On this date in 1974 President Gerald Ford followed up his unconditional pardon of Richard Nixon with a conditional amnesty program for Vietnam era draft-evaders and military deserters. I have quoted from two articles below and given links to the full articles.
On September 16, 1974, President Gerald Ford announced a conditional amnesty program for Vietnam War deserters and draft-evaders which would waive any charges provided they agreed to work two years in public service. A Presidential Clemency Board was created to administer the program - it finished its work in September 1975 after having disposed of 14,514 cases. Critics said the initiative did not go far enough, however, and noted that only about 19 percent of eligible persons even applied.From http://www.afsc.org/youthmil/conscientious-objection/Vietnam-war-resisters.htm
In 1974, President Ford established a program of partial relief for war resisters. This clemency program was considered a complement to President Ford's pardon of President Nixon, who had resigned from office in lieu of likely removal by Congress. The program covered the following categories of persons: convicted draft violators, convicted military deserters and AWOL's, draft violators who had never been tried, and veterans with less than honorable discharges for absence offenses.So Ford gave a better deal to Nixon than to men of real conscious. This was a major issue during the 1976 election. On the day of his inauguration Jimmy Carter signed the Presidential order that gave evaders unconditional amnesty and military resisters only partial relief as noted in the following quote.
The conditions under which a person could receive relief were onerous and discriminatory. Persons receiving clemency were required to do up to 24 months of alternative service and were required sign broad oath of allegiance to the United States.
In addition to these measures, military deserters automatically received bad discharges ("Undesirable"), although they could later apply to get them changed to "Clemency Discharges" (considered "Other Than Honorable") after performing 24 months of service. Under the plan, GI participants would automatically lose all veterans benefits, unlike many other veterans with less than honorable discharges.
The program was widely regarded as a failure, even by people who administered it. Only 27,000 of the 350,000 eligible persons applied; 21,800 were granted clemency, mostly men living in the U.S., not exiles. Those granted clemency were almost equally divided between "draft offenders" and "military offenders." Most exile groups based in Canada, Sweden, Britain and France endorsed a boycott of the Ford program because of its punitive nature. The "oath of allegiance" requirement was considered especially offensive given the generous treatment of Nixon. Nixon received a pardon, pension, and was not required to swear allegiance to the U.S. despite his role in undermining democracy. Program administrators estimated that about 566,000 military "offenders" were still in need of relief after the Ford program ended, an ultimate indicator of the program's failure.
Also from http://www.afsc.org/youthmil/conscientious-objection/Vietnam-war-resisters.htm
Draft evaders were granted unconditional amnesty automatically if there were no other legal charges pending. They would not have a criminal record. Young men who were considered draft evaders did not have to apply (in any formal sense) to get amnesty. It was a blanket amnesty granted to all draft evaders whether they had been engaged in a legal process or not. This is why no figure exists for the real number of draft evaders who benefited from the Carter program.…There exists even today legacies of the Vietnam War. The Bush regime has decided that there have been too many desertions from the Iraq War (officially reported at about 8000) and it is time to set an example that would deter further desertions. I find this especially repugnant since Bush avoided service in Vietnam because of Daddy’s money and connections. His Air Guard service made service in Vietnam strictly voluntary and Georgie never volunteered. I have quoted from and given a link to an article that talks about Georgie’s forty years after the fact prosecution.
Unfortunately, universal and unconditional amnesty was never granted to military resisters. It is estimated that only 28,420 Vietnam Era military resisters received any form of legal relief – many of them received bad discharges – while another 550,000 never received any form of relief. To place this figure in perspective, the number of ex-GI's who never received legal relief roughly equals the number of soldiers who participated in the Gulf War of 1990 and 1991. This is another way in which our country has yet to fully come to terms with the legacy of the war in Southeast Asia.
http://www.patriotdaily.com/bm/blog/bus ... tnam.shtml
Today, Marines are actually hunting down Vietnam era deserters. In the summer of 2005, 40 years after the fact, the Marines tracked down deserter Gerome Conti, 65, and the police arrested him. Conti was held 5 months, 4 spent in solitary confinement, and then given an other-than-honorable discharge.
There have been at least 3 Vietnam-era Marine deserters tracked down and arrested since mid-January of this year. In one case, on March 9th, US Marine Allen Abney, 56, who has been living in exile in Canada since 1968, was arrested when crossing the Canadian/US border and transferred to military custody to face penalties. Mr. Abney is a dual US/Canadian citizen who often crossed the border over the years for shopping or other excursions without incident.
During the Vietnam War era, 2 presidential amnesty programs were implemented by Executive Order. In 1974, President Ford offered a restricted, conditional amnesty but the offer expired on April 1, 1975. The program was deemed a failure as only 19% of eligible persons applied for the Ford amnesty. And, in 1977, President Carter provided unconditional amnesty for draft resisters and a limited pardon for military deserters.