of men trying to avoid conscription by appearing ill, resorting to injecting gasoline into their legs and other outlandish methods (all played for comedy). The army has a special "hospital" for malingerers, where they put them on a strict diet, and, among other things, wrap them in wet sheets - even the ones who really have tuberculosis.
"That precious soul had not deceived me. And so finally I had my muscular rheumatism."
- Subverted by the protagonist, who volunteers, despite suffering from rheumatism so bad that he can't even walk, and he's wheeled to the recruitment office by his charwoman. And then he's promptly sent to the above-mentioned special hospital ward.
- Later into the book, one-year volunteer Mareknote is introduced, who describes his failed attempts to catch rheumatism - he slept in gutters in rain and bathed in icy river - which only hardened him to cold, so he felt perfectly fit after spending the whole night sleeping on snow. He also tried to catch a venereal disease, visiting a brothel daily, but he remained immune. Finally he met a disabled soldier who injected him with something which made him suffer a "real rheumatism" so he can hardly move.
- In the Tim Dorsey novel Orange Crush, the Lt Governor of Florida was revealed to have never registered for the draft. To avoid the political fallout of him being seen as a draft dodger (even though there was no war in which the government was actually drafting people to fight in at the time), his handlers arrange for him to join the National Guard, intending to file paperwork claiming that he had an injury that prevented him from serving in the field. Unfortunately, said paperwork had not been filed by the time his unit was called up and sent to Kosovo.
- An Iranian in On Wings of Eagles avoided service in the Shah's army by pretending to have an incurable twitching disease. After twitching for hours in front of numerous doctors (which turned out to be rather exhausting) he eventually got a medical exemption.
- Dave Barry in Dave Barry Turns 50, mentions a guy who wore the same underwear for several days, not even removing them to go to the bathroom(!) so that the doctors reject him solely to avoid them getting near him. He also says that to him, this guy was quite a bit more honorable than Henry Kissinger.
- Spike Milligan averted this trope. He really did put his back out a day or two before his call-up date, necessitating medical treatment and bedrest. This delayed his arrival with his regiment. As Milligan said, in Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall, claiming you're unfit for military service because you have a bad back rings as true as the lodger, naked in bed with the landlady, claiming the laundry's late.
Only in my case... the laundry was late.
- In The Godfather, it was mentioned that one of the services that the Mafia provided to their men and the families who paid them tribute was a network of crooked doctors willing to provide fake medical deferments to draftees during WWII. Michael Corleone notably did not use this service (he enlisted voluntarily), but Vito eventually pulled some strings to get him a medical discharge instead of a Purple Heart and return to duty after he was wounded in combat.
Live Action Television
- Parodied in Arrested Development when Buster tries to avoid re-enlistment:
Buster: ...hole in my heart. I've never opened my eyes underwater. My genital area is shaped like a lobster tail but without its shell. Uh, oh, I guess I have the panic attacks under control. Oh, and I'm legally blind at night.Narrator: But Buster had miscalculated the Army's current need for personnel.Army doctor: Okay, then, let's get you fitted for a uniform!
- Another Dad's Army example. Private Walker (the platoon's Honest John's Dealership) was called up for service but dodged it because of an 'allergy to corned beef'. Unlike Pike's rare blood type, it was strongly implied that this was another of Walker's scams.
- An episode of Foyle's War featured a man with a heart condition who ran a racket where he would turn up at the medical exam of someone who had been called up, claiming to be that person, and fail due to his heart condition, thereby allowing them to avoid conscription.
- A QI episode discussed how during WWI, Germans and British propaganda teams bombed each other with leaflets carrying information on how to fake symptoms of tuberculosis so that you can be sent back. Methods including smoking 30 cigarettes per day to get the heart palpitations, raspy voice, and cough; putting toothpaste into your eyes to make them watery and bloodshot, and mixing some smegma into your sputum samples to fool the people doing the biopsy.
- On M*A*S*H, Klinger tried to fake many ailments that were getting other soldiers discharged, like having fainting spells. In one episode, Klinger really did lose his hearing. When it returned, he was excited until Potter informed him being deaf would have been his ticket out of the Army.
- Another time he pretended not to believe that he wasn't in the Army or in Korea. He was so convincing Colonel Potter started to fill out the discharge form. Even as Potter asked him for details for the form Klinger pretended not to know he was letting him out of the army. Then the colonel asked his ranks and he replied "Corporal".
- Just Another Band from L.A. by Frank Zappa has a track named "Billy The Mountain", in which Billy the mountain is persecuted for draft evasion. Zappa also recorded "I Don't Want To Get Drafted", a song appearing on "You Are What You Is" (1980) and "The Lost Episodes" (1995).
- The Darwin Awards Web site includes a story of a farmhand who was killed while trying to dodge the draft in WWII. He tried to get a horse to kick him and injure him enough to disqualify him. He succeeded too well and received a lethal injury.
- Another tale involves a Pole who attempted to get a lion to bite him. It bit off his arm.
- Several Urban Legends, such as the story of one guy who pretended to be deaf. It seems that the doctors are buying it, but when he leaves, one of them asks him to close the door on his way out; when he answers, they know he isn't really deaf.
