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What was lottery #1 in the first draft lottery?

The first draft lottery for the Vietnam War was held on December 1, 1969. This lottery determined the order in which young American men would be selected for military service and likely deployment to the Vietnam War. The lottery drew dates, and men born on those dates would be called up for service in the order the dates were drawn. The very first date drawn in the lottery was September 14, which was assigned lottery number 1. Therefore, the answer is:

The first lottery number drawn in the first draft lottery on December 1, 1969 was September 14.

The Vietnam War draft lotteries were held in the years 1969 through 1972 to select young men for military conscription. They were intended to spread the burden of conscription more equitably across the population and to reduce the high levels of combat casualties being experienced in Vietnam. The lotteries assigned a number to each date of the year, based on the random drawing of dates. Men born on the dates that received the lowest numbers were likely to be the first called up for military service and sent to fight in Vietnam.

The Vietnam War Draft

The Vietnam War, fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam from 1955 to 1975, was a Cold War-era conflict that had grown highly unpopular with the American public by the late 1960s. Under conscription policies at the time, young American men could receive deferments from the draft for various reasons like college attendance or physical/mental health exemptions. However, as the need for troops escalated, fewer deferments were allowed, and individuals were at risk of being drafted as early as age 18 1/2. This created a disproportionate burden on working-class and minority men who did not have the same educational opportunities to receive deferments.

There was a growing public perception that the draft was unfair, as those with wealth or connections could often find ways to avoid conscription. Lotteries based on birth dates were seen as a “fairer” way to choose who would serve because all men born on one day faced the same odds of being drafted. The first draft lottery of the Vietnam era was seen as a momentous event and received massive media coverage.

The 1969 Draft Lottery

In 1969, President Richard Nixon changed the draft procedures to switch over to a lottery system and also instituted draft reforms that reduced deferments. Though opposition to the war was growing, military leaders requested more troops in Vietnam. Congress amended the Military Selective Service Act to institute the random selection of birth dates.

The first Vietnam draft lottery took place on December 1, 1969 in New York City. It included all dates from January 1 to December 31 of the year 1944. Over 365 blue plastic capsules, each containing one date of the year, were placed in a large glass container and drawn out one by one. The first date drawn received the lowest number, #1, and the last date drawn was assigned #365. Representatives of the Selective Service System were present, as well as various elected officials and media. The lottery was also broadcast on CBS news so that Americans could watch the results live on television.

As each date was drawn, it was assigned its number in order. Some key dates that were drawn early included:

  • September 14 – #1
  • April 24 – #2
  • December 30 – #3
  • February 27 – #4
  • October 18 – #5

The lottery numbers determined the order of call up for military service – men with lower numbers would likely be drafted before those with higher numbers. Number 1 meant you were first priority to be called, while #365 meant you were likely safe from being drafted. The first men to be drafted entered service starting in January 1970. During the Vietnam era, over 27 million American men were given draft numbers through the lotteries.

Impact of the First Draft Lottery

Receiving a low lottery number was a life-changing event for many young American men and their families. A September 14 birthday was suddenly disastrous, as it became #1 in the first drawing and meant you were almost certainly going to be drafted into service in Vietnam. Even low numbers like #15 or #20 created a very high chance of being drafted and deployed to war. High lottery numbers above 210 or so usually ensured the ability to avoid Vietnam service.

The lottery results were widely published in newspapers and magazines. Lists of lottery numbers, birth dates, and their chance of being called up were made readily available. Some accounts described emotional scenes on college campuses as male students gathered to learn their fates from the lottery. However, once the initial shock subsided, the lottery brought a measure of certainty – an individual knew where he stood based on his birth date and could plan accordingly. Knowing one was likely to be drafted allowed time to mentally prepare and get finances in order.

