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Conscientious Objectors

Conscientious Objectors

Thousands of draft-eligible young men in the United States refused to engage in the Vietnam War effort. These people were called “conscientious objectors”. In all, it is estimated that at least 30,000 Americans left the country, settling in countries such as Sweden, France, England, Mexico, and mainly Canada (Baskir 15). Though there were a few “deferments” one could take advantage of in order to avoid military service, these deferments were much more easily obtained by the more economically fortunate, such as a deferment for undergraduate college education. Since most draft-eligible men at the time could not afford to continue their college education in order to avoid war, fleeing the country was one of the very limited choices young men faced at the time. For those who fled to Canada, easy refuge was found. Desertion was not a crime in which a person could be extradited from Canada to the United States (Satin 83), and thus conscientious observers found safe haven in their northern neighbor. Though accepted in other countries, conscientious objectors were faced with imprisonment or forced service if they attempted to reenter the United States. Conscientious objectors to the Vietnam War were not given full amnesty and a protected return until 1977 (Schulzinger 96), however the legacy of these brave souls still live on as people fight for their right to freedom every day.