Give ‘Em Hell aboard the USS Harry S. Truman

February 9th, 2011

USS Harry S. Truman (CVN75)

I had the great pleasure of flying out yesterday for a visit aboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN75), a Nimitz class aircraft carrier named after our 33rd president. The ship is a floating city of 5200 men and women that is 24 stories high, 1092 feet long and 257 feet wide. The Truman is off the coast of Key West for a couple of weeks doing advanced flight training. The ship has a museum dedicated to Truman and inside Commanding Officer Capt. Joe Clarkson’s quarters is a large framed picture of the Harry S. Truman Little White House. I flew out to the ship with a group of folks from Key West, including Historic Tours of America’s President, Ed Swift. It was one amazing experience. Be sure to check out all of the photos from our trip.

-Bob Wolz, Executive Director

Capt. Joe Clarkson, CO of the USS Harry S. Truman and I in front of a picture of the Little White House that hangs in his quarters.

Battle flag for the USS Harry S. Truman

Presidential Planes

December 2nd, 2010

Air Force one

On this day back in 1969, the Boeing 747 made its debut.  Probably the most famous 747 in the world is Air Force One.  There are two 747’s (or VC-25 as the Air Force calls them) in service.  Actually any fixed wing aircraft carrying the President of the United States is called Air Force One, regardless of the make and model.  When traveling by helicopter, the president travels on Marine One, as the US Marine Corps oversees the fleet of choppers.

Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to use an airplane for travel.  His cousin Franklin Roosevelt was the first president to have a military plane designated for his use when the Army Air Corps became concerned about the security of the president on commercial flights.  President Truman used a C-54 Skymaster named Sacred Cow as his presidential plane.  Sacred Cow had first used by Roosevelt  during the Yalta Conference in 1945.  Truman replaced Sacred Cow in 1947 with a C-118 Liftmaster named Independence, after his hometown in Missouri. The  Independence was also the first presidential plane with distinctive markings painted on it with a bald eagle on the nose.   The term Air Force One was first used in 1953 with President Eisenhower when the plane transporting the president had the same call sign as an Easter Airlines commercial flight while both were using the same airspace. Eisenhower used Lockheed Constallations (C-121) named Columbine I and Columbine II after the state flower of Colorado, which was his wife Mamie’s adopted home state.  Eisenhower was the first president to use jet aircraft, with the addition of a Boeing 707 (VC-137) to the fleet in 1958.  Kennedy also used a modified long haul 707 Stratoliner during his presidency which remained in service until 1998.  In 1990 President George H. W.  Bush took of possession of the first 747 Air Force One in 1990.

Sacred Cow


Coumbine II

The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month

November 11th, 2010

Today is Veteran’s Day in the United States. For much of the rest of the world and especially in Europe, November 11 is Armistice Day, marking the end of the great war, World War I.  On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11 month in 1918 when the armistice was signed,  over 20 million people had lost their lives. To the members of the British Commonwealth, today is Remembrance Day and is often symbolized by the red poppy immortalized in the poem,  Flanders Fields. These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their brilliant red color an appropriate symbol for the blood spilt in the war.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

American Cemetery, Flanders Field, Belgium

War Memorials

November 10th, 2010

United States Marine Corps War Memorial

Two very important memorials were unveiled on this day, November 10. In 1954, the United States Marine Corps War Memorial was dedicated in Arlington, VA.  The bronze sculpture by Felix de Weldon depicts Marines raising the flag over Iwo Jima during World War II and is based on a photograph by Joe Rosenthal.

In 1982 the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall was opened to the public.  This haunting monument contains the 58,267 names of those killed or missing in action from the conflict and along with Three Soldiers statue, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial make up the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial National Memorial.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

We Like Ike, Too.

October 14th, 2010

Dwight David Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States

Today, October 13 marks the 110th anniversary of the birth of our 34th President, Dwight David Eisenhower. President Eisenhnower visited the Little White house twice, once for meetings in 1955 and to recover from a heart attack in 1956. The Eisenhower’s list of accomplishments are long: Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, Chief of Staff of Staff of the US Army, President of Columbia University and Supreme Commander of NATO. And this was before becoming President of the United State of America.

Eisenhower was elected president in 1952 and is one of only 5 other presidents to have never held political office prior to being president. At the time of his election he was the second oldest person (after James Buchanan), at the age of 62, to be elected president. Eisenhower was the first president to be televised on color television, the first president to be constitutionally prevented from running for re-election and the first president fall under the Former Presidents Act, giving presidents a pension and Secret Service protection upon leaving office. Eisenhower was the last president to be born in the 19th century.

