The Vietnam draft seems to have dealt Donald Trump a bad hand, as his original 1964 draft number was quite low. He listed as “1-A,” or ready for service. He had been able to avoid service by the quality of attending the University of Pennsylvania (a 2-S deferment), but after he graduated in 1968 he was again classified as 1-A and eligible for the draft. After an Armed Forces physical in September of 1968, Donald Trump was listed as 1-Y, or “qualified for service only in time of war or national emergency,” meaning he was not eligible for the regular draft in force at that time. Later, in 1969, the draft lottery was ran again, and Trump received a very high number, essentially eliminating any chance that he would have to serve.
How did Trump get the sought after 1-Y medical deferment a year before that lottery? Before that his number was quite low, and he would have likely been pressed into service upon leaving college. The Trump campaign made this statement in 2015 regarding his draft status:
“While attending the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School of Finance, Mr. Trump received a minor medical deferment for bone spurs on both heels of his feet. The medical deferment was expected to be short-term and he was therefore entered in the military draft lottery where he received an extremely high number, 356 out of 365.
“When the draft occurred, they never got near his number and he was therefore exempt from serving in the military. 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.”
Donald Trump told the New York Times that he had been diagnosed by a doctor, who had written a letter to the draft board. He could not remember the doctor’s name, nor could he produce the letter, despite repeated requests from the Times. “I had a doctor that gave me a letter — a very strong letter on the heels,” Trump said in the interview.
It was easy for a draftee to get a letter from a friendly doctor, especially if you happen to be the son of multimillionaire who just graduated from an Ivy League school. But bone spurs are real, can be quite painful and could legitimately preclude a young man from being able to walk the long distances necessary for a soldier. You would think that such malady would be memorable for the rest of your life.
But Donald Trump has very little memory of the painful condition that kept him from serving his country in the Vietnam War. He provided very few details in the New York Times interview, even when pressed. He could not remember which foot, or both, was affected. He never had any sort of treatment or surgery. He could not remember how his physical activity was affected. He could not remember how long the affliction lasted, or when it cleared up. “Over a period of time, it healed up,” he told The Times.
Donald Trump did not serve his country in Vietnam. He got several deferments for being enrolled in college, but that was very common, with many current politicians of today, namely Joe Biden and Bill Clinton, doing the same thing. The medical deferment however, is much fishier. It is hard to believe that he couldn’t remember any details about this, including which feet were affected. It strains credulity. He was notably silent on the subject of his deferments for decades, until 2011, when he first publicized the heel spurs story. Unfortunately, the detailed Selective Service records were destroyed in the 1970s. Heel spurs were not mentioned in Trump’s health records released by the campaign, where his doctor said that the 70 year old would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to presidency.”