Friday, December 28, 2012

Khrushchev and the Spirit of Camp David

September 1959 - In front of the Aspen Lodge at Camp David

President Eisenhower invited Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to Camp David in 1959 to discuss issues related to the Cold War. Upon receiving the invitation, Khrushchev was suspicious and wanted to know what sort of camp it was. In his memoirs, he recalled wondering at the time if Camp David was "a place they put people they don't trust, where they put people in some sort of quarantine where the President would travel alone to meet with me."

As the two leaders stood in front of the Aspen Lodge posing for a large group of photographers, Eisenhower joked "I am glad they don't shoot". The two leaders shared accommodations at the Aspen Lodge along with
Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko and U.S. Secretary of State Christian Herter.

When Khrushchev told Eisenhower that he used to watch Westerns with Stalin, Eisenhower chose one from the list below to watch on their first night at Camp David.

Movie list from the 1959 Camp David Operation plan for the Khrushchev visit

At breakfast the next morning in Aspen, the Russian leader shared stories about his experiences in World War II. Vice President Richard Nixon joined them later along with other officials in a discussion about Berlin. When it became clear that no progress was being made, Eisenhower and Khrushchev went for a long walk around the retreat and stopped off at Hickory Lodge to continue the discussion. The Soviet leader, who had never seen a bowling alley before, was impressed with the automatic pinsetter.

The two leaders flew to Gettysburg in the afternoon for a tour of Eisenhower's farm. The leaders ate most of their meals in the Aspen Lodge. Below is the menu from Saturday night.

Menu from the 1959 Camp David Operations Plan for the Khrushchev visit

After meeting for two days, Eisenhower and Khrushchev released a joint statement saying their discussions were useful and contributed to a better understanding between the two countries. In the months following his visit, Khrushchev would occasionally refer to the "Spirit of Camp David". When Eisenhower was asked about what that meant, he replied: "I must say I have never used it" and that it "must mean simply that it looks like we can talk together without being mutually abusive."

Joint Statement Following Discussions With Chairman Khrushchev at Camp David

"THE CHAIRMAN of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, N. S. Khrushchev, and President Eisenhower have had a frank exchange of opinions at Camp David. In some of these conversations United States Secretary of State Herter and Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko, as well as other officials from both countries, participated.
Chairman Khrushchev and the President have agreed that these discussions have been useful in clarifying each other's position on a number of subjects. The talks were not undertaken to negotiate issues. It is hoped, however, that their exchanges of view will contribute to a better understanding of the motives and position of each and thus to the achievement of a just and lasting peace."  Read the full statement

Related blog post:  Read about the preparations that were made in advance of the Khrushchev visit to conceal the construction area of the then-recently built underground command center at Camp David.

SourcesEisenhower Presidential Library;  Khrushchev: The Man and His Era50 Westerns from the 50s; sunnycv.comNewburgh Beacon News; The President is at Camp David

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

JFK Library Collection of Camp David Photos

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library published a large collection of photos from Camp David in its Digital Archives of the Kennedy Administration. The photos are organized into five subject folders beginning with Kennedy's meeting with Eisenhower at Camp David in April 1961 to winter views of the Presidential Retreat in February 1962. Below are some of the best photos from each Camp David folder in the JFK Library:

Meeting with former President Eisenhower at Camp David (April 22, 1961)

President John F. Kennedy and former President General Dwight D. Eisenhower walk past Dogwood Cabin while talking privately during their meeting at Camp David.

 Kennedy and Eisenhower walk uphill to Aspen Lodge 
Kennedy and Eisenhower after their meeting

President John F. Kennedy stands with Naval Aide Tazewell Shepard, Jr. (left) and an unidentified man outside of Aspen Lodge.

View more photos from this folder at the JFK Library

Camp David Views (April 22, 1961)

View of Aspen Lodge, the Presidential residence at Camp David in Frederick County, Maryland.

View of the lower terrace of Aspen Lodge.  Sassafras Cabin is visible in the background

View more photos from this folder at the JFK Library

Camp David, Change of Command Ceremony (September 12, 1961)

Unidentified officer of the United States Navy speaks before a group of military and civilian observers during a ceremony marking a change of command of the President’s retreat at Camp David.  [Photograph by O.W. Harris] 

View more photos from this folder at the JFK Library

Camp David Views (December 26, 1961)

Aerial view of Camp David

“Laurel” Cabin (later called Holly Cabin)
“Witch Hazel” Cabin at Camp David

View more photos from this folder at the JFK Library

Camp David in the Snow Views (February 10, 1962)

Three unidentified children sled down the hill outside Aspen Lodge

Aspen Lodge
Ice skating on frozen pond at Camp David

View more photos from this folder at the JFK Library

SourceJohn F. Kennedy Presidential Library

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

White House Communications Agency - Special Missions Command

The White House Communications Agency (WHCA) is a joint service military agency under the operational control of the White House Military Office (WHMO) and administrative control of the Defense Information System Agency (DISA).

