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.
Veterans Day Spotlight: Harry S. Truman
Harry Truman’s aspirations for a military career began back in high school, where he had hopes of attending West Point or Annapolis upon graduation in 1901. Although his poor eyesight prevented him from qualifying for admission, Truman did not entirely give up on a military career.
Four years after graduation, Harry S. Truman joined Battery “B” of the Missouri National Guard. The Guard had created Battery “B” in Kansas City as an addition to the already established Battery “A” in St. Louis. This time, Truman didn’t take any chances and memorized the eye chart. He became a private in Light Artillery Battery “B,” First Brigade on June 14, 1905.
Harry Truman left military service 37 years later as a Colonel in the U.S. Army Officers’ Reserve Corps.
To learn more about President Truman’s military career:
-from the Truman Library
My Tuesdays are meatless,
My Wednesdays are wheatless,
I’m getting more eatless each day.
My home — it is heatless,
My bed — it is sheetless,
They’re sent to the Y.M.C.A.
The bar rooms are treatless,
The coffee is sweetless,
To-day I grow poorer and wiser.
My stockings are feetless,
My trousers are seatless,
My God! How I do have the kaiser.
This humorous poem about the United States Food Administration is found in the papers of Ben Allen who served as Chief of the Education Division and who worked many times over the years with his friend Herbert Hoover.
-from the Hoover Library
Armistice Day was officially made a federal holiday by Congress in 1938 as a day to honor the end of World War I. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed HR7786, which established Veterans Day in place of Armistice Day to honor those who served in World War II and the Korean War.
Photo: DDE signing HR7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day 1954. 6/1/54.
Hemingway in Italy, 1918
On August 22, 1864, The International Red Cross was founded as part of the Geneva Convention. We found this photo of Ernest Hemingway in an American Red Cross Ambulance during World War I in Italy. Circa 1918.
The American Red Cross was established in 1881.
American Relief Administration Food Distribution, Poland. Circa 1919
On July 12, 1919, Herbert Hoover founded the American Relief Administration which fed 350 million people in 21 countries in the aftermath of the Wold War I.
-from the Hoover Library