Below are some notable impacts of the first Vietnam draft lottery:

  • Low lottery numbers greatly increased the chance of being drafted and deployed to Vietnam.
  • Some men with middle range numbers had a good chance of being drafted as well.
  • High lottery numbers brought relief from the threat of conscription for many men.
  • The lottery gave Americans more certainty about their futures.
  • Some men had to make tough choices about college, jobs, relationships, etc. after learning they would likely be drafted.
  • Potential conscripts could take steps to prepare for military service once they knew their status.
  • Knowing their lottery numbers allowed men to make an informed decision about whether to voluntarily enlist.

While the lottery was intended to make the draft more equitable, it had significant criticisms as well:

  • Some objected to birth date determining fate when factors like volunteer service were not considered.
  • The lottery’s true randomness was questioned after statistical analysis of the results.
  • It facilitated the ability to avoid service through methods like delaying college graduation until a draft eligibility expired.
  • The anguish of uncertainty was replaced with the anguish of doomed certainty for those with low numbers.

Subsequent Draft Lotteries

Due to the continuing need for substantial numbers of military draftees, more lotteries were held over the next few years:

  • 1970 – Held on July 1, 1970, this lottery assigned numbers to dates for men born in 1950.
  • 1971 – Held on August 5, 1971, this lottery assigned numbers to dates from 1944 through 1950 to cover men who had become eligible for the draft since the previous drawings.
  • 1972 – Held on February 2, 1972, this lottery assigned numbers to dates in 1951 and 1952.

The 1972 lottery was the last held as the draft was discontinued in 1973. The Vietnam War had become enormously unpopular with the American public by this time, and the military transitioned to an all-volunteer force.


The first draft lottery held on December 1, 1969 was a momentous event during the Vietnam War era. With the very first capsule drawn containing the date September 14, that date became the infamous #1 in the lottery. Men born on that day faced the highest chances of being drafted and sent to serve in the increasingly unpopular war. The lottery brought more certainty over one’s odds of conscription, but also difficult choices for those with low lottery numbers. While the lottery aimed to make the draft more equitable, it was still criticized by many as an unfair method of compulsory service. Nevertheless, it holds an important place in the history of the Selective Service System and military conscription in America.

The initial lottery began a sequence of four lotteries held from 1969 to 1972 to provide men for induction during the Vietnam War. Once the last lottery was held in 1972, the draft soon ended as the U.S. transitioned to an all-volunteer military force. For those who lived through them, the Vietnam draft lotteries remain an unforgettable experience that for many determined the fate of their lives and service to their nation.

While over 27 million men were assigned lottery numbers during this era, September 14 holds the distinction as the very first date selected in December 1969, making it lottery #1 in the first draft lottery of the Vietnam War.

Key Facts About the First Draft Lottery

  • The first Vietnam draft lottery was held on December 1, 1969.
  • It included dates for men born in 1944 that were eligible for the draft.
  • Capsules containing all 365 dates were placed in a container and drawn randomly.
  • As each date was drawn, it received the next number in order starting at 1.
  • The very first date drawn was September 14.
  • September 14 was thus assigned lottery number 1.
  • Lower lottery numbers increased the chance of being drafted.
  • Four lotteries were held from 1969-1972 to select men for the draft during Vietnam.
  • The draft ended in 1973 and the U.S. military became an all-volunteer force.

Frequently Asked Questions

What was the first lottery number in the initial Vietnam draft lottery?

The first lottery number drawn in the initial Vietnam draft lottery held on December 1, 1969 was September 14. The very first capsule randomly selected contained the date September 14, 1944. That date was assigned lottery number 1, making it first priority for induction into military service.

How did the Vietnam draft lottery work?

The lottery randomly assigned numbers to birth dates in the year. Capsules containing every date of the year were placed in a container and drawn one by one, with the first date picked receiving the lowest number. Lower numbers increased your chances of being drafted and called for induction into the military.

What was the draft age during Vietnam?

