10 “Patriots” Who Dodged the Draft or Did Not Serve

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A Brief History

On March 24, 1958, Elvis Aron Presley, the “King of Rock and Roll,” was drafted into the U.S. Army and served his country in Germany, on the front lines of the Cold War.  Millions of Americans have been drafted and responded obediently, and, of course, millions more have served voluntarily.  On the other hand, many American men of draft age or at least of age to serve during a war or conflict chose not to defend their country with their own blood but stayed on the sidelines, only later to pretend to be patriots.  Most of these phony patriots also kept their own kids out of the military as well.  Here 10 such individuals are listed.

Digging Deeper

10. George W. Bush. 

Former President of the United States, this macho warhawk avoided the draft during the Viet Nam War by getting a valued slot in the National Guard, done only with string pulling as all slots had been filled.  The icing on the cake is that he even failed to serve that commitment properly and was allowed to leave service early.  Privilege must be nice…

George W. Bush only ranks #10 because he at least kind of served, and we want to make it absolutely clear that there is certainly nothing inherently dishonorable about serving in the National Guard, although the actual nature of his particular service has been called into question by impartial journalists around the world.  For more information on this entry as covered by mainstream media sources from The United Kingdom to The United States, please see “The Curious Mystery of George W. Bush’s Vietnam War” by Suzanne Goldenberg and Oliver Burkeman of The Guardian and “George W. Bush’s Military Lies: The Real Story About the Undeniable Service Gaps He Got Away With” by Paul Rosenberg of Salon.   For an encyclopedic overview of this controversial topic, please see George W. Bush military service controversy“.

9. Rudy Giuliani.

This guy once said recently of President Obama, “I do not believe the President loves America.”  Well, neither does Rudy as he repeatedly sought and got deferments from the draft, having strings pulled to keep him undrafted even though he had a 1A status (highest, unrestricted draft category) and a high draft number.  (How he pulled this off is unknown.)  Despite hiding from the war, Giuliani is quite vocal about wanting to use American force every time the subject comes up.  Additionally, following the September 11 attacks, he falsely reassured citizens and ground zero workers that the air in New York was safe when it was indeed full of asbestos and other contaminants.  Mayor “Mr. Law and Order” also used police officers getting city overtime to drive him to his mistress and provided her with a city police chauffeur service. 

8. Mitt Romney. 

This conservative leader of the Republican party does not hesitate to talk tough about throwing around American military might and bitterly criticizes President Obama for failing to be more decisive with America’s enemies.  For himself, however, he fled to Europe when of draft-eligible age to work as a missionary, tooling around France on his bicycle, returning to the U.S. when it was “safe.”

7. Ted Nugent. 

This tough-talking, gun-totin’ rascal told the magazine High Times in a 1977 interview that he avoided the draft during Viet Nam by taking crystal meth and pooping his pants.  He confirmed this story to the Detroit Free Press in 1990, saying he used the inside of his pants as his bathroom for a week to purposely fail the physical.  Nugent later denied this, saying he got his deferment by enrolling in college, but that is not true as his actual deferments for 1969 and 1972 were for physical, psychological or moral reasons.  It seems he strongly believes in our rights, just not that they are worth fighting for on his part.  

6. Bruce Springsteen

He acted wacky at his induction physical to get a 4F rating and therefore be able to avoid the draft, something he told Rolling Stone in 1984, saying that his thoughts at the time were, “I aint going.”  Do not be fooled by his unemployed veteran’s lament “Born in the USA.”  “The Boss” did not serve and wanted it that way.

5. Newt Gingrich. 

President Clinton’s archenemy and most vocal critic, Gingrich pulled the same trick to avoid the draft that Clinton did (see below) and topped off his hypocrisy by engaging in an extra-marital affair while lambasting Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky incident.  Of course, this chickenhawk is all gung-ho about committing U.S. armed forces to combat anywhere and everywhere, just not when it involves him or his kids.

4. Bill Clinton. 

Although not as hawkish as some of those listed, Clinton did use American military in Yugoslavia and Somalia although he himself avoided the draft during the Viet Nam War Years by pretending to sign up for ROTC, a college-based military officer training program, a legal but sneaky ruse at the time, which perhaps is the type of thing a weasel would and did do.  Oddly enough, he gained the presidency at the expense of George H. W. Bush who had served as a pilot during World War II and even got shot down.  In 1996, Clinton was reelected after he beat World War II hero Bob Dole.  (Obviously, military service means little when the election of presidents is concerned.)

3. Muhammad Ali.

This “Mr. Tough Guy” heavyweight boxing champ refused to serve when drafted even though, by his own admission, his new religion (Nation of Islam) did not preclude it.  A couple of the men who would go on to beat Ali for the championship, Ken Norton and Leon Spinks, served in the Marine Corps.  (So did I.)

2. Dick Cheney

An outspoken hawk of a congressman, Secretary of Defense and Vice President, Cheney repeatedly obtained waivers to avoid being drafted while younger but did not hesitate to send other people’s kids to war.  It is believed by many critics that Cheney was the driving force behind the disastrous decision to invade Iraq in 2003.  Thanks, Dick.

1. John Wayne

This All-American icon of the silver screen starred in more movies than any other leading man in movie history, often playing a brave and patriotic soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.  In reality, this outspoken “patriot” failed to serve in the military, despite being only 34 years old when the U.S. entered World War II.   His real life lack of commitment did not match his “uber-patriot” persona, and he also declined to even run for political office despite pleas from the far right.  Character  Note:  Wayne was somewhat of a racist and thought the Native Americans were “selfish” for wanting the land that white people “needed.”  He also spoke harshly about African-Americans, decrying welfare culture and said “I believe in white supremacy, until the blacks are educated to the point of responsibility.”  A real American hero…

Bonus: Donald Trump

Although he attended a military prep school from 8th grade through 12th grade, he applied for and was granted a few deferments from the draft and then sought a medical deferment for “heel spurs,” although he does not currently remember which foot was affected!  (The problem seems to have magically disappeared once he was past draft status.)

Question for students (and subscribers): Do you think past military service should be a requirement of American presidents?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Kays, Jackie.  The Stone Throwers: A Man-Hunt For Vietnam War Draft Evaders.  iUniverse, 2001.

Smith, Glenn W.  Unfit Commander: Texans for Truth Take on George W. Bush.  William Morrow, 2010.

The featured image in this article, a photograph of student protesters marching down Langdon Street at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during the Vietnam War era, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.  This image, originally posted to Flickr, was reviewed on  by the administrator or reviewer Yarnalgo, who confirmed that it was available on Flickr under the stated license on that date.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.