Between 1964 and 1972, the National Service Act 1964 required Australian men turning twenty years old to register for national service. Unlike most scholarship on the national service scheme, which focuses on opposition to the scheme and its unpopularity, this article examines the reasons why most Australians supported the reintroduction of national service and why so many young men complied with its provisions. It argues that compulsory military service was seen as essential in the context of the Cold War, and as a way of ensuring that young men now coming of age were inducted into models of masculinity, citizenship and duty considered essential for a cohesive society. It was the scheme's break with accepted traditions of compulsory military service in Australia that is an overlooked, and important, element of the criticism it generated. In that sense, it was the legacy of earlier wars that fed into the contemporary response to national service.