Was author Bill Bryson a draft dodger or draft evader during the Vietnam War?

Hard to tell. According to Bryson's rather sketchy biography, he left the U.S. in 1972 when he was about 21 years old and remained out of the country for the next 20 years. He was clearly a prime draft prospect for the Viet Nam war in 1972, but that doesn't prove anything. So...while the circumstances are rather suspicious, who knows?

Bill Bryson is exactly four years younger than me: to the day. He graduated from high school in 1969, four years after I did in 1965. In "The Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid" he makes the statement that he was "permitted" to continue to his senior year (1968-69) and remarks that this was a good thing for him because otherwise he'd probably have been drafted. In the same book he mentions spending a year in Drake University and dropping out. Presumably this would have been 1969-70: if he hadn't enrolled he'd have been drafted. He also mentions a "two month trip to England" that lasted two years, and is very vague about when that trip took place. Again, had he stayed in the USA in 1970 he would have been drafted. One can only conclude that 1) the date he claims he went to England in his official biography is not correct (1973); 2) he went to England in 1970; 3) he stayed there two years, and by 1972 the draft had been abolished, so he could come home. One can also conclude that yes, he is probably a draft dodger, who did exactly the same thing that ex-President Clinton did: put himself out of reach of the authorities until it was safe to return. It's possible he was lucky enough to get a high draft number in the lottery and never got an induction notice: it's possible he was medically unfit for service; it's possible his draft board in Des Moines didn't get around to calling him. But if these things are true, then why not say so? "The Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid" is very uncomplimentary to American values in the 50's and 60's and is replete with expressions of contempt for American society, not to mention several near-diatribes on the military and military service. Coupled with the fuzziness of his stated dates and the hard data on his age and dates, there isn't much wiggle room. He probably was a draft dodger in fact if not in name.