A  fact sheet about the White House Communications Agency describes its Special Missions Command (SMC) as responsible for installing, operating, and maintaining the communications infrastructure at Camp David.

Some WHCA systems are mirrored at Camp David in order to provide continuity of operations in an outage. This FedBizOps listing for the Visual Information Command group within the WHCA solicits a contract to provide a digital TV broadcast system for real-time news to key leaders throughout the WHCA and the White House Operations Center. The mirroring of this system at Camp David is listed as one of the requirements.

Another FedBizOps listing describes an Operations Center and Conference Room Modernization Project at Camp David related to the Special Missions Command that would give them the ability to disseminate information from an alternate location.

In 2002, the White House Communications Agency expanded the fiber-optic network at Camp David to connect all of the buildings there to "provide virtually unlimited bandwidth to all users".

Camp David fiber network diagram

A blog written about the White House Communications Agency from 1965 to 1974 describes Camp David's role in the former Presidential Emergency Network operated by the WHCA. The presidential emergency facility (PEF) at Camp David was called Cactus and consisted of a "fully equipped switchboard and communications center with secure telephone and TTY". In an emergency, the President would have been able to broadcast a live address to the nation from Camp David. More information about the early days at the WHCA can be found here.

When President Carter took office, he was concerned about the cost of Camp David and thought about closing down the Presidential Retreat. He changed his mind when the Director of the White House Military Office Bill Gulley told him about the bomb shelter, the emergency communications center, and other facilities there.

Recent Updates to the Camp David Infrastructure

The FY 2013 DISA Budget states that in FY 2011, the Camp David infrastructure was upgraded to enable diversification and to make WHCA services more robust and survivable. The FY 2013 budget includes funding to "continue upgrades to the Camp David Technical Control Facility (TCF) infrastructure".

There have been a number of 2013 FedBizOps solicitations for the installation of new circuits connecting Camp David to various locations:

Here is a 2014 FedBizOps solicitation for 10GB wave service between Room 108 in Camp David's Willow building and room 3N1 at Site R (Raven Rock Mountain Complex).

Sources:  Defense Information Systems Agency; US Army; Cryptome; WHCA from 1965 to 1974; Daily Reporter; FedBizOps

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cabin Assignments for Leaders at the G8 Summit

When I first heard that the 2012 G8 Summit had been moved to Camp David, I immediately wondered about the cabin assignments. I was disappointed to hear National Security Adviser Tom Donilon joke that the cabin allocation system was classified.

While I'm sure it was not actually classified, the information was not made public at the time. I became determined to find this out for myself (and for my blog readers, of course). Three months later, I can finally write this blog post.

United States: President Barack Obama - Aspen Lodge

United Kingdom: Prime Minister David Cameron - Maple Cabin

Daily Telegraph deputy political editor James Kirkup reported this cabin assignment via Twitter

Russia: Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev - Dogwood Cabin

When President Vladimir Putin met with President George W. Bush at Camp David in 2003, he stayed in the Dogwood Cabin. I figured it was a safe diplomatic move to assign Russia the same cabin for the G8 Summit. I found out my assumption was correct when I saw that  Prime Minister Medvedev posted a photo of himself on Instagram standing in front of his Dogwood Cabin.

France: President Fran├žois Hollande - Birch Cabin

The day before the G8 Summit began, I received a blog visitor from France via the Google search terms "Camp David cabins G8" and "Camp David Birch".  I immediately began to look for confirmation online that President Hollande had been assigned to Birch cabin. A few days later, several more visitors from France arrived by searching for Birch cabin. Still, I could not find any confirmation of this in any news story.

Shortly after I tweeted that I was looking for confirmation that President Hollande stayed in Birch cabin, I received an email from another Fran├žoise in France with a link to a story in Le Figaro. Because the article was written in French, it had never popped up in my Google News searches.

A few days later, the website for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper posted some photos of Harper meeting with Hollande in Birch cabin.

