Not fit for military service - why?

When I was in college I tried to enlist in the Air Force. I was sent to St. Louis for my induction physical but was rejected. Shortly after that I received a letter from the draft board (this was in 1972) that I had been reclassified 4F - unfit for service except in time of war or national emergency.

All I can remember about the physical is that my uncorrected eyesight was shown as 20/900+ (which I was told was not a disqualifying factor), I was wearing braces on my teeth (I was told that the Air Force would take over responsibility for my dental work) and I was overweight (but IIRC I was assured that basic training would “take care of that” :slight_smile: ).

My question: is there any way to find out after all these years the reason I was rejected? I know that service records are available much further back than that, but is there any office which keeps track of this sort of thing? I’m sure at the time I was given some sort of papers, but I no longer have them and I don’t remember anything on them giving a reason for non-acceptance.

This is certainly no longer a major issue in my life, although at the time I was pretty upset about it. Considering that at the time the Vietnam War was going on and there was still a draft, I figure there had to be a fairly good reason for not accepting a 20-year-old volunteer.

Any suggestions or leads would be appreciated. BTW, I already checked the Selective Service System website, but it looks like all they have available is registration information and the date of classification.


It explains how you may get records about yourself under the Privacy Act.

I’d check the Air Force for those old records.

Was there any thought given to them that you might be gay?

Are you sure you were “4F”? The rating system had two components, mental and physical, and e.g., “1A” was prime cannon fodder. (I forget which goes with what component.) “4F” means bottom of the barrel mentally and physically. You would not be called up up in time of war or national emergency short of “Last days of Berlin” situations.

I was “1A” (but no exam) then “1H” after I won the draft lottery. 333, woohoo!. The “H” meaning "not draftable unless we went thru a lot of other bodies.

You would not be drafted if overweight. They had no intention of taking heavy guys and slimming them down. Etc., etc.

There are quite a few problems with the story you have given.

Violet I checked out that FOIA site - I don’t know why I didn’t think of that myself.

Dandmb50 Can’t imagine how they could have gotten that idea - and I certainly would have remembered if I had been told I was being rejected for that reason.

ftg This page from the Selective service website lists some (but not all) of the classification codes and it looks to me like the number indicates your status (eligible, deferred, exempt) and the letter provides further info on the status. I know prior to my attempted enlistment I had a student deferral, which is not listed on the site. My draft lottery number IIRC was somewhere in the 140’s.

After 30 years I don’t remember how much I weighed at that time. I had been barely five foot and 100 lbs when I graduated from high school but when I started college I had a growth spurt and shot up 6" in one year; unfortunately I also put on weight from eating at the college cafeteria. I remember discussing my eyesight and my weight with the recruiting sergeant and he didn’t seem concerned that either would disqualify me. I assume he would have been familiar with the requirements and wouldn’t have bothered to waste the Air Force’s time and money signing up somebody who obviously didn’t meet them.

I’m bumping this back up in hopes that someone who didn’t see it over the weekend might have have another suggestion.

I suspect that this could be a minor logical flaw in your thinking.

Recruiters were treated like salesmen and had to make quotas. If he got you to sign up, he got a point. If the induction center threw you out, I suspect they did not retract his point.

20/900 seems pretty far out for eyesight, to me (but that is speculation).

IIRC, college students were all 4H (really, a classification; not the farmer’s club) in the early 70’s before phasing out of the Draft.

Tomndebb has a very valid point in that the recruiters had to make quotas. They were very hard pressed in those days, when it was very unfashionable to serve one’s country. A friend who worked at the Coast Guard recruit depot in Cape May NJ (slightly later than '72) told me many stories of recruits arriving with various conditions that ought to have prevented them from being considered mcuh less sent, but the recruiters either bent the rules or found that the condition wasn’t specifically addressed in the no-go list and sent the poor kids in anyway. (Extreme example: Kid born w/o a sternum; had a plastic one put in. He wanted to be in the CG, but the recuriter said the book said no prosthetics allowed, so the kid had it removed, and the recruiter sent him on.)

Student Deferments were 1S.

Eyesight 20/900 is BEYOND legally blind. I think 20/400 is considered to be legally blind, IIRC.

If you had 20/900 in ONE eye, I could see why you would be 4F.

In the late '70s/early '80s, folks with braces could only enlist if they got the braces removed and placed into a plastic bag by their civilian orthodontist. Upon assignment to a permanent duty station (after training, I would suppose), a military dentist would reapply the braces and hopefully complete the work.


And 2S. The 1S classification is a shorter term deferment. In the Vietnam era, the 2S allowed you to defer until college graduation, rather than simply to the end of an academic year:

The 2S was discontinued part way through. I know because I got one after they had already been discontinued for incoming freshmen because I had already entered college while they were still available. I did this almost immediately after pulling number 24 in the pool. They also gave me a bit of backtalk about how it would extend my eligibility, etc. By the time I graduated, it was over and everybody had been issued new “1H” cards - the 1H was created when the draft was wound down, which is why it is not listed on that link.

The 20/900 was my uncorrected (without glasses) vision; with glasses I was 20/20. Legally blind is corrected vision of 20/200 or worse or peripheral vision of less than 20 degrees in both eyes. (My wife is legally blind; she can see well enough to get around the house, but cannot clearly see our 32" TV unless she’s 5-6 feet from the screen.)

