Donald Trump — once a smiling teenage cadet at a military academy — dodged the Vietnam War with student deferments and a boo-boo on his foot, records show.
Trump, a gifted athlete and decorated cadet at New York Military Academy in upstate Cornwall in the 1960s, sidestepped the draft with four deferments and a medical disqualification for bone spurs in his foot.
One Trump expert said he believes the GOP candidate “skated.”
“I doubt it was a serious medical issue,” Trump biographer Wayne Barrett, author of “Trump: The Deals and the Downfall,” told the Daily News Monday.
“Up to that time, he was an active athlete. It was bulls–t,” Barrett told The News. “I never heard of any foot problem other than them being well-placed in his mouth,” the biographer said.
Barrett said Trump likely got special treatment as a young man with money and influential family connections.
“It appears he was actively looking for some justification to evade it,” Barrett said of the draft.
“There’s no question it fit a pattern of avoidance that was commonplace in his generation. You cut a corner, maybe got somebody to write a letter or interpret results of an Army physical in a way that was beneficial to you,” he said.
Trump’s draft avoidance is back on the front lines after the bloviating billionaire dissed Arizona Sen. John McCain on Saturday, saying there was nothing heroic about the Navy pilot spending time in a North Vietnamese POW camp.
While McCain was nearly killed serving his country, Trump once got a medal as a cadet for being neat and orderly.
On Sunday, Trump said on ABC’s “This Week” that he’d opposed the Vietnam War — and declined to apologize to McCain.
Trump’s campaign defended his military time Monday, saying in a statement he had “a minor medical deferment for bone spurs on both heels of his feet.”
The deferment was supposed to be short-term, so Trump entered a draft and got the number 356 out of 365, the campaign said. His high number never got picked.
“Although he was not a fan of the Vietnam War, yet another disaster for our country, had his draft number been selected he would have proudly served and he is tremendously grateful to all those who did,” the campaign said.
Trump topped the GOP field in a new Washington Post-ABC News national poll released Monday, grabbing 24% of likely Republican voters compared with 13% for Scott Walker and 12% for Jeb Bush.
In high school photos obtained by The News, Trump is seen with medals pinned to his uniform and posing as a star athlete on several teams, seemingly a hero in the making.
Ironically, the draft dodger performed so well in the military environment — with its early morning reveille, daily inspections, drills and taps — he was ranked third among his fellow cadets, a former classmate told The News.
“He was quite mature and driven,” classmate George Beuttell said Monday. “He was elected ladies’ man his senior year.”
Beuttell recalled playing on the football team with Trump and how the future real estate mogul had an elite air, even then.
“He didn’t mingle with the rest of the corps who were not as high ranked. He lived in a different set of barracks,” Beuttell told The News.
Another classmate said Trump was a physical powerhouse.
“He could have played on a farm team for a professional team, but he chose to go to business school instead,” Bruce Barberi, 68, said.
Despite his commanding high school career, Trump wasn’t maneuvering for real military service.
After graduating, he went on to receive draft deferments — in July 1964, January 1966, December 1966 and January 1968 — while studying at Fordham University and the University of Pennsylvania.
After leaving the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, he was quickly reclassified as 1-A, available for service in July 1968, and went for a physical that September.
He was “disqualified” at some point after the physical and got a medical deferment in October 1968, the records show.
Over the weekend, Trump said the medical problem involved bone spurs in his feet. Asked which foot had the problem, the candidate said: “Go look it up in the records. It’s in the record.”
Unless Trump steps up to voluntarily provide the records, the world may never know for sure.
A spokesman for the Selective Service System told The News on Monday that the detailed medical records related to draft deferments have been destroyed.
“The information no longer exists,” Richard Flahavan told The News.
Flahavan said when the draft office was closing around 1976, millions of records, including test results and chest X-rays, were dumped. The archivist in charge decided to keep only classification histories and registration cards, he said.
“We have no way of knowing if his personal doctor was involved at all. If he claimed a pre-existing problem, he could have had his doctor give paperwork for the physical exam. But the fact is, the military doctor did disqualify him for service,” Flahavan said.
Trump, 69, ended up at the New York Military Academy at age 13 after his dad plucked him out of the private Kew-Forest School in Forest Hills, Queens, believing he needed “more discipline,” Barrett said.
Known as “D.T.” at his strict new school, Trump played varsity football, baseball and soccer and was on the intramural basketball team.
He was on the cadet council for two years, the honor roll for four years and won the Neatness and Order Medal in 1960 and 1961.
While at Fordham, he was “hardly a star student” and then switched to the University of Pennsylvania, where he took undergraduate classes at the Wharton School of Finance and “stayed far away from the tumult” of anti-war protesting, Barrett said.
He graduated in 1968, though he had no senior photo in the yearbook and was not listed as a member of any sports, the author said.
When he registered to vote for the first time in 1969, he joined the Republican Party.
It was ironic because “no one opposed to war would have registered as Republican,” Barrett said Monday.
Trump shocked supporters on Saturday when he took his shot at McCain.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said in his stunning statement in Iowa. “I like people who weren’t captured.”
McCain took the highroad Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
The former presidential candidate said he wanted “to put all that behind me” and refused to “look back in anger.”
“I’m not a hero,” the 78-year-old senator said, declining to demand an apology from Trump.
“But those who were my senior ranking officers … those that inspired us to do things we otherwise wouldn’t be capable of doing, those are the people I think he owes an apology to,” he said.
Trump doubled down Monday on NBC’s “Today” show, again blaming the media and critics for misrepresenting his views.
He then attacked McCain — who serves as the chairman of the Armed Services Committee and is a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — as a legislator.
“I do have a problem with what he’s doing on the border — he’s terrible,” Trump continued. “And I do have a problem with the fact, with the illegal immigration, is a disaster, and he’s doing a horrible job for the vets.”
Later, Trump appeared to be angling for a truce.
“I have respect for Sen. McCain,” Trump said on Fox News’ “O’Reilly Factor.” “I used to like him a lot. I supported him. I raised a lot of money for him in his campaign against President Obama, and certainly if there was a misunderstanding I would totally take that back.”
In Trump’s hometown, Mayor de Blasio added his name to the growing list of lawmakers condemning Trump’s remarks, calling them “unacceptable.”
Still, the city probably can’t yank Trump’s contracts, the mayor said Monday.
“Unless there has been some breaking of a contract or something that gives us a legal opportunity to act, I’m not sure we have a specific course of action,” de Blasio said.
“But we’re certainly not looking to do any business with him going forward,” he told reporters.
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who considers both Trump and McCain friends, said he thought the controversy would blow over.
“I believe that what Donald said about him was wrong, but Donald says it was misinterpreted,” Giuliani said. “So I take Donald at his word, that it was misinterpreted.”
New York podiatrist Dr. Rock Positano said Monday that the real pain from bone spurs on a patient’s heel comes from irritation and inflammation in the adjacent tissue. It can be treated with over-the-counter pain medicine.
“If it’s in both feet and makes walking and standing difficult, there’s a good possibility it could prevent a person from being an effective soldier,” Positano said. “But most of us have had this. In a mild case, it’s not debilitating.”
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