As the US presidential election reaches the pro-military state of South Carolina, the Republican front-runner Donald Trump is set to become embroiled in a new controversy: the story of how his bony feet kept him out of the Vietnam War. The southern state is home to eight military bases and 58,000 veterans, and 25 per cent of those expected to take part in Saturday’s primary vote for the Republican nominee are either serving or former members of the armed forces.
Mr Trump, who has led polls in South Carolina since July, received a deferment from the Vietnam draft because he had bone spurs in both heels. Until now, this quirk of medical fate has lain dormant in the records, a parenthesis in his rise to celebrity. But in a party that still sees military service as a sign of political muscle, it is about to take centre stage.
The billionaire, who at the time was 22 and had been a student athlete, suffered temporarily from the condition, which involves calcium deposits building up on the underside of the heel bone. It has a variety of possible causes including ill-fitting shoes and over-exercising. According to draft board records, Mr Trump first became eligible in 1964, aged 18, when had just graduated from the New York Military Academy. His draft registration form lists him as being 6ft 2ins and weighing 180 pounds.
He then received a series of four student deferments over the next four years while he was studying at Fordham University and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance.
Mr Trump graduated from university on July 9, 1968, and once again became eligible for the draft.
Two months later, on September 17, 1968, he underwent a military physical assessment which he failed because of the bone spurs. It was not clear if the condition was discovered by the military doctor, or whether Mr Trump brought a letter from his own doctor.