More commonly, men tried to avoid induction in any way they could. After Arkansan John L. McRee married one of two sisters in a double ceremony, he learned that his new brother-in-law had received a marriage deferment from the next board over. He appealed his own I-A draft classification. Gauer and his friend Robert Bloch, who later wrote Psycho, spent much of 1942 scheming to keep Gauer from being conscripted. Bloch’s circle of friends believed he married as a way to disqualify himself from the draft. Even the U.S. Military Academy at West Point developed a reputation as a haven from combat. Once World War II ended, more than 20 percent of cadets left their training before being commissioned.
Read: Trump’s ‘Da Nang Dick’ tweets and the definition of hypocrisy
Nevertheless, as avenues for deferments narrowed, most men grudgingly acquiesced to the Selective Service. Eighty percent of men born in the 1920s ultimately served during World War II, creating an unusual degree of shared experience and contributing to the civic republican myth of the “greatest generation.”
After World War II, the military, and the conscription system used to man it, retooled to fight the Cold War. Within the Cold War environment, the Selective Service defined certain civilian roles, including careers in science, engineering, and fatherhood, as important to defeating communism. Although his congressional mandate was to secure military personnel, by the late 1950s, Director of Selective Service Lewis B. Hershey had expanded his agency to guide the choices of civilian men through a policy called manpower channeling.
Under this policy, deferments would be used to encourage—or bribe—men to take civilian jobs in the national interest. “From the deferment of men to do, came the transition to defer to train to do,” Hershey explained. Rather than conscript all men into military service, Hershey advocated modifying the meaning of deferments. Instead of signaling that a man had little role to play in national defense, deferments should signify the vital security nature of civilian work. His agency made student and occupational deferments widely available to middle-class and elite men.
The military certainly would have taken Trump had he not obtained his deferments, but by the time the Vietnam War escalated, the system that administered the draft was set up to provide privileged men like Trump with exit strategies. Until 1965, college students, graduate students, huge numbers of men in white-collar occupations, fathers, married men without children, and those with minor medical ailments could be deferred. These deferments overwhelmingly went to men with means—those who could afford college and graduate school, who could support families, and who could pay for medical care.
As during World War II, when military needs escalated, the Selective Service tightened its deferment criteria. Trump, for example, sought the I-Y because deferments for graduate school had become largely unavailable by the time he graduated from college. But after more than a decade of being able to gain deferments relatively easily, men like Trump had come to expect them.