Saturday, April 14, 2012

Camp David Summit - 1978

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter invited Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to Camp David to negotiate a framework for peace in the Middle East. For thirteen long and tense days, the leaders and their delegations met at various locations around the retreat. The press was not allowed anywhere near the negotiations and were headquartered several miles away at the American Legion Hall in Thurmont.

There is no shortage of information on the internet about the Camp David Accords. The Jimmy Carter Library created a 25th anniversary collection of historical materials on their website that includes a daily narrative of the meetings at Camp David along with a related set of documents and photos.

There are well over a hundred photos of this historic event on the National Archives website. I went through the entire collection and identified representative photos from various locations around the retreat.


President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin arrived at Camp David in separate helicopters on September 5th. President Carter came the day before. Carter greeted each leader upon arrival and gave each a short walking tour of the retreat.

President Carter welcomes Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Camp David - Sept 5, 1978  

President Carter walks with President Sadat from the helicopter landing zone to the Aspen Lodge

Jimmy Carter and Anwar Sadat have a discussion the next day on the Aspen patio

President Carter welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to Camp David - Sept 5, 1978

President Carter shows Prime Minister Begin around Camp David  after his arrival

Jimmy Carter meets with Menachem Begin in his Aspen Lodge study later that evening


There were eleven residence cabins in 1978. President Carter stayed in his usual cabin, the Aspen Lodge. Prime Minister Begin was assigned to Birch cabin and President Sadat stayed in Dogwood cabin. National Security Affairs Zbigniew Brzezinski shared the Witch Hazel cabin with Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan. Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan shared the Red Oak cabin with three others from the Israeli delegation. Some trailers were brought in to house members of the Israeli and Egyptian delegations. Because of space constraints, the countries had to limit the size of each delegation: Israel - 9; Egypt - 9; US - 11.

Menachem Begin stayed in the Birch cabin. He played chess on the deck outside with Zbigniew Brzezinski 

Anwar Sadat stayed in the Dogwood cabin

Jimmy Carter holds a discussion with Anwar Sadat inside Dogwood cabin

 Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman stayed in the Red Oak cabin

Trailers set up at Camp David for members of the Israeli and Egyptian delegations


The leaders and their delegations met at various locations around Camp David. Carter preferred holding the negotiating sessions in the cozy rooms of Holly cabin, rather than the more formal Laurel Lodge. He spent many hours meeting with his team inside Aspen. Sometimes he would meet with the leaders in their cabins. The beautiful terrace outside Aspen was also a site for some gatherings.

President Carter described the mood at Camp David in his opening comments at the Carter Center's Camp David 25th Anniversary Forum:
"We spent 13 days there. The first three days I attempted to have Begin and Sadat come together. The two men were totally incompatible. There was intense perturbation between them, shouting, banging on the tables, stalking out of the rooms. So for the next 10 days, they never saw each other."

Begin and Sadat greet each other outside Aspen Lodge

Carter, Begin, and Sadat hold a meeting on the Aspen Lodge terrace

Carter, Begin, and Sadat meet inside the president's small office/study in the Aspen Lodge 

Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat and Cyrus Vance meet in Holly cabin 

Jimmy Carter, Menachem Begin, Cyrus Vance and others meet in Holly cabin  

Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski , Cyrus Vance,  and William Quandt meet in Aspen Lodge  

Begin and Sadat in a relaxed mood with members of their delegations at Laurel Lodge on the last day of the summit

Pool table in Holly cabin (1980 photo)

A pool table and a movie projector were set up in Holly cabin to provide some recreation for the summit participants. 58 movies were shown over the thirteen days including "Dr Zhivago", "The Thomas Crown Affair", "Sleuth", "Hawaii", and "Return of the Pink Panther".

The leaders attended an evening performance by the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps which included a ten-minute "silent drill" performed by a precision rifle team with no verbal commands.

Other recreational activities included bicycling, jogging, tennis, swimming, and long walks around the retreat. Every morning, Sadat put on a jogging suit and took a brisk three to four mile walk around the camp.

The Israelis hosted a dinner for the Americans in Hickory Lodge on Friday Sept 8th to observe the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath. A separate section of the Aspen kitchen was designated for the preparation of the kosher food throughout the summit. Sadat always ate in his Dogwood cabin; Begin frequently ate at Laurel with his Israeli delegation; and Carter would eat his meals at both Aspen and Laurel.

Marine Evening  Dress Parade  near the  field house / helicopter area 

President and Mrs. Carter attend an Israeli dinner with the Begins in Hickory Lodge

Jimmy Carter speaks with Menachem Begin following a tennis match  

     Menachem Begin walks with Zbigniew Brzezinski                       Jimmy Carter talks to members of the Israeli delegation

President Carter accompanies President Sadat on his morning walk


The three leaders flew together from Camp David to the White House on the evening of September 17th. They signed the Camp David Accords in the East Room at 10:30PM. The ceremony was broadcast live over nationwide television.

Camp David Accords signing ceremony of the White House - Sept 17, 1978


Scenes from the 1978 Camp David Summit narrated by Carter Press Secretary Jody Powell

Sources: Jimmy Carter Library; National Archives; People; The DayThe President is at Camp David; White House Diary: Jimmy Carter; The Carter Center; Youngstown Vindicator; The News Dispatch; Frederick News Post; Reading Eagle; C-Span

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