Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney is a fervent supporter of the US army, but avoided the Vietnam draft (Reuters)

Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate who picketed the anti-Vietnam protests in the 1960s, dodged the draft in order to work as a Morman missionary in France.

Romney, who has been an ardent supporter of US troops throughout his campaign for the Republican vote, was photographed by the Palo Alto Times in 1966 after he took part in a counter-protest against an anti-war demonstration at Stanford University, California.

Biography The Real Romney, by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, describes the moment that Romney, 19, stepped out in support of the troops, carrying a sign with the words "speak ou, don't sit in".

However, his support for the war did not extend to taking up active service. Instead, he sought four draft deferments. The longest of them saw him travel to France as a missionary.

Romney initially received two student deferments for "activity in study", before qualifying for deferment status as a "minister of religion or divinity student".

Romney enjoyed palatial accommodation in Paris as he rose to oversee the work of more than 170 fellow missionaries. He maintains that he would have served in the forces if he had not gone away.

On returning to the US in early 1969 he was given another two-year deferment for academic studies. He was available for active service from 1970, when the US draft significantly tailed off and he was not called up.

He told the Boston Globe in 2007: "I was supportive of my country. I longed in many respects to be in Vietnam and representing our country there and in some ways it was frustrating not to feel like I was there as part of the troops that were fighting."

Romney, who was visiting London at the start of a six-day international tour, saw his father George lose the race for the presidency after coming out in protest against the Vietnam war.

When he gave a speech in San Diego on Memorial Day, he said: "Greatness in people, I believe, is measured by the extent to which they will give themselves to something bigger than themselves."

Romney has made no secret of his faith but has not focused on his Mormon beliefs during the campaign.