My draft story
By Duane Ausherman
This story is in two parts, as it must be told that way because they are interconnected. I will keep it as short as possible.
While living in Cleveland I organized a draft card protest. I would burn my draft card in public, get arrested and probably go to jail. It stated right on the card that failure to carry it could be punished by some jail time and a big fine.
A reporter found out where I lived and came to my residence to interview me. He told me that I would be arrested for arson, not a draft card violation. So, I had an envelope ready and stamped for my draft board. At the proper moment, I dropped it into a mailbox and got arrested for not having a draft card.
After many interviews with FBI and others, I was released a few days later, for no apparent reason. The arrest made headline news all over the country. The FBI interviewed my parents.The same reporter investigated why and found that I was released without charges and was told that the Federal office discovered that while one was required to carry the card, there never was any punishment provided by law. They lied on the card. A government telling a lie, no way:-)
The same reporter investigated why and found that I was released without charges and was told that the Federal office discovered that while one was required to carry the card, there never was any punishment provided by law. They lied on the card. A government telling a lie, no way:-)
The reporter again came to my house and reported what happened and why I was released. I rewarded him with a story of corruption with the food contract in the jail. He did a huge investigation and published it one-half year later. People got into big trouble over that one. I remember someone going to jail over it.
The word quickly spread among a large number of draft resisters nationwide and it became the thing to do. One demonstration had 200 men burning their draft cards. Congress very quickly passed legislation to add punishment for that horrible crime of failure to carry the card.
Another draft dodger found the money, got arrested like I did and took the case all the way to the US Supreme Court. The government lost that one.
Because of my accidental discovery of the lack of punishment for failure to carry the card, I became sort of a celebrity. I was invited to speak at different meetings and events. My name was well known. Many in the growing movement wanted to imbue me with more talent than I deserved. I could often see the disappointment when I explained how ignorant I was and being released was just a lucky outcome.
I received a letter from the headquarters of the Quaker (Friends) church thanking me for the knowledge that the threats for not carrying the draft card were lies. I wish that I had kept that letter.
Even though I wasn’t officially punished, I was assigned an FBI field agent to follow and harass me. He was terrible at his job and we often caught him following us around. More to that story.
This lasted two years that I knew about. My landlord was a Hungarian who escaped Hungary in 1956 during the two week time that they kicked the Russian army out. In 6 short years, he already owned property and I was one of his tenants. One day he came to my door and made a speech and left. He said that he didn’t agree with my politics, but there was one thing that he hated even more than communists and that is the secret police. I knew how he got that information. I was never a communist, but who cares about truth?
At the time I was working at Antenna Specialists as the antenna tuner and inspector. Nothing got shipped out that didn’t go through me. I was the only person there that could do the job. This skill was from my time as a Ham Radio operator starting in high school.
That same week the factory foreman came to me and started talking about me being a communist and so on. They couldn’t fire me, or all shipping would stop. The FBI was doing what they could to harass me.
Fast forward a couple of years to the Viet-Nam era draft. It was about 1965, or 1966. I was ordered to go to the medical inspection for the draft. Once approved, we would only get a couple of days to settle affairs and then be shipped out to boot camp.
By this time, I was working at the Cleveland Clinic in the Department of Artificial Organs. I had access to many drugs and people to advise me. I experimented with some Dexedrine (speed) and found the dose to elevate my blood pressure to unsafe levels for plan A. Since I always have a plan B, I secreted some sugar in the waistband of my shorts. I could dose my urine sample to appear diabetic.
It didn’t go as planned. Since I was working in heart research, I knew how to read my blood pressure just by watching the mercury tube. I could feel systole, the big number, and diastole, the small number, easily. My pressure was 150/110, just as I had planned. The doctor just looked at me and wrote down 120/80, normal pressure and smiled. Oops, on to plan B.
The piece of paper with the specific gravity of the urine test was pink. I then noticed that everyone who preceded me had the exact same number. That too was faked and they weren’t checking it at all. If they were smart, they would have varied the numbers as is normally found among a random selection.
Now I was out of a plan when I remembered something that my draft dodger friends had talked about. The last part of the exam was to fill out a form indicating medical history, that of the family and other items. One question was “Are you a homosexual?” The two answers were no and yes. It was well known that neither answer was of interest. Administrators just want the blanks filled in. If a person failed to answer a question, they had to verbally ask. I left it blank, as that was the only possibility, however slim it was.
The doctor asked me about this question. First, some history, one of my two best friends in high school was gay. I put on the body language of embarrassment and just shyly told the truth, that one of my high school friends was gay. What he told himself was that we were lovers. Of course, I didn’t know how much he knew of my past with the draft card thing. The FBI could have been still following me and I had missed it, so I admitted that I now had a girlfriend. Now I am sure that these two agencies never contacted each other.
He wasn’t quite sure what to do, so he excused himself and left the cubicle. Of the 5 cubicles for these interviews, we were in #2. The big boss Dr. was in #1. That was another stroke of luck. Through the ventilation duct, I could stand on my chair and hear every word. The boss asked if I was an overt homosexual. He was told that I now have a girlfriend. At this point, I realized that this might actually work. These people knew nothing about gay people.
My Dr. came back into the room and made a couple of comments. He then asked me one question. “Do you think that under the stress of battle that you might revert back?” I told the truth, I said, “I hope not.” He gave me the brass ring, a classification of 4F.
So, the draft board has me down as a gay person and I wasn’t drafted to fight in Viet Nam.
I am a proud draft dodger and one uncle never spoke to me again, although he didn’t know exactly how I avoided it. Not one relative ever came back to me to apologize for me being right about that war, not even after McNamara admitted the truth of it many years later in his book. They are hypocrites.