As young men and women grew up in mid-20th century New York City, they were confronted by the realities of both the draft, which had been in place since the late 1940s, and by the growing war in Vietnam.

The American tradition of the citizen soldier made it essential that individuals navigate the system, making choices about their best options given the various economic and political constraints under which they operated. Some young New Yorkers — indeed, the vast majority — never had to face the possibility of military service. They were either exempt by virtue of attending college, or female. Others had to decide how they would respond. Some willingly joined the military. Others resisted. Still others were drafted.

In this clip, Jimmy Bacolo, from Red Hook, Brooklyn, describes his neighborhood, and how he ended up being drafted.


In this clip, Sue O’Neil, originally from Indiana and now residing in Brooklyn, describes her decision to join the Army Nurse Corps. At the time, she was attending nursing school, and had traveled to Chicago with a friend who had already made the decision to join. She remembers speaking with the recruiter.

In this clip, Joan Furey explains some of the most important things shaping her decision to serve as a nurse in Vietnam.


Here Jose Gonzalez describes his childhood in Puerto Rico and the US, and how he ended up in the military.