I have been trying to find information on what could be legitimate deferments for military service during the 50's in the US that don't involve draft dodging. I am a writer and working on a project that touches on this and while I find good lists and information on deferments during WWII and Vietnam, I haven't been so lucky with people looking to avoid service during the Korean War.

I am working so far based on the assumption that most the deferments in place during the late 40's would probably still work. And while I considered the route of conscientious objector, that still required service of some kind. Unfortunately the people I could have asked about this and who are in part the basis of this are no longer with us. The internet is again usually directing me to sources for either WWII or Vietnam.

So my question is, if someone did not want to enlist in the US Army during the 1950's, but also could not afford to risk draft dodging, and did not seem to qualify for most deferments, what where their options?

(I'll keep researching and see if I find more information but also looking to see if anyone can at least point me in the direction of some valid sources)

  • 2
    It's so tempting to just answer "I've bone spurs"... More seriously, for that period, consider: "I'm a communist". Nov 13, 2019 at 21:40
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    You probably mean early 1950's, since the Korea war ended in 1953. After that being drafted was much less likly. Nov 14, 2019 at 0:14
  • @MarkJohnson - perhaps. My father graduated college in 1955 and went to work in a defense job. Several years later he left that job, and got to go do basic training before business school, staying in the reserves until he moved to a state that didn’t have a tank regiment. This was after marriage and children. A much higher percentage of people went through basic training back then.
    – Jon Custer
    Nov 15, 2019 at 0:27
  • @JonCuster that sounds to me like a very realistic assessment (basic training) of the then situation. Nov 15, 2019 at 7:18
  • @MarkJohnson Yeah,kind of messed up the timing.English is my second language & tho I am basically native speaker level (can't remember not understanding both it & Spanish) I still mess up some times. But yes was trying to get more information because most people my grandfather's age were drafted for Korea but I know some dodged it mainly for political reasons (Puerto Rican and they didn't want to fight in the US army). I just don't have any of them here who I know anymore. Like JonCuster mentioned, almost all the people I know in that range that are still here did at least basic training.
    – Scott.Bell
    Nov 15, 2019 at 12:20

2 Answers 2


According to "Military Classifications for Draftees" compiled by the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, the following situations could get you out of military service during the Korean War:
1. physically, mentally, or morally unfit
2. essential civilian employment
3. essential agricultural employment
4 having dependents including wife and children
5. aliens
6. ministers including student studying for the ministry

Thus, you could get a job rated essential in either industry or agriculture, study for the ministry, or develop some physical, mental or moral condition.


I have not read this, but heard it from someone who was in the US Army at the time. The easiest way to avoid the draft was to claim to be homosexual. I suppose this is what is meant by "morally unfit" in point (1) of Barry's answer.

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