Day 69: FDR Rides a Dirigible, 1918
Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first sitting president to ride in an airplane, an occasion marked by a very long overseas flight to attend the 1943 Casablanca conference. FDR’s distant cousin, Theodore, was the first president ever to fly, a trip that took place back in 1910 shortly after he had left the presidency.
FDR may have set an additional aviation first – we think he may have been the first president to fly on-board a dirigible airship (also known as a blimp or zeppelin)!
During World War I, serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, FDR traveled to Europe to inspect US Navy facilities. Several weeks into his trip, on August 17th, 1918 he visited a base in Paimboeuf, Western France where he was offered a ride aboard a French-built airship.
Considered too vulnerable for use on the front, airships were primarily used for scouting missions and mine clearance throughout Western Europe during the war. The use of airships later declined as airplane technology advanced and after several high profile accidents. FDR was serving his second term as president when the infamous Hindenburg crashed in New Jersey in 1937.
FDR writes about the flying experience in his log of the trip saying:
I tried my hand at running the lateral stearing[sic] gear and also the elevating and depressing gear. The sensation is distinctly curious, less noise than an areo.[sic] and far more feeling of drifting at the mercy of the wind.
TRUMAN MEETS DEWEY
On this day, July 31, 1948. President Truman participated in the dedication of Idlewild Airport in New York City, now known as JFK International Airport. The airport was the largest in the world at the time.
This photo shows Truman shaking hands with New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey. The pair were meeting for the first time since nominated by their respective parties for the Presidency.
On the left is Grover A. Whalen, Chairman of the Mayor’s Committee for the Commemoration of the Golden Anniversay of the City of New York. Second from the right is New York Mayor William O’Dwyer.
Former President Truman holds a copy of the famous Chicago Daily Tribune paper declaring “Dewey Defeats Truman”. ID # 95-187
-from the Truman Library
It’s the 90th Birthday of George Bush!
George Herbert Walker Bush was born on June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts.
On his 18th birthday, Bush graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts with World War II raging on two fronts. That same day, although he had been accepted at Yale University, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a seaman second class. He received his wings on June 9, 1943, becoming the youngest pilot in the U.S. Navy at the time.
During World War II, Bush flew torpedo bombers, completing 58 missions. On a run over Chichi Jima in 1944, his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Bush bailed out and was rescued by a Navy submarine.
For his service during WWII, Bush was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals.
Watch this space for more on the life of George Bush throughout today.
Happy Birthday President Bush!
George Bush in Kennebunkport, Maine, circa 1925; At age 12; At Phillips Academy, Andover, MA. circa 1940; U.S. Navy Portrait (1942-1945); U.S. Navy Pilot George Bush in the cockpit of an Avenger, (1942-45).
On this day in 1933 FDR met with Amelia Earhart. This token was later given to the President to commemorate Amelia being the first women in world to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean on May 21, 1932.
Veterans Day Spotlight: George Bush
George Bush graduated from high school on his 18th birthday, June 12, 1942, with World War II raging on two fronts. That same day, although he had been accepted at Yale University, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a seaman second class.
Bush served as a Naval Aviator in World War II, flying Avenger torpedo bombers in the Pacific. He was the youngest Navy pilot in World War II to earn his wings at that time.
Bush was shot down Sept. 2, 1944 during a bombing mission over a Japanese radio station at Chi Chi Jima in the Bonin Islands; Bush’s crew didn’t survive, but he parachuted to safety and was later rescued by the submarine USS Finback. For his service in World War II Bush received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals and the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to his carrier the USS San Jacinto.
Photos: U.S. Navy Pilot George Bush in the cockpit of an Avenger, 1942-1945; In Navy Uniform, 1942; Navy Pilot George Bush in VT-51 Avenger, 1944.
On this Veterans Day weekend, and everyday, thank you to all our nation’s veterans!
Did you know JFK had a formal White House visit with a troll? It’s true! Pictured, President Kennedy meets pilot Betty Miller (who completed the first solo flight by a woman across the Pacific Ocean) and “Dammit,” the troll doll who joined her for the trip!
Mrs. Miller received the Federal Aviation Agency’s Decoration for Exceptional Service from the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Agency, Najeeb Halaby (right). (Credit: Abbie Rowe/JFK Library)
May 11, 1967. 5;15 PM-5:25 PM. The American Helicopter Society presents LBJ and Lady Bird with an award in recognition of “your nearly 20 years of pioneering and regular utilization of helicopters for reliable, time-saving transportation in all parts of the world.” Of course, LBJ’s use of the helicopter in the 1948 campaign was especially innovative—and terrifying.
Photos clockwise from top: Signing the Immigration Bill, 10/3/65 (C666-6A-WH65); ‘48 campaign (48-6-7-26); travelling in Malaysia, 10/30/66 (a3440-4); picking up the Humphreys at the Ranch, 11/9/64, and the ‘48 campaign (48-6-7-18).
The helicopter in POTUS history.
Air Force Thunderbirds Flyover
White House photographer Oliver Atkins created this composite photo of two images taken of President Nixon and family attending commencement ceremonies at the Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium. They are watching a flyover by the Air Force’s Thunderbirds team. 6/4/1969.
-from the Nixon Library
Bill to Break the Sound Barrier
If you were the first woman to break the sound barrier, who would you pick to fly the chase plane behind you?
Jacqueline Cochran tapped her friend, Colonel Chuck Yeager for the task for her May 18, 1953 flight. A logical decision, since he was the first pilot to break the barrier in 1947.
Here is his final bill for his expenses, including the replacement of dead chickens that stampeded when her low-flying Sabre jet flew over a ranch.
-from the Eisenhower Library
Before they were Presidents -
During World War II, George Bush became a decorated naval pilot who flew torpedo bombers. In 1944, he was shot down over the island of Chi Chi Jima and rescued.
Pictured here is Navy Pilot George Bush in a VT-51 “Avenger,” 1944; and World War II aircraft and ships.