Australia's commitment to the Vietnam War drew on the selective conscription of additional manpower through 16 biannual ballots. Twenty-year-old men were liable to serve if their date of birth was drawn out. The randomness of the ballot was seen as an equitable method of selection for a system of labour coercion that was potentially life-threatening. We investigate the various stages of conscription of these ‘national servicemen’ for army service in Vietnam from 1965 to 1972 and evaluate the extent to which the processes provided for fair and equitable selection. Comparisons are drawn with a similar process of Vietnam War era conscription in the US.