Canada: Prime Minister Stephen Harper - Rosebud Cabin

When I came across this story by Canadian Press reporter Lee-Anne Goodman, I was disappointed there was no mention of the cabin he stayed in. So, I emailed Lee-Anne and asked her if she knew. She replied that Harper had stayed in the Rosebud cabin and that she had already reported it in another story. Somehow, I missed that one out of the dozens of Google News email alerts that were piling up in my inbox...

Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel - Red Oak Cabin

My blog received a number of visitors from Germany searching for information on the Red Oak cabin, but it was a while before I finally came across this story in the German version of the Financial Times confirming that Chancellor Merkel stayed there. 

European Union: President Herman Van Rompuy; Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso - Hickory Cabin 

Perhaps the tweet below from BBC News political editor Nick Robinson best illustrates the concern the White House must have had when trying to determine the cabin assignments for the G8 Leaders.

The cabin assignment for the EU leaders was reported in the German Financial Times story

Italy: Prime Minister Mario Monti - Southern Pine Cabin

Japan: Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda - Hawthorn Cabin

A week after the conclusion of the G8 Summit, I found myself at a dead end. I had only two more leaders to go and could not find the cabin information anywhere on the internet. By then, it was "yesterday's news" and I knew that no additional stories would be written. I decided to go to the source and submit a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

I had never written an FOIA request before and didn't even know for sure if this was something that would fall under that category. I went to the State Department website and found the page where you can submit a request online. I asked for the name of the cabins assigned to PM Monti and PM Noda during the summit.

And then I waited. And waited. And then about three months later, I received the following response:

The State Department replied that they were unable to find any documents responsive to my request. However, they contacted the Visit Officer for the 2012 G8 Summit who provided the information that Prime Minister Noda was assigned to the Hawthorn cabin and Prime Minister Monti was assigned to the Southern Pine cabin.

So now you know.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Pets at Camp David

President George W. Bush's dog Spot arrives at Camp David in 2001 for an important meeting in the Laurel Lodge

President Bush hits some tennis balls to puppy Barney in April 2001; President Bush and Chief of Staff Josh Bolten walk with Barney in July 2007

President Bush with Millie and Ranger in November 1991; President and Mrs. Bush walk with Millie in September 1992

President Reagan and dog Lucky head to Camp David on Marine One; President and Mrs. Reagan walk Lucky in 1985 and Rex in 1988.

The Fords take Liberty for a walk in 1976;  Liberty goes for a swim in the heated Aspen pool in October 1974

President Ford with Liberty in October 1974 and February 1975

President Nixon and Bob Haldeman walk with dog King Timahoe in February 1971; President and Mrs Nixon with Pasha, Vicky, and King Timahoe in November 1973.

President Johnson and dog Yuki with Ambassadors Bunker and Harriman in April 1968

President Kennedy's daughter Caroline rides her pony Macaroni at Camp David in March 1963

President Franklin D. Roosevelt's dog Fala and his dog house at Shangri-La (Camp David)

Sources: The White House; George Bush Presidential Library; Ronald Reagan Library; Gerald R. Ford Library; Richard Nixon Library; Lyndon Baines Johnson Library; JFK Library; Harry S.Truman Library

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


President Obama shoots pool in Hickory after the G8 Summit on May 19, 2012

According to the Brunswick corporate website, President Eisenhower had Camp David  "furnished with not one, but four Brunswick tables. Every President since Eisenhower—Kennedy, Nixon, Carter, Clinton—has used those tables."

Guests playing pool in Holly in 1979
President Obama played pool in Hickory  during his birthday party in 2009 and after the G8 Summit in May 2012. The stained glass light fixture above the pool table is decorated with a navy anchor, flags, and "Camp David" in decorative lettering.

During the 1978 Camp David Summit, President Carter had a pool table set up in Holly cabin to provide some recreation for the participants over the thirteen stressful days there.

Sources: The White House; Brunswick Bowling & Billiards Corporation; Jimmy Carter Library

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Birthday Parties

What do the following people have in common: David Eisenhower, Boris Yeltsin, Chelsea Clinton, President Obama, Malia and Sasha Obama, and Japanese Prime Minister Noda? They all celebrated their birthday at Camp David.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is presented with a birthday cake at the G8 opening dinner in May 2012

Sasha Obama plays in the Aspen pool on a birthday visit
to Camp David in June 2011
In August 2009, Michelle Obama planned a surprise birthday party for the President in Laurel Lodge. It was attended by his family; friends from Hawaii and Chicago; some college friends; and David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs.