- Another story (Urban Legend?) from West Germany: A man substituted his diabetic girlfriend's urine sample for his own in order to convince the draft board that he had diabetes, but his plan failed because the urine sample also tested positive for pregnancy.
- Definitely Urban Legend - they would have to have specifically tested for a pregnancy hormone to detect it.
- In the second Destroy All Humans!, one of the side missions has you get a draft-dodging hippy to the base so he could serve.
- Bluto tried this in a classic Popeye short. However, once he and Popeye are attacked by Japanese spies, he changes his mind and enlists.
- Averted and played with by Hank Hill in King of the Hill. Hank's dad, Cotton, lied about his age and enlisted at age 15 so he could fight in World War II and makes fun of him by calling him a draft dodger for not serving in the Army. The real reason Hank did not serve in the Army was that when he tried to enlist at age 18, he was disqualified due to having a narrow urethra, and the Vietnam War had been over for some time.
- In real life, young Korean celebrities will often bribe doctors to give them disqualifying diagnoses, with the idea that serving two years conscription would be inconvenient and damage their careers. Usually, the truth will somehow come out in the press and the celebrity will be shamed into fulfilling their obligation or see their careers take a hard hit.
- Swallowing rolled-up bits of foil before the medical examination is suggested as a good way to avoid conscription, supposedly because the foil will show up as ulcers in x-rays (this technique never works).
- Korean soccer players have been rumored to intentionally damage their own shoulders (chronic shoulder injuries being one cause for exemption) in the hopes that they can avoid military service and continue their athletic training instead.
- In the 19th century, some people in Egypt put out one of their eyes in order to escape the army. It was followed by an order to form a regiment out of one-eyed men.
- Italian history offers three examples of this:
- Older Than Feudalism; many young Romans attempted to avoid getting drafted by cutting off their thumbs so that they couldn't hold a sword properly. This behavior was often punished swiftly and brutally, but it became so widespread during the migration period that Emperor Theodosius passed a law to allow thumb-less to serve and ultimately beginning to replace Romans with barbarians due to the population's lack of motivation to serve in the military and increasingly severe losses.
- After the unification and the introduction of conscription into the former Kingdom of Two Sicilies (who did not have conscription), part of the dodgers willingly injured themselves to be disqualified. This had a mixed rate of success, as it would take crippling injuries to be disqualified;
- During World War I, already conscripted and reactivated soldiers would sometimes shoot themselves in a hand or foot during battle to be sent home, or at least in the rear echelons. This always failed and resulted in punishment, as Austro-Hungarian weapons used larger bullets than Italian ones, allowing the medics to easily recognize if the wound had actually been produced by enemy fire.
- There was also a practice called "waving", which involved deliberately sticking an extremity out of the trench in hopes that the enemy would hit it non-lethally. It had mixed levels of success.
- During the Vietnam War, there were quite a few American athletes who managed to have "injuries" that prevented them from being drafted yet somehow failed to impair them from continuing to play professional sports.
- There are a few examples on the Darwin Awards site about people trying to injure themselves so they'll be ineligible for the draft and succeeding a little too well.
- Errol Flynn was rejected for service due to chronic malaria, tuberculosis, and venereal diseases. Fearing that public disclosure of these afflictions would cause the audience to stop taking him seriously as a swashbuckling hero, he and the studios covered the matter up.....making him look like a Dirty Coward in the process.
- Donald Trump avoided serving in Vietnam thanks to a medical report that he had bone spurs in one of his feet... written by a doctor who was a tenant in a building owned by Trump's father. Trump has demonstrated no ill effects from said spurs before or since, and hasn't been entirely clear on which foot was affected.
- In The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Fat Freddy gets his notice, and when his poor physical shape and massive drug use don't get him rejected, he sheepishly claims to be gay...and they tell him he can be in General Gaylord's Homosexual Battalion (We're VERY disciplined!). He freaks and bolts out the fire escape.
- One issue of MAD had a comic satirizing army life. At one point, the protagonist tries to get out of enlisting by pretending to be gay. It doesn't work, because the psychiatrist is gay and sees right through his act.
- In the "In All Kinds Of Weather" series of M*A*S*H fanfics, Hawkeye and Trapper both got an "undesirable discharge" after Frank Burns caught them having sex together.
- In the Israeli movie Lemon Popsicle, two guys do this.
- In the movie Stonewall, the Drag Queen is frightened to go to the draft board and say he's gay, so his Straight Gay boyfriend goes in his place. ...in drag.
- The 1969 comedy The Gay Deceivers has two guys doing this to keep out of Vietnam. It turns out they needn't have bothered, because the guys from the draft board are themselves gay and trying to keep straight people out.
- The German novel Der Untertan has a one-shot character, an actor, doing this. (This novel is set in Imperial Germany.)
- According to (apocryphal) legend, Lenny Bruce wore a dress to his draft bureau in order to avoid service.note Klinger on M*A*S*H is a direct reference to these myths, except that in Klinger's case his cross-dressing was an attempt to convince the Army that he was insane rather than gay.
- Note that when he was offered a discharge for actually being gay, he took offense. (And another episode featured the reverse—a gay man who wanted to stay in the Army.)
