Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ike's First Helicopter Ride to Camp David

President Eisenhower departs the White House on July 12, 1957 on a 2-passenger Bell H-13J helicopter

President Eisenhower was the first president to travel to Camp David via helicopter. With the dawn of the nuclear age, it became necessary for the President to have a faster means of evacuation in the event the Soviets decided to bomb the White House.  In July of 1957, Ike rode a Bell H-13J helicopter to Camp David for part of the "Operation Alert" civil defense exercise.  The helicopter reduced the two-hour travel time from Washington to only thirty minutes.  Watch the video newsreel of President Eisenhower in his helicopter during "Operation Alert".

According to this 1957 newspaper article, President Eisenhower rode with James Rowley, head of the Secret Service to a "mountaintop secret relocation center".  The Smithsonian AirSpace blog identifies this secret relocation center as the command post at Camp David.

I previously wrote another post about the underground bomb shelter that serves as the Camp David command post.

President Eisenhower preparing to depart the White House and his arrival at Camp David 

Page from Eisenhower's Presidential Appointment Book

Sources:  Eisenhower Presidential Library; Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum;  Herald-Journal; AP (via Cryptome)