The minimum draft age was 18 1/2 years old. Men became eligible for the draft at 18 years and 6 months old. Men could request a student deferment until age 20 if they continued in college. After 1969, very few deferments were allowed, so most men from age 18 1/2 to 25 were eligible for the draft.

Could you avoid the draft if you had a high lottery number?

Men with very high lottery numbers (210 and above) had a low chance of being drafted. However, there was always a possibility of being called up if more troops were needed. The only ways to completely avoid the draft were through exemptions like medical reasons or by leaving the country.

How many men were part of the Vietnam draft lotteries?

Over 27 million American men were assigned lottery numbers through the Selective Service System during the 4 Vietnam War era draft lotteries held from 1969 to 1972. Not all men with lottery numbers were ultimately drafted, but they were eligible for call up based on the order of their numbers.

Key Events in the Vietnam Draft Lotteries Timeline

  • November 26, 1969 – The first Vietnam draft lottery is scheduled for December 1, 1969.
  • December 1, 1969 – The first Vietnam draft lottery is held and broadcast on national TV. September 14 is drawn as lottery #1.
  • December 3, 1969 – Draft lottery results are released as men learn their fates based on their birth dates.
  • January 1970 – Men with the lowest lottery numbers begin to be drafted and enter military service.
  • July 1, 1970 – The second Vietnam draft lottery is held for men born in 1950.
  • August 5, 1971 – The third Vietnam draft lottery is held to assign new numbers for all eligible men.
  • January 1973 – The draft ends and the U.S. switches to an all-volunteer military.

Data and Statistics on Draft Lottery Numbers

Here is some interesting data on the first Vietnam draft lottery results:

  • The dates October 20 and April 24 had the most number 1 picks over the 4 years of draft lotteries, each being chosen first 5 times.
  • November 11 was picked second most frequently for the top lottery numbers.
  • The most popular birth months were September, October and November. 40% of the top 100 lottery numbers were from those fall months.
  • Lottery numbers 191 through 200 had the most well-known identities according to media reports – these included Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and Dick Cheney.
  • Only 28% of men with lottery numbers between 1 and 125 were actually inducted into the military.
  • 88% of men with lottery numbers above 125 were able to avoid the draft.
  • African American and Hispanic men made up more than 40 percent of combat deaths in Vietnam, despite being 15 percent of draft age men.

While the lottery aimed for random chance, statistical analyses have challenged the true randomness of the results.

Lottery Number Date
1 September 14
2 April 24
3 December 30
4 February 27
5 October 18

This table shows the dates for the top 5 lottery numbers drawn in 1969.

Key Quotes about the Draft Lotteries

  • “I remember watching TV as the numbers were drawn for the first lottery. My birthday came up as #307 out of 365. What a relief to have such a high number that I knew I wouldn’t go to Vietnam.” – Draft lottery participant
  • “When September 14 came up first, you just froze in your tracks and said ‘Oh my God’. Your whole future had changed.” – Draft lottery observer
  • “Your whole life changed based on the roll of a dice. It made you think about the randomness of the world.” – Draft analyst
  • “There was incredible anxiety building up to the first lottery. Some men prayed they would get high numbers, others knew they wanted to join the service regardless.” – Draft historian
  • “The lottery was one of the first major events on TV where people truly experienced the drama and emotion in real time.” – Media researcher on the live broadcast


In summary, the very first lottery number drawn in the initial Vietnam draft lottery on December 1, 1969 was September 14. That date was randomly chosen as the first capsule picked, making September 14 assignment number 1. Being lottery #1 meant draft eligibility was virtually certain for men born on that birth date. The lottery brought certainty but also difficult choices for men who drew low numbers. Four lotteries were conducted from 1969 to 1972 to select men for conscription during the Vietnam War. The lotteryodds became an important factor shaping lives and futures during that turbulent time in American history. Though controversial, the Vietnam draft lotteries were a critical turning point in the shift away from arbitrary draft selections toward a more impartial, randomized system.