Sunday, January 14, 2007

January 14, 1943:

Roosevelt Arrives in Casablanca

In early 1943, President Franklin Roosevelt traveled nearly 17,000 miles to attend the conference in Casablanca with Prime Minister Churchill. In those pre-jet days, and with Nazi submarines prowling the Atlantic, that meant by travel train from DC to Miami; and then by plane successively to Trinidad; Belem, Brazil; Bathurst (Banjul), the Gambia; and Casablanca, arriving on January 14. His return was equally circuitous.

That trip marked the first times a sitting president had flown in an airplane. Teddy Roosevelt had been adventurous enough to fly in one in 1910, but by then he wasn't president any more, so there was no danger that Charles Warren Fairbanks would suddenly become president due to equipment failure. FDR's plane to Casablanca, and thus the first "Air Force One" (though the term was coined later) was a Boeing 314 "Flying Boat," which PanAm had been using for commercial runs across the Atlantic and Pacific since 1939.

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