Eisenhower National Historic Site (Pennsylvania)

… was designated 49 years ago today (1967). It is the only home Eisenhower ever owned.

Eisenhower National Historic Site is the home and farm of General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Located adjacent to the Gettysburg Battlefield, the farm served the President as a weekend retreat and a meeting place for world leaders. With its peaceful setting and view of South Mountain, it was a much needed respite from Washington and a backdrop for efforts to reduce Cold War tensions.


Eisenhower National Historic Site comprises 690 acres and includes four farms, three of which were used by President Eisenhower for his show herd of black Angus cattle. Today the farm is maintained as it was during the Eisenhower years and the President’s home retains nearly all its original furnishings. You are invited to tour the home and grounds, and take a walk to the cattle barns and skeet range.

Eisenhower National Historic Site

Yes, I Think He Did It Alone

In 1976, the House of Representatives established a Select Committee on Assassinations to investigate the murders of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Among the things the Committee sought was a thorough examination of all photographic evidence in the Kennedy murder. At that time it took a mainframe computer to do what probably could be done on a personal computer today — that is, scan, enhance and thoroughly analyze the images. The image enhancement would be done at the Aerospace Corporation in California. The agreement with the National Archives, which had custody of the Kennedy assassination evidence in Washington, stipulated that the photographic records must be in the custody of the Archives or an Archives employee at all times. For two days I was that employee.

The only copy of the photographs, film, x-rays, etc., was brought by courier to California and put in a safe within a secure area at the National Archives facility in Laguna Niguel, where I worked at the time. The image enhancement was being done in El Segundo near Los Angeles International Airport, some 60 miles away. Each day we opened the safe, verified that each item was present, put the briefcase and “suit” box (think of a four-inch high pizza box) into the trunk of a rented car and I made the commute.

That first day (it was Easter week 1978) I followed the procedure carefully even taking the materials with me to lunch, thinking to myself “if the people around me only knew what I had.” It was fascinating to see the enhancements and hear the analysis of the few experts working on the project and sworn to secrecy (as was I). Late in the afternoon I packed everything back up, put it in the trunk, returned to the office and locked it all in the safe. I remember thinking on the way home, this stuff would be worth a million dollars or more on the black market. Am I being followed? Am I in danger?

The second morning we began the inventory. Everything was there, of course. Except — EXCEPT! — on one x-ray, right in the middle of the damaged part of President Kennedy’s skull, there was a bubble. I didn’t remember any damage to any of the x-rays. Now it looked as if this one x-ray had been too close to heat and the image had been burned. How did this happen? Where had I put the box that this could have happened? Was the computer console in the lab too hot? Was there a problem with the exhaust in the rental car that the trunk floor got excessively hot? My god, somehow I’ve damaged the only copy of a piece of evidence in the most important murder of the 20th century. My boss was visibly shaken. I was hyper-ventilating. My career is over. I’m a footnote in the Kennedy conspiracy books.

There was nothing to do but put the briefcase and box in the car (inside with me this time) and make the drive to El Segundo. It was a lonely 90 minutes. Once there I trudged in and immediately confessed my crime.

“Oh, that. Some doctor got it too close to a lamp years ago.”

The photographic and forensic experts I talked to were convinced the photographic evidence at least was consistent with one shooter — Oswald. As a reward for my participation in this project I later examined the other evidence including Oswald’s clothing (blood stained) and his Mannlicher-Carcano rifle.

The Letter to Mrs. Bixby

Executive Mansion,
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864

Dear Madam, –I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom. Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

A. Lincoln.

[As it turns out, this letter, made even more famous when read in the film Saving Private Ryan, may have been written by John Hay, Lincoln’s secretary. Further, only two of Mrs. Bixby’s five sons had died in battle. One was honorably discharged, one was dishonorably discharged, and another deserted or died in a prison camp. Not that losing three sons in whatever way isn’t horrible enough.]

You Have Flown So High and So Free

montgolfier

Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent, the marquis d’ Arlandes, flew in a untethered hot air balloon over Paris for 20 minutes on this date in 1783. The balloon was made of silk and paper and was constructed by Jacques Étienne and Joseph-Michel Montgolfier, who first took notice that smoke (i.e., hot air) would cause a bag to rise. The Montgolfiers experimented with paper bags before sending a balloon aloft with a sheep, a rooster and a duck on September 19, 1783. De Rozier went up in a tethered balloon on October 15th.

But 233 years ago today, November 21, 1783, is — so far as we know — the date man first flew, untethered to the earth.

The winds have welcomed you with softness,
The sun has blessed you with his warm hands
You have flown so high and so free,
That God has joined you in laughter,
And set you gently again,
Into the loving arms of mother earth.

The Balloonists Prayer

Washington Burns

The invading British burned the public buildings of Washington 202 years ago today.

On August 24, 1814, as the War of 1812 raged on, invading British troops marched into Washington and set fire to the U.S. Capitol, the President’s Mansion, and other local landmarks. The ensuring fire reduced all but one of the capital city’s major public buildings to smoking rubble, and only a torrential rainstorm saved the Capitol from complete destruction. The blaze particularly devastated the Capitol’s Senate wing, the oldest part of the building, which was honeycombed with vulnerable wooden floors and housed the valuable but combustible collection of books and manuscripts of the Library of Congress, then located in the Capitol building. Heat from the intense fire reduced the Senate chamber’s marble columns to lime, leaving the room, in one description, “a most magnificent ruin.”

Source: U.S. Senate Art & History

After 26 hours in Washington, the British moved toward Baltimore, where they met with resistance and the Star-spangled banner still waved.