Back in May, a story about Donald Trump sending one of his planes to transport over 200 Marines home from the Gulf War was posted to the website for Sean Hannity’s radio show. It was a story based on the recollection of Corporal Ryan Stickney. It’s a story that Donald Trump’s campaign confirmed.
“The Trump campaign has confirmed to Hannity.com that Mr. Trump did indeed send his plane to make two trips from North Carolina to Miami, Florida to transport over 200 Gulf War Marines back home. No further details were provided.”
Donald Trump’s people even got Stickney to speak at a rally in Houston in June. Check it out.
In the Hannity article about Trump sending that plane, the site quotes Stickney as saying, “The way the story was told to us was that Mr. Trump found out about it and sent the airline down to take care of us.”
When Lazer Cohen of Brooklyn read the account, something bothered him about it, these words: “The way the story was told to us.” So he contacted the Washington Post Fact Checker and asked them to look into it. It didn’t take much to determine that the story was false, although Donald Trump’s campaign had confirmed its validity.
So what happened? Stickney even provided a photo of a plane that has “TRUMP” written across it. Yes, but that plane didn’t belong to him at the time, and he did not send it to rescue the Marines as his campaign would like us to believe. Here’s what really happened.
The group of Marines picked up by the plane with “TRUMP” printed across it was made up of 209 officers and Marines in the TOW Company. They were activated in late November 1990, went to Saudi Arabia in December, and returned to U.S. soil in March 1991. After a few weeks in Camp Lejeune, NC, they were to return to Broward County. There were a series of logistical issues with getting a plane to them. This is where the story confirmed by Donald Trump’s campaign falls apart.
In 1989, Donald Trump launched the Trump Shuttle in an event covered by the media that included string quartets and champagne. The Daily Beast tells the story of how Donald Trump’s venture into the airline industry crashed and burned. Henry Hartveldt was his marketing director, and he had his doubts from the beginning.
“We inherited more than 20 of the world’s oldest 727 airplanes, because that’s what had been allocated to the shuttle. At first all we could do was to clean the planes and put a sticker with Trump’s name on the side.”
Others who worked with Trump during his foray into aviation say that he didn’t really know anything about the business and said things that didn’t make sense. In addition, it was a bad time for airlines, with many shutting down or declaring bankruptcy. It was in this environment that Donald Trump ended up with 22 planes for routes that required only 16 planes, meaning it wasn’t unusual for there to be six sitting on the ground doing nothing. He spent lots of money giving the planes a face-lift that included a luxury interior with things like leather seats and walls of paneling. In the end, it was all for naught.
In April 1990 Donald Trump put Trump Shuttle up for sale. By September, he couldn’t make his loan payments. By the time Ryan Stickney and his fellow Marines headed to Saudi Arabia, Trump had failed to make interest payments totaling $235 million.
Remember all those extra planes Trump had? Well, he contracted some of them to the military for their use in transporting personnel. Lieutenant General Vernon J. Kondra was the man in charge of military airlift operations at the time. He told the Washington Post that having the planes at their disposal “worked very well, and the crews loved it, and really thought that we’d done something special for them. It was a helluva lot better than using 141s [cargo craft], which we could use for something else.”
The Washington Post article goes on to say,
“But Kondra said the notion that Trump personally arranged to help the stranded soldiers made little sense. “I certainly was not aware of that. It does not sound reasonable that it would happen like that. It would not fit in with how we did business,” he told The Fact Checker. “I don’t even know of how he would have known there was a need.”
Neither the Trump campaign nor Sean Hannity have responded to requests by the WP for comment.
[Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images]