The Gulf of Tonkin - 50 Years Ago
The Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC) sent this cable to the Joint Chiefs reporting an attack on the USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin on August 2, 1964. The result was a spiraling escalation of violence in Vietnam.
-from the LBJ Library
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.
LBJ Signs the Medicare Bill On This Day in 1965
When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law at the Harry S. Truman Library on July 30, 1965, he told the nation that it had “all started with the man from Independence.”
Harry S. Truman, LBJ said, had “planted the seeds of compassion and duty” that led to the enactment of Medicare, a national health insurance for the aged through an expanded Social Security system.
Truman was the first President to publicly endorse a national health insurance program. As a Senator, Truman had become alarmed at the number of draftees who had failed their induction physicals during World War II. For Truman these rejections meant that the average citizen could not afford visiting a doctor to maintain health. He stated:
“that is all wrong in my book. I am trying to fix it so the people in the middle-income bracket can live as long as the very rich and the very poor.”
Truman’s first proposal in 1945 provided for physician and hospital insurance for working-aged Americans and their families. A federal health board was to administer the program with the government retaining the right to fix fees for service, and doctors could choose whether or not to participate. This proposal was defeated after, among many factors, the American Medical Association labeled the president’s plan “socialized medicine” taking advantage of the public’s concern over communism in Russia.
Even though he was never able to create a national health care program, Truman was able to draw attention to the country’s health needs, have funds legislated to construct hospitals, expand medical aid to the needy, and provide for expanded medical research.
In honor of his continued advocacy for national health insurance, Johnson presented Truman and his wife Bess with Medicare cards number one and two in 1966.
President Truman vacationed in Key West, Florida eleven times during his administration.
He and members of his staff who joined him on vacation enjoyed eating picnic lunches outside the Little White House. This photo shows President Truman smiling for the camera as he goes through the buffet line.
-from the Truman Library
Ike Signs the NASA Act - Today in History
On July 29, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Woot!
President Eisenhower Presents NASA Commissions to Dr. T. Keith Glennan as the first administrator for NASA and Dr. Hugh L. Dryden as deputy administrator. Courtesty of NASA.
"Shacks, put up by the Bonus Army on the Anacostia flats, Washington, D.C., burning after the battle with the military. The Capitol in the background. 1932."
In the summer of 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression, World War I veterans seeking early payment of a bonus scheduled for 1945 assembled in Washington to pressure Congress and the White House. After the Senate rejected the bonus, most of the protesters went home, but a core of ten thousand members of the “Bonus Army” remained behind, many with their families. On the morning of July 28, violence erupted between the protesters and police, and President Hoover reluctantly sent in federal troops under Maj. Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Ignoring the President’s order for restraint, the flamboyant general drove the tattered protesters from the city and violently cleared their Anacostia campsite.
July 28, 1927: FDR incorporates the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, a rehabilitation home for polio patients
On this day in 1927, Franklin Roosevelt, who had contracted polio at age 39, created the nonprofit Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, the only hospital in the world to deal solely with the treatment of polio victims. Roosevelt’s visits to Warm Springs began a few years prior, during which he experienced marked improvements in his health after swimming in the mineral water resort pools.
The organization later became the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis and was instrumental in developing a cure for polio.
Photo: Franklin Delano Roosevelt at his Georgia Warm Springs Foundation for polio patients, c.1930. Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library.
July 28, 1967. Rostow sends this memo to President Johnson regarding growing violence in China related to the Cultural Revolution. In a memo that Rostow received from Alfred Jenkins on July 21st, Jenkins reported:
“The pace of social disintegration in China at present is even greater than it was in January and February. Evidence from many sources gives a picture of turbulence and confusion, in varying degree, but in each of the 26 provinces of China!”
—memo, Jenkins to Rostow, 7/21/67, #49, “CHICOM - Cultural Revolution, July - December 1967,” Files of Alfred Jenkins, National Security File, Box 2, LBJ Presidential Library.
—scanned document memo, Rostow to LBJ, 7/28/67, #47, “CHICOM - Cultural Revolution, July - December 1967, Files of Alfred Jenkins, National Security File, Box 2, LBJ Presidential Library.