- The reason Klinger refused was that if he had taken the discharge, he would have been unemployable in the civilian world because he was gay.
- A Swedish urban legend says that draft dodgers who claimed to be homosexual were sent to a gay-only boot camp on the isle of Gotland. The idea of an island full of armed gays, who would presume that all rookies were gay as well, would deter teens from feigning homosexuality. Apparently, the gay unit was a fiction made up by the military. During periods of Swedish history, homosexuality has been considered a disease or a crime, but it was never considered a valid reason to avoid the draft.
- Another urban legend claims that some men would avoid being drafted by sitting on a bottle. This would make them look an
activepassive gay during the medical test.
- Archer: Camp Gay Ray Gillette mentions a (straight) friend pretended to be gay and interested in him to avoid the draft. Ray figured out his friend wasn't gay, so Ray alerted his draft board and had him sent to Vietnam.
- According to one report from the late 1990s, some young men in Thailand got breast implants before reporting to the induction center.
- That is not exactly the gay but rather transgender option. Thailand has more transsexuals per capita than any other country in the world.
- Transsexualism is not a cause for exemption of draft in neither Finland nor Israel. Male to female transsexuals are simply reassigned to an all-female unit. Likewise, female to male transsexuals may apply as volunteers in Finland.
- This article tells the story of a trained actor who was able to convincingly play gay. He took an opportunity offered to him as a time-saver to be interviewed with several men who enlisted instead of the next round of conscripts, setting himself up as someone who wanted to be in the military instead of as someone who would try to dodge. He denied being gay in a manner that convinced the interviewer he was lying to enlist.
- Reportedly, it's what Iggy Pop did to escape service.
- Homosexuality itself is not a cause for exemption in Finland; "homosexualism disturbing to oneself" is. Many non-effeminate homosexuals do serve and make an active career in the Finnish Forces. Tom of Finland was a Lieutenant in WWII in the Finnish Army.
- Sturmtruppen had an arc based on this and the famous Catch-22 example (see below), with a soldier finding out that the regulations allow to demand discharge for madness... Only for the sergeant to dub all his attempts at being proving himself crazy as proof he's an idiot. In the end, he succeeds when he volunteers to dispose of avariated nitroglycerin (much more likely to explode on a whim than normal nitroglycerin, hence the sergeant not actually expecting volunteers and asking him if he was insane when he did)... Only for the doctor to point out that, according to the Catch 22 of the regulations, asking to be discharged on grounds of madness is proof you're not crazy, and thus he's stuck with the disposal. He gets the discharge anyway when the fear literally drives him mad, the sergeant delivering it while he's been dragged to the asylum.
- A rather funny aversion from Richard Feynman's autobiography: he was denied entry on the grounds of being a loony, simply because he would occasionally hold one-sided conversations with his deceased wife. Also, he answered honestly the question of whether he thought people were staring at him. There are a bunch of people waiting in the room to take their test, but it's a mostly empty room with nothing to look at except the people who are currently being tested, so Feynman drew the logical conclusion.
- His guess was dead-on too, at least before other people started looking. And he reported each new person too. The psychiatrist, not even looking up from his clipboard to verify the number, thought he was a narcissist.
- Another version goes that everything was going smoothly until the shrink asked him what he thought was the value of a human life, to which Feynman responded "64". When asked why he picked 64 and not, say, 72, he replied "'Cause then you would have asked me "Why 72?"." The upshot of all this is that Feynman later wrote a letter to the draft board protesting his failed psych-eval, on the grounds that he was insane enough not to want to take advantage of it. See below.
- Catch-22. Well, attempted, as the clause Catch-22 makes it so that trying to be declared insane to avoid combat is a lose-lose situation - if you are insane, filing the forms to declare yourself insane proves your sanity. You'll be flying combat missions, deal with it.
- Older Than Feudalism example: In The Trojan Cycle, Odysseus tries to get out of fighting the Trojan War by hooking a donkey and an ox to a plow and sowing a field with salt. King Agamemnon's messenger, Palamedes, calls the bluff by placing Odysseus' infant son in front of the plow; Odysseus proves that he's sane by swerving out of the way.
- Odysseus took his revenge and Palamedes died early in the siege, according to one version because Odysseus planted evidence that "proved" Palamedes' collusion with the Trojans, leading to his death by stoning, according to others by Odysseus and his good friend Diomedes killing him.
- Advocated by Abbie Hoffman in Steal This Book:
When you get your invite to join the army, there are lots of ways you can prepare yourself mentally. Begin by staggering up to a cop and telling him you don't know who you are or where you live. He'll arrange for you to be chauffeured to the nearest mental hospital. There you repeat your performance, dropping the clue that you have used LSD in the past, but you aren't sure if you're on it now or not. In due time, they'll put you up for the night. When morning comes, you bounce out of bed, remember who you are, swear you'll never drop acid again and thank everyone who took care of you. Within a few hours, you'll be discharged. Don't be uptight about thinking how they'll lock you up forever cause you really are nuts. The hospitals measure victories by how quickly they can throw you out the door. They are all overcrowded anyway. In most areas, a one-night stand in a mental hospital is enough to convince the shrink at the induction center that you're capable of eating the flesh of a colonel. Just before you go, see a sympathetic psychiatrist and explain your sad mental shape. He'll get verification that you did time in a hospital and include it in his letter, that you'll take along to the induction center.