After hitting “submit reply” for the above post I got the “unable to locate” screen; when I called up the thread the post was there so I figured it was the usual hamster glitch.
However, this morning I noticed that the thread list on the GQ forum still showed yabob’s post as the last posting. I thought about using the “report this post to a moderator” button to report the problem, but decided not to bother them over this.

If I screwed up, I apologize.

I’m not sure that the military will still have your records. Oh sure, theoretically they do, but in my brother’s case, he has only been out of the Army for about 2 years, and they can’t find his medical records for the last 18 months he was in, including his exit physical, which was required in order for him to be discharged! Ordinarily he wouldn’t care, but he’s on his way back in and this is causing him huge problems.

So YMMV but don’t hold your breath.

You all are right about the 1S and 1H. 1H is what I was (very incorrectly) thinking of when I wrote the 4H.

As to the OP: I gather you really preferred the USAF. It might be that they had physical standards that were a touch higher than the Army, and so didn’t take you whereas the Army might have. IIRC, they divided recruits/draftees into 4 “intelligence” (as measured by a written test) categories; the other services would not take anyone from the lowest category, but the Army would.

Clarification: I don’t mean to suggest the OP guy is dumb or anything. I mean to suggest that there might have been some kind of physical or visual grading category system that divided recruits into catogories in a similar way to the alleged vocational aptitude testing.

Actually, IIRC I did take a four-part aptitude test prior to reporting for the physical. The reason I was going Air Force was that they had a program where they would cover the costs of my getting a college degree in exchange for my serving in the AF for at least twice the time it took me to complete my classwork.

After 30 years the details are a little hazy, but I had scored well enough on the aptitude tests that I was eligible for almost any non-flight job in the AF. Had I passed the physical I would have been put on delayed status until I had completed the current semester, then reported for basic training. After basic the AF and I would “choose” a college and training program, they would pay my college expenses until I had obtained a bachelor’s degree (continuous classes, no summer vacation). Then I would be put on active duty at whatever post the AF assigned me. After serving out my required time, I was free to re-up or quit.

What attracted me to the program was partly financial considerations (I was just squeaking by on my scholarship & financial aid) and partly a sense of not being sure what I wanted to do with my life. I thought a change in direction and exposure to other options would do me good. Oh, and I was under no delusions that military life would be a piece of cake, but was prepared to take whatever they offered.

Even though your vision was correctable to 20/20, the uncorrected vision may have been the limiting factor. Look at it this way: if you lost your glasses in battle, would you be able to take care of yourself? IIRC, the AF requires better vision because of the effects of flying. I’m not saying YOU would be a pilot, but all AF personnel inevitably have some connection to flight.

As for locating Military Records, I’m going to have to side with the “when donkeys fly” vote. Many, many years ago, there was a fire in the Military Records building in St Louis, Missouri. Over the ages, the fire has changed in size and amount of records destroyed. Allegedly, the fire was relatively small, and not very many records were completely destroyed, although quite a few had smoke and/or water damage.

However, that convenient fire is blamed for EVERYTHING. Can’t find your dependent’s medical records? The fire in St Louis. Missing data for an award you should have received. The fire in St Louis. Need another copy of your DD-214? Ehhh, there was this fire in St Louis…

You get the idea.

VOW, 4 years in the AF and I only spent 6 months on a base with so much as an airstrip (decommissioned). While I did have some connection to flight (classified), the closest I got to any AF planes was at an airshow. And the only time I handled a weapon was firing off about 50 rounds on a Vietnam-era M-16 during basic training.

The USAF has cooks, non-plane mechanics, accountants, security police (just like military police), and a host of other service jobs in no way related to flying or combat.

Weight can often be a limiting factor, but weight is correctible. I believe the Navy had the laxest weight requirement when I enlisted, but don’t quote me on that. I don’t know if there is an upper range on uncorrected vision; that might be it the reason.


Oh, yeah, I know about cooks, medics, supply folks, yadda yadda. But theoretically, all Army personnel, for instance, must be combat ready. My husband remembers a guy from the Reception Station who wanted to join the Army JUST to be in the band. However, he had such an odd-shaped head that no helmet would fit him. Band members aren’t typically the first ones into combat; chances are he NEVER would have been in a position to even NEED a helmet.

I’ve heard of one guy who was almost 7 feet tall. He tried to enlist in the Navy, and was told, Nope, you won’t fit into the bunks on ship.

The whole principal behind the military personnel is that people are interchangeable, nobody is indispensable. If you’ve been trained to be a cook, fine, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be stuck in a foxhole one day and told to address the enemy.

I don’t think in 20 years of Army service, that my husband EVER worked in his Primary MOS!

I’ll ask Hubster later if he knew what the cutoff was for uncorrected vision.

VOW, I heard Army personnel say the same thing (about being combat ready). AF is quite a bit different (OP wanted to enlist in AF) in that quite a few aren’t trained in anything but support work. No ‘field trips’, weapon training, physical training, etc. Quite a few lifers I knew never fired a weapon since basic. Also, some (like me) could not get into flying missions (I’m oh-so-slightly color blind). I wear glasses, so obviously flying was out, but I couldn’t get any onboard position because of that. Upsetting, as my MOS had some cool flight assignments - most better than the ground equivalent.

Anyway, my point is that there is a huge chunk of USAF personnel who never even get trained on any aspect regarding the planes, let alone actual flight duty.

I could understand the Navy restriction. Those boats are tight.