A Brief History of Camp David
The Presidential retreat was originally called “Shangri-La” by Franklin D. Roosevelt, but in 1953, Dwight d. Eisenhower re-named it “Camp David” in honor of his grandson David Eisenhower.
The name change rankled Democrats and there was talk of the name reverting to “Shangri-La” after Eisenhower’s presidency, but President Kennedy vetoed the idea and Camp David it remained.
Extensive redecorating and building took place at Camp David on Ike’s watch. Picnic tables, an outdoor cooking area, a bomb shelter and a projection booth were added during the remodeling.
Ike valued Camp David as a place to relax, but he also conducted official business there. Recuperating from a heart attack in late 1955, Eisenhower held Cabinet meetings and four meetings of the National Security Council at the camp.
In July 1957 he flew to Camp David by helicopter as part of the civil defense exercise “Operation Alert.” Ike was the first president to travel to Camp David by chopper. The helicopter cut the commute from Washington, D.C. down from two hours to just thirty minutes.
Eisenhower also used Camp David to entertain foreign leaders, a tradition that continues today.
In April 1961, former President Eisenhower traveled back to Camp David for the last time when he met President Kennedy there to review the failed Bay of Pigs operation.
Eisenhower’s many trips up the mountain, combined with his renaming of the compound and his highly publicized use of it for recreation and official business, helped make “Camp David” synonymous with the modern American presidency and international diplomacy.
Photo: David Eisenhower at the entrance to his namesake Presidential retreat, Camp David. 10/2/60.
The Camp David Accords
Three scheduled days at Camp David turned into thirteen intensely frustrating ones. When the three-way negotiations began on Wednesday, September 6, 1978, President Jimmy Carter found both Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Isreali Prime Minister Menachem Begin clinging to old arguments and repetitious statements.
After two days, despite some amicable moments, President Carter felt that more progress could be made if they did not meet directly. He spent much of his time listening intently to heated arguments and realized that a whole new approach was needed. By Saturday, September 9, Carter worked with a team led by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski to draft an American proposal.
After twenty-three drafts and continuous debates on wording, the U.S. delegation came up with a final framework agreement on Sunday, September 17, that the Egyptians and the Israelis could agree on. Resulting in the comprehensive Camp David Accords, these meetings laid the groundwork for further negotiations, and for the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty.
Photo: A scene from the historic signing of the Camp David Accords on Sunday evening, September 17, 1978, in the East Room of the White House.
-from the Carter Library
July 12, 1957: President Dwight D. Eisenhower became the first president to ride in a helicopter. The logistical inefficiencies of presidential motorcades and taking off and landing Air Force One made the use of the helicopter (now known as Marine One) to transport the president a viable option. Eisenhower flew in a Bell Ranger H-13J, a two-seater, and was able to more easily travel to places such as his summer home in Rhode Island or Camp David in Maryland.
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John F. Kennedy, Jr. sits in the pilot’s seat of the Presidential helicopter during a weekend trip to Camp David in Frederick County, Maryland.
Photo Credit: Robert Knudsen/JFK Library. View more here: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1963-03-31-A.aspx
The Camp David Accords
Thirty-four years ago in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland, three world leaders came together seeking a way out of the years unrest in the Middle East.
At the invitation of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt came to the secluded presidential retreat, Camp David. Each leader took enormous risks to be there.
On September 17, 1978 the Camp David Accords were signed and the groundwork laid out for the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty. Read more
Photo: Anwar Sadat, Jimmy Carter and Menahem Begin at the Camp David Accords Signing Ceremony. East Room, White House. 9/17/1978.
from the Carter Library
President Obama hosts the G-8 Summit at Camp David today and tomorrow. Although many Heads of State have visited the presidential retreat since it was established by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942, this weekend will be the first time such a large group of foreign leaders have come together at Camp David.
FDR originally called the retreat in Maryland “Shangri-La.” This didn’t suit Dwight D. Eisenhower who stated the name was “just a little fancy for a Kansas farm boy.” As President, he renamed the compound “Camp David” in honor of his grandson David Eisenhower.
Here’s a photo of David Eisenhower at the entrance to Camp David. 10/2/60