FACT CHECK: Was High School Baseball, Football Star, Lifeguard Joe Biden too unhealthy to serve in Vietnam?

7 mins read

U.S. President Joe Biden’s past has been under investigation for quite some time. Allegations that he received phony draft deferments to avoid service in Vietnam have persisted throughout his entire career. Was President Joe Biden a draft dodger? Was he eligible to serve in Vietnam? How did Biden avoid the draft?

We looked into it and here’s what we found.

Joe Biden was a local football star. In 1955, his St. Helena’s Parochial Football League team went undefeated to win the Catholic League Championship.

He would play high school in Claymont at Archmere Academy, a prep school. He was a two-sport varsity letterman, baseball, and football.

In High School, Biden was a star athlete and his football coach even said he was one of the best wide receivers on the team. Biden was so versatile as a high school football athlete that in 1960, his coach converted him to a running back. Biden ended the 1960 season leading his high school team in scoring, with 60 points. He also lead his team to the Quindepent Conference Championship.

Biden also played baseball. That spring he was the six-hitter and starting left fielder for Archmere.

Then, Biden became a star athlete at the University of Delaware where he played collegiate football. In 2012, he spoke about his playing days on the Delaware football team between the Blue Hens and the University of Ohio.

On a campaign stop in Athens, Biden looked back on his playing days at Delaware.

“I came, I was a football player,” Biden said. “I came here in 1963, and I had to go back, I just double-checked my memory – you know, you get my age and you’re not so sure of it, you know, your glory days look more glorious than they really were and all that, so we went back on the Internet and I just want you to know, I came here in October 1963, and we beat you Bobcats 29-12.”

The thing is, he never played for Delaware. He wasn’t on the roster for that game and the university’s yearbook didn’t show him as being a member of the team.

Biden played football in college. The university confirmed that he played briefly on the freshman team in 1961, but that was it. They also confirmed he never played the game against Ohio in 1963.

Biden’s press secretary at the time said of the incident, “He was on the team!”

Biden eventually finished college. Then he finished at the top of his class at Syracuse College of Law. That’s what he said anyway. Records showed that he actually finished 76th in a class of 85.

 “I did not graduate in the top half of my class at law school and my recollection of this was inaccurate,” Biden said after berating a reporter in 1987 who questioned his claim.

Biden also claimed he had a full academic scholarship to attend law school.

Then, he said, “My recollection is – and I’d have to confirm this – but I don’t recall paying any money to go to law school.”

Despite being a high school football star and being accepted to play football at the University of Delaware, a Division I program, Biden, during college became unfit to serve in the Vietnam war. Biden was a specimen of good health as a young adult between his time on the gridiron, the baseball diamond, and his after-school job as a lifeguard.

He was a strapping, physically fit young man, ready for service in defense of his country.

Instead, he received five draft deferments that kept him far away from the jungles of Vietnam. Born in 1942, Biden was 22 years old when the draft began in 1964.

His first deferment came during his Delaware University days and he received four more, ensuring him that he would never be called to duty.

Why? His spokesperson said Biden suffered from asthma. In 1968, Biden was given the Selective Service classification of “1-Y”.

During his election campaign, when questioned about Biden’s deferments, his spokesperson simply said he was “disqualified from service because of asthma as a teenager.” 

The 1-Y classification said Biden was only qualified for service in times of war or national emergency. The 1-Y classification was abolished in December of 1971. Local boards were subsequently instructed to reclassify all 1-Y registrants by administrative action.

Many conservative websites criticize Biden, going as far as calling him a draft dodger, but was he?

We found all of the claims made in the conservative media about Biden’s five deferments to be true, however, there is no evidence to suggest the President actively pursued those deferments to avoid service during the Vietnam war. Biden claims his deferment was due to childhood asthma, but being a wide receiver requires a lot of running and biden was one of the top football stars in Delaware during his days. He was even qualified to play football at the University of Delaware, before he quit the team as a freshman.

When he was younger, Biden also worked as a lifeguard and played youth football and baseball.

It is unlikely that his claimed childhood asthma was severe enough to keep him out of military service as he had quite a successful sports career prior to his Selective Service deferment.