They arrived the night before and spent the weekend playing basketball, pool, golf, shuffleboard, and Scrabble.

In July 2009, Malia Obama had around 20 girls up to Camp David for her 11th birthday. The Obamas returned to Camp David for Malia's birthdays in 2010 and 2011. Sasha celebrated her 10th birthday at Camp David in June 2011.

In 1996, Chelsa Clinton invited 30 friends to join her in celebrating her 16th birthday at Camp David. After arriving at the retreat on a bus, they played paintball in the woods there with President Clinton cheering them on. Following a birthday dinner in Laurel Lodge, they headed over to Hickory for movies and bowling.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin admires his birthday present at Camp David along with President Bush and U.S. Ambassador to Russia Robert Strauss  (photos: AP; AFP/Getty)

Russian President Boris Yeltsin celebrated his 61st birthday at Camp David in February 1992. President Bush surprised him with a birthday cake, a pair of Texas cowboy boots (with a silver map of Russia on them) and a White House parka.

David Eisenhower, whom grandfather Dwight D. Eisenhower named Camp David after, celebrated his 24th and 25th birthdays at Camp David with the Nixons in 1972 and 1973. David is married to President Nixon's daughter Julie.

Sources: The White House; The Obamas by Jodi Kantor; Chicago Sun-Times; Obama Foodorama; Chicago TribuneLiving History by Hillary Clinton; Lakeland Ledger; AP, AFP/Getty; The Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; Herald-Journal; Lewiston Daily Sun

Thursday, May 17, 2012

G8 Summit Photos

Detailed information about the G-8 Summit can be found in another post: G8 Summit 2012 at Camp David

Friday, May 18th - G8 Day 1

Angela Merkel getting off helicopter and riding golf cart - Camp David
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives at Camp David and rides a golf cart to her cabin  (photos: Getty)

Russian Prime Minister Medvedev posted this photo of himself standing outside his Dogwood cabin

Obama, Merkel, Medvedev at Camp David G8 Summit
President Obama greets the G8 leaders outside Laurel Lodge  (photos: Reuters, Getty)

President Obama with European Commission President Barroso  (photo:

The G8 leaders at a working dinner at Laurel Lodge  (photo: White House)

Birthday cake for Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan  (photo: White House)

President Obama, President Hollande, Prime Minister Monti, and Chancellor Merkel in the Aspen Lodge (photo: White House)

Saturday, May 19th - G8 Day 2

Chancellor Angela Merkel walking to Laurel Lodge                     Merkel and Medvedev hold a bilateral meeting  (photos: Getty)

Working sessions inside Laurel Lodge  (photos: Getty, European Commission)

Camp David media center for G8 Summit
G8 press center at Camp Round Meadow gym  (photo: @EUintheUS)

President Obama with Chancellor Merkel, P.M. Medvedev; P.M. Cameron  (photos: White House)

G8 leaders posing for the official family photo outside the Aspen Lodge (photo:

   G8 leaders meet with leaders from Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Tanzania to discuss food security in Africa (photos: Getty)

The G8 leaders meet outside on the patio behind Laurel Lodge  (photo: White House)

            Cameron and Medvedev meet inside Laurel                                 Merkel and Obama meet on the Aspen terrace (photos: Getty)

Prime Minister Noda met with President Hollande and  EU leaders Barroso and Van Rompuy inside Laurel
 (photos: Cabinet Public Relations Office - Japan) 

President Hollande and Prime Minister Harper met privately in Hollande's Birch cabin to discuss Canada-EU free trade deal
(photos: Prime Minister of Canada)

President Obama delivers the G8 Summit closing remarks outside the Aspen Lodge  (photos: AP, Reuters)

President Obama talks with his staff outside Aspen at the conclusion of the summit  (photo: White House)

G8 Summit Protests

Protest events were held in Thurmont and Frederick. A description of the activities can be found in a previous post.

G8 protesters in Baker park in Frederick, MD on Friday May 18th  (photo: @FredScanner)

Ethiopian demonstrators protest in Thurmont against Ethiopian P.M. Zenawi's participation in the G8 Summit  on May 19th
(photos - John Kinnaird)

Police in riot gear watch the protesters in Thurmont  (photos - John Kinnaird)

More photos of the G8 protests in Thurmont can be viewed here.

Sources: AP, @FredScanner;; Reuters, Getty; European; @RobertFife; Prime Minister of Canada; Cabinet Public Relations Office - Japan