The last two American states were admitted to the Union during Eisenhower’s presidency and he appointed five justices to the Supreme Court include Earl Warren as Chief Justice in 1953. One of the greatest accomplishments of the Eisenhower Administration was the creation of and Interstate Highway System. Eisenhower also created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (today known as the Dept. of Health and Human Services and the Dept. of Education created in 1979) into a cabinet level position.

After retirement, Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, retired to their farm next to Gettysburg Battlefield and after his death donated the farm to the National Park Service. Eisenhower died of congestive heart failure on March 28, 1969. At his funeral, President Richard M. Nixon, who had served as vice president under Eisenhower said,

“Some men are considered great because they lead great armies or they lead powerful nations. For eight years now, Dwight Eisenhower has neither commanded an army nor led a nation; and yet he remained through his final days the world’s most admired and respected man, truly the first citizen of the world.”

Eisenhower is buried next to his wife Mamie, who died in 1979 and his son Doud, who died at the age of 3 in 1921 at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas.

The Harry S. Truman Little White House currently has an exhibit, We Like Ike, Too, that is free and open to the public, featuring photos and memorabilia from Eisenhower’s time in Key West. It runs through December.

August 6, 1945

August 6th, 2010

65 years ago today the first atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, Japan.  Named, Little Boy, the bomb was developed by the Manhattan Project. The Manhattan Project was led by the United States along with the Great Britain and Canada under the scientific direction of Dr. Robert Oppenheimer and came about due to rising fears that Nazi Germany was developing nuclear weapons.

This decision drop the bomb was made by President Harry Truman. Truman had only assumed the presidency upon the death of Franklin Roosevelt in April. On July 26, 1945, the Postdam Declaration was issued by President Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Chinese leader Chang Kai-Shek calling for the surrender of Japan as outline by the Potsdam Conference. The declaration stated that if Japan did not surrender, it would face “prompt and utter destruction.”  Japan ignored the ultimatum.

Truman wrote about the atomic bomb, “We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark.”

Paul Tibbets, who by reputation, was considered the best flyer in the Army Air Corps was selected as the commander of the mission. On the morning of August 5, Tibbets formally named the B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, after his mother. The Enola Gay was one of 15 B-29 designed specifically for the transport atomic bombs. On the morning of August 6, Tibbets and his crew of 12 took off from Tinian in the Mariana Islands in the Pacific and headed for Hiroshima. At 8:15 am (JST) the bomb was dropped. The initial blast killed 80,000 people and the final death toll has been estimated between 90,000-100,000. Today the Enola Gay is a permanent exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum.

Truman said following the attack, “”Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima…The force from which the sun draws its powers has been loosed against those who brought the war in the Far East.” He later said, “The atom bomb was no “great decision.” It was merely another powerful weapon in the arsenal of righteousness.” Truman’s presidency is most often defined by his decision to drop the atomic bomb to end World War II that ultimately saved both Allied and Japanese lives.

Executive Order

July 28th, 2010

Colin Powell in the Dining Room of the Harry S. Truman Little White House during the peace talks in 2001.

This week on July 26, 1948, President Harry Truman issued two of his most important Executive Orders 9980 and 9981 desegregating the federal work force and desegregating the armed forces.  Although Truman was born in Jim Crow Missouri and clearly a racist in his youth , he emerged one of the greatest champions of civil rights to ever live. It could not be to get votes as there were not that many registered black voters , but it was simply the right thing to do. The world is a different place and clearly a better place because of Harry S Truman.

When Colin Powell led peace talks at the Little White House in 2001, he reminded all of us that had it not been for President Truman he would have been a cook!

Florida Governor Charlie Crist Visits Little White House

April 19th, 2010

This last Friday (April 16) the Harry S. Truman Little White House hosted Florida Governor Charlie Crist. It was the governor’s first visit to the Little White House. The event was private but not without a notable figure or two including former Miami Dolphins Head Coach and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Don Shula.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist and Former Miami Dophins Head Coach Don Shula

Presidential Grandchildren

March 29th, 2010

We had a wonderful event this last Friday, March 26 at the Little White House.  The Key West Harry S. Truman Foundation and Harry’s Girls hosted Clifton Truman Daniel, Margaret Hoover and her husband author and political commentator, John Avlon.  The conversation and discussions were wonderful as was the food and drink.  We are hoping to have them back next year for an event that is not to be missed!

John Avlon, Margaret Hoover and Clifton Truman Daniel

Even the President Gets Counted

March 16th, 2010

2010 is a census year in the United States, which is basically the government’s way of doing a head count.  In 1950, another census year, the Truman family was vacationing in Key West.  While on the island,  the census caught up with the president and his family and  they were interviewed on the lawn.  As the picture shows, the Truman family, especially Mrs. Truman and Margaret enjoyed the line of questioning directed at the president.  Even the the President of the United States is not immune to the questions of census as he was asked, “What is your occupation?”

The Truman family with a census worker in 1950.