In 1971, Roy Dyson was one who got rare CO status

November 01, 1990|By John Fairhalland William Thompson | John Fairhalland William Thompson,Evening Sun Staff

The St. Mary's County draft board granted few conscientious objector draft exemptions during the Vietnam War.

Board records revealed that it granted the exemption to 1.6 percent of the men it classified. Of 1,400 county men who turned 18 years of age from 1964 to 1967, for example, 23 eventually received a CO exemption.

Future 1st District Rep. Roy P. Dyson was one of the 23.

The Evening Sun examined the records yesterday in response to the continuing controversy surrounding Dyson's exemption, which he revealed in August for the first time. Previously, the five-term Democrat had said he had received student exemptions, without mentioning that he later obtained a CO exemption.

Dyson said he applied for the CO exemption because he believed the war to be immoral.

But political opponents have suggested he ducked the draft and then kept that fact a secret during a political career marked by strong support for the military and receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign contributions from the defense industry.

The board's records show that the vast majority of men were declared eligible for the draft and went into the armed services or received a student exemption. Others qualified for another exemption, such as those granted to medical students and farmers. Still others were declared not qualified for military service.

The only surviving records of the board's actions show how the board classified each man, but they do not reveal how many men applied for a CO exemption and were refused.

Dyson, now 41, received his first student exemption in 1967 and his last student exemption in May 1970. That lapsed and, in 1971, he obtained a CO exemption, excluding him even from noncombatant military duty.

Dyson passed his physical for the draft in January 1970 and probably would have received his induction notice had it not been for his exemptions.

In the 1969 random selection military lottery, Dyson's Nov. 15 birthday had come up number 131 in the sequence that military-age men would be drafted. Young men with that birthday had been called up by the end of 1970.

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