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Pardon for Vietnam Draft Evaders (21 January 1977, by Jimmy Carter)

PARDON FOR VIETNAM DRAFT EVADERS (21 January 1977, by Jimmy Carter)


One of the many divisive issues related to America's involvement in Vietnam arose after the end of the war. One day after assuming office, newly elected President Jimmy Carter fulfilled his controversial campaign pledge to pardon those who had unlawfully avoided military service either by not registering for the draft or by fleeing to another country. For Carter, the pardon was necessary to heal the wounds brought on by the disruptive conflict. Not everyone agreed, however. Some veterans' groups considered Carter's action an insult to those who had willingly served, many of whom had lost their lives. Meanwhile, several pro-pardon groups like Americans for Amnesty complained that by excluding deserters, Carter had not gone far enough. What was certain was that the pardon allowed what the administration said were hundreds of thousands of draft dodgers to return to their homes without fear of prosecution.

Laura M.Miller,
Vanderbilt University

See also Conscription and Recruitment ; Vietnam War .

Proclamation 4483

Acting pursuant to the grant of authority in Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution of the United States. I, Jimmy Carter, President of the United States, do hereby grant a full, complete and unconditional pardon to: (1) all persons who may have committed any offense between August 4, 1964 and March 28, 1973 in violation of the Military Selective Service Act or any rule or regulation promulgated thereunder; and (2) all persons heretofore convicted, irrespective of the date of conviction, of any offense committed between August 4, 1964 and March 28, 1973 in violation of the Military Selective Service Act, or any rule or regulation promulgated thereunder, restoring to them full political, civil and other rights.

This pardon does not apply to the following who are specifically excluded there from:

  1. All persons convicted of or who may have committed any offense in violation of the Military Selective Service Act, or any rule or regulation promulgated thereunder, involving force or violence; and
  2. All persons convicted of or who may have committed any offense in violation of the Military Selective Service Act, or any rule or regulation promulgated thereunder, in connection with duties or responsibilities arising out of employment as agents, officers or employees of the Military Selective Service system.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have unto set my hand this 21st day of January, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and seventy-seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and first.

Executive Order 11967

The following actions shall be taken to facilitate Presidential Proclamation of Pardon of January 21, 1977:

  • 1. The Attorney General shall cause to be dismissed with prejudice to the government all pending indictments for violations of the Military Selective Service Act alleged to have occurred between August 4, 1964 and March 28, 1973 with the exception of the following:
  • (a) Those cases alleging acts of force or violence deemed to be serious by the Attorney General as to warrant continued prosecution; and
  • (b) Those cases alleging acts in violation of the Military Selective Service Act by agents, employees or officers of the Selective Service System arising out of such employment.
  • 2. The Attorney General shall terminate all investigations now pending and shall not initiate further investigations alleging violations of the Military Selective Service Act between August 4, 1964 and March 28, 1973, with the exception of the following:
  • (a) Those cases involving allegations of force or violence deemed to be so serious by the Attorney General as to warrant continued investigation, or possible prosecution; and
  • (b) Those cases alleging acts in violation of the Military Selective Service Act by agents, employees or officers of the Selective Service System arising out of such employment.
  • 3. Any person who is or may be precluded from reentering the United States under 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(22) or under any other law, by reason of having committed or apparently committed any violation of the Military Selective Service Act shall be permitted as any other alien to reenter the United States.

The Attorney General is directed to exercise his discretion under 8 U.S.C. 1182 (d)(5) or other applicable law to permit the reentry of such persons under the same terms and conditions as any other alien.

This shall not include anyone who falls into the exceptions of paragraphs 1 (a) and (b) and 2 (a) and (b) above.

  • 4. Any individual offered conditional clemency or granted a pardon or other clemency under Executive Order 11803 or Presidential Proclamation 4313, dated September 16, 1974, shall receive the full measure of relief afforded by this program if they are otherwise qualified under the terms of this Executive Order.

SOURCE: Proclamation 4483, Executive Order 11967.

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