ON THIS DAY (from the NYTimes.com)
On Sept. 16, 1974, President Ford announced a conditional amnesty program for Vietnam War deserters and draft evaders.
Thirty years it's been since The Speaker of the House-turned-President offered "conditional amnesty" to American draft resisters. After the turmoil generated by all that was Watergate, the resignation of Nixon's Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, due to an impending indictment on corruption charges involving his activities prior to his election as VP, and the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon as his impeachment loomed, the man formerly third in line to the presidency, Gerald R. Ford, in an effort to "heal the country's wounds (and) end the divisiveness" that he and others felt was keeping the country "off-track," offered conditional amnesty to Vietnam War draft resisters.
There was great deal of controversy about Ford's amnesty program. Firstly, it came on the heals of his forgiving Nixon all his "sins" and letting him off with no strings. Secondly, there was more than "strings" attached to Ford's conditional pardon, there were ropes.
Many war resisters stated that the would not return to the USA, to face a what they believed to be prosecution almost as severe as if they came back before the offer of "amnesty."
However, as the years passed and administrations changed, the "ropes" that had once sounded so binding, loosened a bit as they were implemented, and many draft resisters did return to their homeland.
A 'Re-Entry' Plan
Goodell Named Head of Clemency Unit--Hesburgh Included
By MARJORIE HUNTER
Washington, Sept. 16--President Ford offered conditional amnesty today to thousands of Vietnam era draft evaders and military deserters who agree to work for up to two years in public service jobs.
"My sincere hope," he said in a statement, "is that this is a constructive step toward calmer and cooler appreciation of our individual rights and responsibilities and our common purpose as a nation whose future is always more important than its past."
In announcing his "earned re-entry" program, the President also established a nine-member Presidential clemency board to review the cases of those already convicted or punished for desertion or draft evasion.
Mr. Ford designated Charles E. Goodell, a former Republican Senator from New York and an early critic of United States involvement in the Vietnam war, as chairman of the clemency board.
Among others named to the clemency board was the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, president of the University of Notre Dame, who has called for unconditional amnesty.
The amnesty program became effective immediately when President Ford signed a Presidential proclamation and two Executive orders just before noon in the Cabinet Room of the White House. Earlier, he explained details of the program to Congressional leaders of both parties. No Congressional action is needed.
In his proclamation, the President declared that "desertion in time of war is a major, serious offense," and that draft evasion "is also a serious offense." Such actions, he said, need not "be condoned."
"Yet," he continued, "reconciliation calls for an act of mercy to bind the nation's wounds and to heal the scars of divisiveness."
President Ford denied tonight at his news conference that the amnesty plan was in any substantial way linked to his unconditional pardon of former President Richard M. Nixon on Sept. 8--an action that has created widespread controversy throughout the nation.
Asked at his news conference tonight why he had granted only a conditional amnesty to draft evaders while granting a full pardon to Mr. Nixon, the President replied:
"Well, the only connection between those two cases is the effort that I made in the one to heal the wounds involving charges against Mr. Nixon and my honest and conscientious effort to heal the wounds for those who had deserted military service or dodged the draft."
Mr. Ford said that, in the case of Mr. Nixon, "you have a President who was forced to resign because of circumstances involving his Administration and he has been shamed and disgraced by that resignation."
Under the program, draft evaders or deserters who have not been convicted or punished have until next Jan. 31 to turn themselves in to the authorities, reaffirm their allegiance to the United States and agree to spend up to two years in public service jobs, such as hospital attendants or conservation.
The United States Attorney or military service head would decide the length of alternative service to be performed by each individual. The President set no minimum period of service, but he said that the maximum two-year requirement could be "reduced" for "mitigating circumstances," such as family hardship.
Placement of persons in public service jobs would be administered by the director of the Selective Service System, Byron V. Pepitone. He said today that applicants would be encouraged to find their own jobs, subject to approval by his agency.
For those already convicted or punished for desertion or draft evasion, the new Presidential clemency board will review cases on an individual basis. Priority will be given to those now in prison, and officials said that their confinement would be suspended as soon as possible.
Federal officials gave varying estimates of the number of deserters and evaders potentially eligible under the program. The estimates ranged from 28,000 to 50,000 or more.
Some officials said that 15,500 draft evaders would be eligible for clemency. Of these, 8,700 have already been convicted and 4,350 are under indictment, 4,060 are listed as fugitives, 3,000 of them in Canada. There are 130 persons now serving prison sentences for draft evasion.
Officials also said that 660 deserters were serving prison sentences or awaiting trial, and about 12,500 others were still at large, with about 1,500 of these now living in Canada.
Deputy Attorney General Laurence Silberman said today that those agreeing to participate in the plan should be prepared to serve the full 24 months of public service employment, although "mitigating circumstances" might lessen the term of service.
He said that those who failed to live up the agreement would be subject to prosecution for the original charge of draft evasion or desertion.
The clemency program would cover offenses that took place between the Senate ratification of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution on Aug. 4, 1964, and the day the last United States combat soldier left Vietnam, March 28, 1973.
Officials said that clemency would not be considered for deserters or evaders who faced other, unrelated charges.
Draft evaders would be required to "execute an agreement" acknowledging allegiance to the United States and pledging to fulfill the period of alternative service. Deserters would be required to take an oath of allegiance to the United States, as well as agreeing to fulfill the term of alternative service.
Officials estimated the cost of the program at about $2-million, most of this for processing and administrative details. The salaries for deserters or evaders would be paid by the employer.
President Ford disclosed that he was considering a "work re-entry" program for draft evaders and military deserters in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Chicago on Aug. 19.
The White House had indicated that Mr. Ford would announce the program early last week, but this was postponed in the aftermath of the widespread criticism over the President's pardon of Mr. Nixon.
President Ford's choice of Mr. Goodell as chairman of the clemency board was viewed as an effort to placate critics of the Vietnam war who have pressed for unconditional amnesty.
Mr. Goodell, 48 years old, fell from favor with the Nixon Administration because of his strong stand against the Vietnam war policies. He lost his Senate seat in 1970 to James L. Buckley, Conservative-Republican, following a campaign in which Nixon forces helped engineer Mr. Goodell's defeat.
Mr. Goodell, now a Washington lawyer, is a long-time friend of President Ford's and was part of a group of young Republicans who helped install Mr. Ford as House minority leader nearly 10 years ago.
Other members of the clemency board are as follows:
Father Hesburgh, 57, former chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, who was dismissed from that post by President Nixon.
Robert H. Finch, 51, Los Angeles lawyer. He was Mr. Nixon's first Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and later served as a counselor to Mr. Nixon.
Gen. Lewis W. Walt, 61, a retired assistant commandant of the Marine Corps. He served in World War II and in the Korean and Vietnamese wars.
Vernon E. Jordan, 39, executive director of the National Urban League, an organization concerned with the advancement of minority groups. He was a lawyer-consultant to the United States Office of Economic Opportunity.
James Maye, executive director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Dr. Ralph Adams, 59, president of Troy State University in Alabama and a brigadier general in the Alabama Air National Guard.
James P. Dougovita, 28, a teaching aide for minority students at Michigan Tech University. He served in the Vietnam war and is now a captain in the Michigan National Guard.
Aida Casanas O'Connor, 52, a lawyer who is now serving as assistant counsel to the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal in New York City.