This story originally aired on May 25, 2019.
In the mid-1960s, there was a number that loomed large for many American men: 26. That was the cutoff age for the draft. If you were antiwar, or just didn’t fancy going off to combat, it could be a race to stall the process long enough to hit that birthday, before being hauled in front of the draft board.
Fred Lonidier was very much antiwar. He was a student in San Francisco during this period, and he realized at some point that graduation was coming. Without a plan, he was sure to be drafted. So he went with a sure way out: the Peace Corps.
He alerted his local draft board in California that he’d be needing a deferment. In answer, he received a new draft card in the mail that said “1A.”
“That put you into the immediate draftable pool,” Lonidier said. “So they were just basically sending a shot across my bow that when I graduated I would be drafted very quickly.”
Lonidier would appeal that decision, only to receive the same answer from the state, and eventually from the office of the president of the United States.
The next several years saw Lonidier fighting to stay out of the military, while in the process making headlines, flirting with prison and co-founding the organization Draft Resistance Seattle.
Listen to the full story to hear how it all came to a head.