- Corporal Max Klinger on M*A*S*H is an interesting case, in that he kept this up even after it failed (he did decline the gay option when it was offered, though; see the above section). He was also apparently not the first member of his family to attempt it.
- At one point, Klinger worried he really was going crazy. He gestured towards the dress he was wearing and asked Sidney Freeman, "Would a sane man dress like this?"
- Another episode featured a soldier, Corporal "Boots" Miller, who really was nuts. He talked to his shoes and socks and conducted man-on-the-street interviews in the mess tent with a ladle. One night on guard duty, he began shooting at imaginary gliders with his rifle, which disturbed Klinger so much he said, "If they offered me a Section 8 right now, I'd give it to you!"
- Subverted in Arlo Guthrie's famous "Alice's Restaurant Massacree". He goes to the draft office and starts jumping up and down shouting "Kill! KILL!" and stating that he wants to eat dead burnt bodies. They give him a medal.
- The gay version is also alluded to: Guthrie tells the audience that if two people go to the Army psychiatrist and sing this song together in harmony, "they'll think they're both faggots and they won't take either of them."
- There is the story of the Saxon who came to draft smiling and giggling asking when he is going to get his gun. When asked about anything he just said he didn't care and just wanted to be handed his gun already. The examiners became incredibly creeped out when he started whispering "Bang. Hehe." and he became angry about all the examinations and shouted "I just came here to finally get my damned gun. GIVE ME MY GUN ALREADY!" In the end, they told him his gun would come in the mail and shooed him home. Security was tightened and laughs between friends were shared respectively.
- Sweden, being one of the last countries in the world to practice universal conscription even in peacetime, has a rich Oral Tradition of stories of this type, particularly since psychiatric disability is one of the easiest "outs" to fake. Some are purely humorous (My buddy rolled himself up in the rug and said he was a hot dog!), others have a moral ending (My cousin claimed he was narcoleptic, so they took his driver's license.) The abolition of conscription means that this tradition is slowly dying. It was dying beforehand, too — the end of the Cold War didn't mean the end of formal universal conscription, but it did result in a massive drop of how many actually were drafted, with a corresponding increasing ease in not being drafted. However, Sweden brought back conscription in 2017 due to Russia's actions across Eastern Europe, meaning that such stories are likely to be bandied about by a new generation of Swedes (both men and women, as now the Swedish draft is gender-neutral).
- In Finland universal draft for men is still going strong and until relatively recently was very difficult to dodge. Back when it was extremely hard to get out there was more sympathy for dodgers than today, and from those days there comes this amusing little anecdote / urban legend: When a man came to the army, he kept pretending to ride an invisible scooter everywhere, making motor sounds with his mouth and holding his arms extended in front of him. No matter how many disciplinary measures were taken on him, and even after a couple of beatings from his fellow privates he just kept going relentlessly. Finally his superiors had enough of his antics and had a psychiatrist declare him unfit for military service. At the gates of the garrison, he suddenly stopped, mimed taking a key from his imaginary scooter and handed it to one of the MPs saying: "I hereby relinquish the army vehicle to your care, sir", and walked away normally, whistling happily as he went.
- Another version of the story has the man break into laughter when someone asks him to give a ride with the bike, thus proving that he is not insane.
- Superman: The first Bloodsport, Robert DuBois, fled to Canada when drafted into the Vietnam War. His brother Mikey enlisted, pretending to be him, but lost all four limbs in combat. When Robert heard, he went insane with guilt and became obsessed with the war, to the point of delusionally believing he served alongside his brother.
- In Discworld fic Hyperemesis Gravidarum by A.A. Pessimal, an Assassins' Guild graduate is seen industriously finding new and pressing reasons to extend her stay in Ankh-Morpork so as to avoid national service in her native country. The expectation is that after being sponsored through the toughest school on the Disc for seven years and having been taught lots of skills which would be useful to her Staadt, as one educated overseas at State expense she is expected to return Home and repay her country's investment in her. by signing up in a useful capacity. Heidi van Kruger has other ideas that do not include two years in the paramilitary Secret Police. She notes to herself, seeing the example of a compatriot, that marriage and pregnancy would be a heroic last-ditch exemption. By the end of the story there is, in fact, a potential husband.
- In period piece fanfiction X-Men 1970, a group of activists hold people hostage to force the authorities to provide an escape vehicle with which flee to Canada and dodge the Vietnam draft.
- While it's not stated outright, the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue to American Graffiti hints that this was what Curt ended up doing. (As of 1973, he's "a writer living in Canada".)
- In Girl, Interrupted, Susanna's friend flees to Canada to avoid being sent to Vietnam. He invites her to come with him, but she declines.
- In the documentary Hearts and Minds, one young man who has been hiding out from the draft decides, against his mother's advice, to turn himself in and make a public statement.
- Played realistically/averted in Tim O'Brien's partly fictional novel The Things They Carried. O'Brien attempts to escape to Canada, waiting in a rented room at a lodge for days to cross the border by canoe. He realizes he doesn't have the courage to do it (how much of the story is actually true is up for debate).
