Sunday, June 30, 2013

Curtis Tarr, director...

...of the Selective Service System in the later years of the Vietnam War, died at age 88 (my emphasis):

Mr. Tarr succeeded Gen. Lewis B. Hershey, who had been Selective Service director from 1941 until February 1970. 

From 1970 to 1972, he helped make the lottery more genuinely random in choosing potential draftees into the military, and he tried to enlarge the pool by granting fewer deferments to students, fathers, men in certain occupations and those claiming medical problems. A larger pool was fairer, he said.  

Historically, draft boards selected potential draftees on the basis of seniority by age. But in 1969, a national lottery was introduced to determine, using birth dates, the order in which they would be chosen. (The lower the draft number someone received, the more likely it was that he would be drafted.) The first lottery was criticized for yielding clumps of dates; November and December dates in particular drew disproportionately lower numbers. Mr. Tarr enlisted scientists at the National Bureau of Standards to devise a more sophisticated approach for 1970. 

I remember watching the lottery on TV. It was a big deal; families would gather around to see if any of their loved ones would be sent off to war.

(If you fast forward to about 7:00 you can follow along and see if you would have drawn a low, i. e., bad number or not. It's a little chilling; your luck that night could determine your fate.)

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