Donald Trump avoided the Vietnam War through several draft deferments and never served in the armed forces. But the Republican presidential frontrunner told the author of an upcoming biography that he always “felt that I was in the military” because he attended a military high school, according to a report by the New York Times.
The billionaire said his time at the New York Military Academy – the pricey boarding school where his parents sent him to fix his behavior – gave him “more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military,” according to the report, published Tuesday. The book, set for release Sept. 22, arrives about three months after Trump drew controversy for mocking the war record of U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who spent more than five years as a prisoner during the Vietnam War.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said during a forum in Iowa in July. “He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, okay? I hate to tell you.” “I believe, perhaps he is a war hero,” he continued. “But right now, he’s said some very bad things about a lot of people.” Trump later refused to apologize, suggesting that his words were taken out of context.
The real estate tycoon and former reality television host – who owns three New Jersey golf courses and once owned three Atlantic City casinos – has seen his campaign take flight despite those and other controversial comments about immigration and women. Trump has led his 16 opponents for the Republican nod – including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – in most polls over the last two months.
How his comments about his military education will play with a Republican base known for championing the armed forces is unclear. “Trump’s constituency seems pretty locked in and immune to the candidate’s gaffes and vices,” said Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia. “My guess is these sorts of revelations keep his ceiling in place but don’t push him down toward the floor.”
The Times said its report Tuesday is based on an advance copy of the book, “Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success,” and interview transcripts provided by the book’s author, Michael D’Antonio, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former Newsday reporter.
Trump’s parents sent him to the New York Military Academy, just north of New York City, after years of rowdy behavior at Kew-Forest, a prep school in Queens, according to the report. He attended the military academy from eighth grade in 1959 until graduation from high school in 1964. There, the report said, Trump wore a uniform and participated in marching drills, and some of his instructors had served in the military.
Trump, though, received four student deferments from military service in the Vietnam War between 1964 and 1968 and a medical deferment after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in 1968. His draft lottery number was 356 out of 366, according to the Times report. “My number was so incredible, and it was a very high draft number,” Trump told the book’s author, according to the report. “Anyway, so I never had to do that, but I felt that I was in the military in the true sense because I dealt with those people.”
The book also includes comments from Trump’s ex-wives about the businessman’s persona. “He wants to be noticed,” first wife Ivana Trump said, according to the report. Second wife Marla Maples called him “the little boy that still wants attention,” according to the report. But the book includes glimpses of Trump’s generosity, as well. After the wife of his chauffeur had a baby, Trump delivered a car seat to the hospital, according to the report. And when a 10-year-old fan of “The Apprentice” asked Trump to utter his catchphrase – “You’re fired!” – on the set of the reality show, the businessman gave the boy a check for several thousand dollars and said, “Go have the time of your life,” according to the report.