- In The Good Soldier vejk, the protagonist misses a train to the army base and tries to go there on foot, getting completely lost on the way. He meets several draft dodgers during his "anabasis", and can't convince them that he isn't one.
- In Reamde, Richard Forthrast's backstory involves him fleeing to Canada to avoid the draft. This earns him the nickname "Dodge," which he doesn't seem to mind. After starting a video game company, he even calls in in-game avatar "Egdod."
- In the Kate Shugak novels, this is part of the backstory for Bernie Koslowski, who runs The Roadhouse in the Park. He fled to Canada during the Vietnam War to avoid the draft. He kept drifting north and eventually wound up in Alaska. He has an Odd Friendship with Bobby Clarke, a Vietnam vet who lost both legs to a landmine.
Live Action TV
- Michael, a one-shot character appearing the Stargate SG-1 episode "1969," gives the time-displaced SG-1 a lift to New York on his way to an unnamed concert (likely Woodstock). During the trip, he and his girlfriend Jenny talk about how he received his draft notice and is considering going to Canada to avoid the war.
Michael: Hey, we're cool. After the concert, me and Jenny, we're even thinking about crossing the border up to Canada.Teal'c: For what reason?Michael: You know, man... the war.Teal'c: The war with Canada?Michael: ... No.
- American Dreams had Helen use her travel agent job to help at least one boy escape to Canada and it was implied she helped others. Had the show continued she would have been arrested for her trouble. The show also had dealt previously with Nathan, member of the Nation of Islam, choosing to serve jail time rather than violate his pacifist beliefs.
- An All in the Family Christmas special had one of Mike's friends, a draft dodger living in Canada, coming down to the Bunkers' place after Mike invites him over for Christmas dinner. One of Archie's friends, who lost his son in Vietnam, also comes over. Awkward.
- It didn't turn out so awkward after all. The friend understood why Mike's friend went to Canada, told Archie that he didn't like the war, and would've like to have Christmas dinner with the guy. Archie was the one who felt and looked foolish.
- Neelix's backstory in Star Trek: Voyager included this, as seen in "Jetrel". He was afraid to die in the war (though he tried to convince himself he was a conscientious objector) between the Talaxians and the Haakonians, and went into hiding to avoid the Talaxian draft. Then the Haakonians used a WMD on Talax's inhabited moon Rinax, an event that was basically Hiroshima Recycled In Space. Talax surrendered the next day.
- Community mentions that Pierce moved to Canada to sit out the Vietnam War.
- Hyde's father on That '70s Show mentions he was a "conscientious Canadian" during the Vietnam War.
- Subverted on Border Security: Canada's Front Line. A Korean man arrives in Canada to study. A CBSA agent suspects he's trying to hide out to avoid military service. It's eventually cleared up he was planning to apply as a Combat Medic, which took several months to process, so he's cleared to enter Canada, albeit with the caution he could only stay for six months in a year without a visa.
- Doctor Who: In "Paradise Towers'', Pex was called up to fight in the Great Offscreen War, but instead stowed away on the ship carrying the children and old folk to Paradise Towers. He is universally reviled by all of the inhabitants of the Towers.
- The Twilight Zone (1985):
- In "Dead Run", a man who dodged the draft and crossed the border to Canada during the Vietnam War is sent to Hell by the fundamentalist Dispatcher who has recently taken over the Celestial Bureaucracy.
- In "The Road Less Traveled", Jeff McDowell was drafted in 1971 but went to college in Canada instead of going to Vietnam. His high school girlfriend and future wife Denise went with him. In an Alternate Universe, however, Jeff went to Vietnam and lost both of his legs.
- A French Village: There's a non-military example with many young Frenchmen running off to avoid forced labor in Germany which they're conscripted into.
- The Led Zeppelin song "Night Flight" is about someone doing this.
- The Flying Burrito Brothers' "My Uncle" is a jolly country song about "headin' for the nearest foreign border/Vancouver might be just my kind of town" to escape the Vietnam draft.
- Briefly Discussed/Defied in the Charlie Daniels song "Still in Saigon":
I coulda gone to Canada, or I could have stayed in school
But I was brought up differently; I couldn't break the rules
- Older Than Feudalism example: Achilles' immortal mother knew that he would either die in inglorious old age or not return from fighting before Troy, so she unsuccessfully tried to get him out of serving in the Trojan War by hiding among the daughters of king Lykomedes of Skyros dressed as a woman. The deceit was exposed by Odysseus and Achilles was so ashamed of having participated in this deceit that he joined the army against Troy even though he was no former suitor of Helen and therefore not oath-bound. In other words: If she had done nothing, he wouldn't have had to fight and no need to restore his honor? Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!, er, side character.
- Other versions have the prophecy say Achilles' life would be glorious and short or lengthy and dull (not specifying Troy), at which his mother decided to hide him as a woman, knowing the oathmakers wanted to have Achilles' skill with them at Troy. Odysseus, attempting to root out Achilles, presented a variety of items to the daughters, and Achilles picks up a sword, giving Odysseus proof to be suspicious and reveals who Achilles is. Achilles is presented as being eager to fight, and only hides at the behest of his mother.
