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King and the Draft

Steve King, Congressman from Iowa’s 5th Congressional District, avoided the Vietnam War draft in 1967, 1968 and 1969, the peak years of induction into the army during that war. In those days, avoiding the draft was commonly known as draft dodging. Documents obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration confirm that Congressman King-Selective Service number 13-24-49-88-obtained three student draft deferments during those years, one for each year. Student deferments carried a “2S” designation.

Classification records are a matter of public information and are available upon written request. Congressman King’s classification record shows that he obtained his first “2S” deferment on October 19th, 1967. Subsequent deferments were granted on December 12th, 1968 and November 17th, 1969.

Congressman King’s congressional website, http://steveking.house.gov/, states that he attended Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri. Other web profiles confirm that he attended this school from 1967 to 1970. His website biography states that he “studied math and science.” He left Northwest Missouri State after three years and never did earn a degree. Curiously, his website biography does not say why he left Northwest Missouri State in 1970.

After graduating from Denison High School in Denison, Iowa, in the spring of 1967 and after turning eighteen on May 28th of that year, King registered with the Selective Service as was required by law. All eighteen-year olds were required by law to register. King was mailed his classification questionnaire on June 6th. His initial classification on July 20th, 1967, was “1AG,” which meant that he was immediately available for military service. Sometime after July 20th, 1967, King enrolled at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri. He subsequently sought and was granted his first “2S” deferment on October 19th, thus shielding him from the draft.

More than two years later, on November 17th, 1969, Steve King was granted his third student deferment, his second one having been granted on December 12, 1968. Nine days after receiving his third deferment, President Richard Nixon signed an amendment to the Military Service Act of 1967 that created the draft lottery. Under the new lottery system, draft deferments were still allowed. Draft-age men could only be exposed to the draft for one year, unless they were in the group of men having deferments when the lottery system was introduced. In the case of those men holding deferments, which would have included King, if they ever allowed their deferments to cease, they would have been exposed to every draft lottery until their 25th birthday.

The first draft lottery took place Dec. 1, 1969, and all men born between 1944 and 1950 were subject to it, including Steve King. Subsequent lotteries would not involve these men. The lotteries of 1970, 1971 and 1972 involved men born in 1951, 1952 and 1953 respectively and men who had allowed their previous deferments to expire as explained above.

King had received his final deferment two weeks prior on November 17th, 1969. Because he had been receiving deferments under the old draft system, King was still shielded from being drafted in the lottery system as long as he maintained his deferments and stayed in school.

In the first lottery held on December 1st, 1969, 366 numbers were assigned, one for each possible birth date. The birth date of May 28, Steve King’s birth date, was assigned number 308. This was an extremely high number. Anyone receiving that number in 1969 would have been tremendously relieved. The number 308 virtually guaranteed that Steve King would not have been drafted, even if he hadn’t had a student deferment. The highest number drafted that year was, in fact, 195. Furthermore, King’s draft number was assigned to him permanently. This was significant. It meant that he would be protected from the draft by his high number even if he allowed his draft deferment to expire by leaving school.

King did leave school when he quit Northwest Missouri State University in 1970. No reason has ever been publicly offered as to why he chose to leave Northwest Missouri State three years into his college education without earning a degree. During those three years King spent in Maryville, the United States suffered its greatest losses in Vietnam with 39,721 soldiers killed.

King’s departure from school meant his “2S” deferment was no longer valid, but his draft number insulated him in the draft lotteries held in 1970, 1971 and 1972 when more than 306,000 men were drafted into the Army. That number-308-enabled him to avoid military service for the duration of the war. Maintaining his student deferment and continuing his education at Northwest State University in Maryville were no longer necessary to achieve the same end.

Student deferments were not uncommon, but in the case of Steve King the deferments seem in contrast with the public persona that has defined him as a politician in the years since the draft and the Vietnam War. He has been an outspoken proponent of hard-right, conservative principles. He was a strong supporter of the Iraq War and an advocate for increased troop levels. When Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives following the 2006 elections and began questioning the policies of the Iraq War through legislative actions, King frequently voiced strident opposition.

Throughout his political career, King has laced his rhetoric with strong anti-communist, anti-Marxist, anti-socialist, anti-leftist sentiments and remarks. In 2005, he received widespread attention for a comment he made to a local governmental official in California by the name of Barbara Lee, saying “I think that if Barbara Lee would read the history of Joe McCarthy, she would realize that he was a hero for America.” Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin was a noted anti-communist crusader in the 1950s.

The Vietnam War that Congressman Steve King of Iowa avoided was a war intended to halt the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia. In a speech delivered on the House floor on May 3rd, 2006, King concluded that we lost that war “because we lost the will in this country.” On April 30th, 1975, Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese. That same year, Steve King started his bull dozing business in Kiron, Iowa. The draft had ended two years earlier in 1973. Steve King never was drafted, nor did he ever volunteer to serve during the Vietnam War.

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