Blumenthal Didn't Fight in Vietnam (But He Did Go to Harvard)

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“We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam, and you exemplify it," said Connecticut Attorney General Richard D. Blumenthal '67, a former Crimson Editorial Chairman, in a speech delivered to veterans and senior citizens in March 2008. The Norwalk, Connecticut audience did not immediately react to Blumenthal's assertions concerning Vietnam, but as the New York Times reports, "there was one problem: Mr. Blumenthal, a Democrat now running for the United States Senate, never served in Vietnam."

According to the Times, Blumenthal's military service records indicate that he received a total of at least five military deferments in the period from 1965 to 1970, including at least two while he was a student at the College.

Subsequent deferments allowed Blumenthal to pursue a Fiske Scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge, work for the publisher of the Washington Post (whose son he had befriended during his time at the College), and work in the Nixon White House.

Blumenthal later joined the Marine Corps Reserve, which, according to the Times, "was regarded as a safe harbor for those who did not want to go to war." While enlisted in the Reserve, Blumenthal earned his J.D. from Yale Law School and clerked for Supreme Court Associate Justice Harry A. Blackmun '29.

But there's more: a Slate magazine article dating from 2000 (with which Blumenthal cooperated) reports that Blumenthal served as captain of the swim team during his time at the College—except, as the Times reports, Blumenthal wasn't on the swim team and made no effort to correct Slate's erroneous claim.

Mindy Myers, Blumenthal's campaign manager, denied the allegations in a written statement released this morning. "The New York Times story is an outrageous distortion of Dick Blumenthal's record of service. Unlike many of his peers, Dick Blumenthal voluntarily joined the Marine Corps Reserves in 1970 and served for six months in Parris Island, SC, and six years in the reserves," she wrote.

This afternoon, Blumenthal himself responded to the allegations that he misrepresented his military service in a press conference. "On a few occasions I have misspoken about my service, and I regret that and I take full responsibility," Blumenthal said, "but I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country.”

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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