- Stand-up comic John Wing, when talking about his family, referred to an uncle "stationed in Canada" during the Vietnam War. "Chicken Wing," they called him.
- In The Sound of Music, Captain von Trapp and his family escape from Nazi-occupied Austria so that he may avoid serving in the German navy.
- This is discussed in the Hey Arnold! Veteran's Day special. While recounting his experiences during The Vietnam War, Gerald's father explains how the war was very unpopular with the American public and several draftees fled to Canada to avoid serving. While he considered doing it himself, he ultimately decided it was his duty as an American citizen to serve whether he agreed with the war or not.
- In Italy escape from the draft partially fueled a civil war, as draft dodgers in the former Kingdom of Two Sicilies who didn't injury themselves would join the 'brigands' (many of which were actually fighting a guerrilla war against the forced unification) that infested the area at the time.
- Although Heart is now associated with the Wilson sisters, the original founders were the brothers Michael and Roger Fisher who decamped to Canada to evade the Vietnam War draft. The Wilson sisters followed them, as they were in relationships with the Fishers. This explains why Hearts first few records were from Canadian labels. The group returned to the US only after President Carter issued a blanket pardon to all Vietnam War draft evaders.
- Gangs of New York follows the build-up to the historical New York City Draft Riots as the major B-Plot of the movie (and the riots themselves eventually interfere with the A-Plot, killing most of the cast as collateral damage). The reason why these riots occurred was that the New York rich paid to be left out of the draft on the Civil War and the poor (including shanghaied immigrants) were unable to do so.
- Similar rioting happened in Wisconsin, where the largely recently immigrated Belgian community revolted against the perception that they were being preferentially drafted so that rich WASPs and more settled English-speaking immigrants could dodge service in the Union armies. Troops desperately needed for the front lines, at a time when the Confederacy was winning all the battles and looked like driving to Washington, had to be diverted to Wisconsin to restore order.
- The Curse of the Blue Figurine: In the eleventh book of the series, The Bell, the Book and the Spellbinder, the book's antagonist Jarmyn Thanatos (under the name Jarmyn Nemo, one of his many aliases) is noted to have paid a substitute to join the Union Army in his place in 1862.
- In Superman & Batman: Generations, both Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne's sons are offered deferments but refuse, Joel Kent because he feels like he has to prove himself and Bruce Jr. because he doesn't think it's fair to use his father's wealth and status that way. When the Joker kills Dick Grayson (Batman II), BJ takes the deferment because the world needs a Batman.
- A Donald Duck story presents Donald as having pulled it accidentally, as his notification had been lost in the mail and he was under the impression he had been exempted due to his duck physiology giving him flat feet and making him short and chubby-an argument shot down by the general on his case for the accidental dodging being a duck himself. When the army finds out and decides to draft him he tries to get exempted by crouching just enough to appear too short, only for the general seeing it coming and straightening him (Donald is just tall enough to qualify). Then, at the end of basic training, he asks for a license before deployment because his nephews are coming home from the Junior Woodchucks camp and he needs to find them a new home... At which point the general realizes he's forcing the sole caretaker of three orphans to serve in the army and exempts him.
- Sergeant York is a movie about... well, Sergeant York and how he was a pacifist due to his interpretation of the Bible, and so attempted to resist being drafted. But he gets drafted anyway, as the church he followed was so remote that the draft board couldn't prove it even existed for the purposes of a Conscientious Objector exemption. As a country boy from the Appalachian Mountains, he was extremely effective at killing Germans and became a famous American hero, and the most decorated American soldier of WWI.
- Across the Universe has Max comically opting for "all of the above". He swallows some cotton before he goes in for his physical exam when he is drafted, with the idea that it'll come up as a fuzzy spot on his X-ray. They don't even do an X-ray. Other options suggested are pretending to be a sociopath so he'll flunk a psych screening, claiming to be a pedophile, and eating lots of beets the night before the test so it looks like he's peeing blood.
Army Sergeant: Is there any reason you shouldn't be in this man's Army?Max: I'm a cross-dressing homosexual pacifist with a spot on my lung.Army Sergeant: As long as you don't have flat feet.
- All of the above except going to Canada. He doesn't want to go there at all.
- Inverted in the Captain America movie. Steve Rogers was rejected by the draft board nearly eight times. They finally let him join the army if he agreed to be part of an experiment... and we all know how that turned out.
- The beginning of Robert A. Heinlein's novel Glory Road has an extensive description of various means used to dodge the draft in the United States during the Vietnam War. The protagonist finally chooses to be voluntarily drafted because he has no other viable options.
- In A Prayer for Owen Meany, the main character avoids the draft during the Vietnam War by cutting off his index finger. He later leaves for Canada.
- At the beginning of The Great Gatsby, the narrator Nick Carraway is talking about how he was born into money and mentions that his grandfather was wealthy enough to hire a substitute to serve in the Civil War.
- In The Brothers K by David James Duncan, one brother, a gentle pacifist, is drafted during the Vietnam War. The family attempts to have the local church vouch for him, but the preacher has a grudge against him. He is sent to Vietnam and the stress takes a heavy toll on his sanity.
- Lt Keith of The Caine Mutiny voluntarily signs up for Naval OCS and becomes a Navy officer to avoid being drafted and becoming an Army grunt.
- Happens at the start of The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted (through fake documents), but is naturally averted, as the title reveals.
- It's stated in Phoenix and Ashes that Robbie uses his ability to dislocate his shoulders at will to avoid the WWI draft. In his case, it's because he's much happier acting as a bodyguard/enforcer for a crooked lawyer (The Dragon for the novel's villain); he would have been quite capable of acting as a soldier.
- In Bruce Coville's short story With His Head Tucked Underneath His Arm, there are people who avoid being drafted into the endless wars on the continent of Losfar because they're physically unfit and others who avoid it because they're too frightened, too smart or simply "too loving"; this last category is the most dangerous because objecting to the war has been made illegal. The protagonist, Brion, fits the last category and fakes being crippled to avoid serving in a war he doesn't believe in, but ends up revealing his true status and is arrested and executed for it. He promptly comes Back from the Dead to force his king to withdraw from the wars entirely (and later leads an Army of the Dead to talk a massive army of enemy soldiers into deserting in order to put off their own deaths).
- Isaac Asimov's "In a Good Cause": Altmayer is jailed on June 17, 2755, because he refused to accept Conscription against the human government of Santanni. He would rather fight against the alien Diaboli.
- In David Edding's Regina's Song, it's mentioned early on that Les Greenfield, the narrator's father's boss, tried to get an educational deferment during Vietnam years before the story started, but after his alma mater flunked him out for majoring in partying rather than an actual academic path, he got drafted anyway.
Live Action TV
- There's a variation in the WWII Brit Com Dad's Army. Frank Pike doesn't want to evade military service, but his medical test reveals a rare blood group. He's excused from active service on the grounds that they'd have nothing to transfuse him with in the event of injury. So he stays in the Home Guard instead.
- Brazilian soap opera O Rei do Gado (The King of Cattle) featured several Brazilians getting married as soon as possible because the Brazilian military was drafting bachelors to serve during World War II.
- Several variations of service members trying to get out of the military happens in JAG, along with a few cases of individuals who really want to join the Navy or Marines but don't qualify (usually because they're too young).
- An episode of Mad Men had Don try to find a way to get his mistress's son out of the Vietnam War draft. The kid used to be exempt because he was in college but lost his exemption due to a stupid anti-war stunt. Unfortunately Don does not have the right connections to accomplish this and it looks like the kid will have to flee to Canada. In the end, one of Don's partners calls in a favour to get the kid into the Air National Guard.
- In Weeds, Andy's Army Reserve unit is called up for duty in Iraq. He gets a deferment by enrolling in rabbinical school, as theology students qualify for the chaplain corps.
- ''M*A*S*H: In addition to the other examples listed above, Klinger tried other methods including making up family emergencies (to the point Col. Blake had a drawer full of them), gaining enough weight to count as disabled, and in one episode building a hang-glider to fly his way out.
- Motherland: Fort Salem: Witches who do not answer the enlistment call are hunted down by the military and are either killed or imprisoned, the former of which happened to Scylla's parents.
- Blake's 7. Vila claims he bribed someone to give him a lower intelligence rating so he wouldn't be drafted as a Federation officer. Avon of course replies that in his case the bribe was unnecessary.
- Several are mentioned in "Draft Dodger Rag" which provides the page quote: aside from homosexuality and sicknesses, the narrator also mentions his "poor old invalid aunt", that he's "addicted to a thousand drugs" and that he's working at a defense plant.
- The dialogue of "Alice's Restaurant" claims that singing this song to the draft board, alone or in groups, will convince the board that you're crazy, gay, and/or part of an organized protest against conscription.
- Although these days, when Arlo Guthrie sings it live, that bit's been changed to say that singing this song to the draft board, alone or in groups, will prompt the board to make a sarcastic comment about your old-fashioned taste in music.
- There's a double subversion earlier in the song. When Arlo is called up, he fakes being a murderous lunatic during his psychiatric assessment. It fails - they give him a medal instead. However, he's later rejected when they discover he has a criminal record... for littering.
- Frank Zappa's mini-Rock Opera "Billy The Mountain" is about a secret government agent tracking down a mountain (yes, a literal mountain) who's refusing to report to the draft office. It ends badly for him, since
A mountain is something you don't wanna fuck with!
- Allan Sherman's "Dodging the Draft" offers several tips for doing such. Aside from the inevitable homosexuality, sickness, and disability claims, he also suggests saying that "you don't need the army 'cause you've seen Bob Hope", bragging that "you studied under Cassius Clay" and that "Benedict Arnold was on [your] father's side", and offering the officer a light for his cigarette by burning your draft card. "If the draft board acts in the usual way", he says, "you'll be what I call... 1-A!" note
- In the music video for Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" a man is seen burning his draft card.
- Several of these are mentioned / discussed in the Hair musical.
- If you enact the Conscription defense edict in Tropico 4, the Tropican emigration rate increases as some people leave the country entirely to avoid the draft.
- Ilmari Gasotto in Valkyria Chronicles III dodged the draft simply because he didn't feel like going. He got drafted into the Nameless for this.
- There was a WWII-era Daffy Duck cartoon, Draftee Daffy, where Daffy was trying to evade "that dope from the draft board". Daffy's approach is simply to run and hide from anyone trying to draft him until the drafts stop. Unfortunately, the person trying to give him the draft card, the aptly named "Little Man from the Draft Board", is about as persistent as Droopy.
- Prowl of Transformers Animated is revealed to have tried this in his backstory.
- The Simpsons: Abe once claimed to have disguised himself as a woman to avoid military service. While in drag, he joined an all-women's baseball team and the masquerade ended when his wig fell during a game. Then again, given how inconsistent the tales about his past usually are, one must wonder if it really happened.
- Especially as in at least one episode it was shown he was a Squad Leader of a group of soldiers in World War II and a bonafide War Hero.
- According to John "Drumbo" French, longtime drummer with Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, when guitarist Jeff Cotton received an appointment with the draft board his fellow band-members helped him prepare for it by keeping him awake and feeding him amphetamines for several days beforehand.
- Gregg Allman took a more drastic measure. When he got his draft notice, he and his brother Duane, had a "foot-shooting" party. They had a party and when Gregg was good and drunk, they called the EMT's and shot Gregg in the foot (Gregg was originally going to shoot himself, but was so nervous Duane had to do it). When he went to his draft physical, he claimed he accidentally shot himself while cleaning his gun. They bought it and he was rejected.
- Musician Bobby Keys (best known as the sax player for The Rolling Stones) was actually accused of being a draft dodger because he never showed up for his draft physicals, as he was on the road playing and never received the letters. He was advised by the head of his local draft board to try and enlist before the Army caught up with him. He did so and was rejected due to a medical history of ulcers.
- Denmark lets young males (and females, if they get the call), postpone the call. At least if they have something excusable such as college/education.
- College deferments were controversial in the U.S. during the Vietnam-era.
- One variation of the college deferment gambit became an issue in the 1992 Democratic presidential primaries when Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton had signed a pledge in 1969 to join the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, or ROTC, program of the University of Arkansas, only to back out of the pledgenote ; a factor which drew criticism - especially in light of the fact one of his primary rivals; Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey, had lost part of one leg in combat; though that controversy (as well as the Gennifer Flowers sex scandal) might have cost him a shot at victory in the New Hampshire primarynote , it ultimately didn't hurt him in the long run, as he ended up winning a tough fight for the Democratic presidential nomination before ousting incumbent Republican President George H. W. Bush in the general election.
- Many places and times have had the 'war-important industries exemption', where workers in specific industries were defined as having a valid exemption. Obviously, getting a job like that in response to a draft would be impractical, but it was sometimes necessary to find people and organizations to vouch for you being an experienced worker in a relevant industry, especially if the industry had less intensive periods.
- In the United States during World War I and World War II, there was an order that all men, even if they had previously deferred their conscription, must either get a job essential to the industry of the country and war effort, or join the armed services. The team owners of America's baseball leagues tried (both times) to claim that baseball was an "essential industry," in an effort to keep their players from being drafted. This claim was rejected (both times).
- In Russia, there are many non-governmental websites dedicated to providing professional help and legal assistance from lawyers and medics in evading the draft. The main reason for this are flaws in the Russian conscription system enlistment offices are doing everything to get as many recruits as possible (meaning that without proper legal preparation you can be conscripted even with serious physical issues), and intensive hazing (dedovshchina) leading to many cases of suicide and even accidental murder.
- Some Russian people buy fake PhD diplomas, as in Russia PhD holders are exempt from draft. Sellers claim that those diplomas would withstand any kind of scrutiny. Validity of that claim is hard to estimate.
- Finland has deliberately made draft-dodging almost impossible. Fleeing abroad is no option, as to apply for passport one has to present his military discharge certificate. Likewise, neither homosexuality nor committing a lesser crime qualify per sé an exemption. Some 80% of Finnish men complete their tour of duty, with 14% being washed out in service, 2% completing the civilian service, and 3% being exempted for medical reasons. A minority will end up in prison on refusal.
- A classic example of Real Life Refuge in Audacity: upon receiving his draft notice, Berkeley Barb editor (and later, technology guru) Lee Felsenstein wrote an editorial stating his intention to submit to the draft - so that he could learn military tactics that he could then use against the US government. When he got the induction post, they told him that he'd been deferred, without any official explanation, exactly as he planned.
- Civil rights leader Malcolm X did a similar Refuge in Audacity when he told his draft board he wanted to be sent down South, so he could organize the other blacks and "kill us some crackers". He was declared "mentally disqualified for military service".
- Dave Barry recounted in his book Dave Barry Turns 50 that he dodged the draft by claiming to be a pacifist. He credited his father being a Presbyterian minister and his college being traditionally Quaker as what got him the exemption. He also mentions a guy who deliberately shit himself for several days without changing clothes so the doctor would reject him solely to avoid coming near him (and as far as he's concerned, that guy was still more honorable than Henry Kissinger).
- Muhammad Ali famously insisted on going to jail and paying fines over being drafted into service for the Vietnam War, which caused his boxing license to be temporarily revoked.