Arts + Culture

The Presidents as Travelers

by Ted Widmer

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Where The Eagle Landed: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Gambia, Haiti, Iran, Morocco, Trinidad, Ukraine

Home and abroad: When it came to travel, FDR shattered the mold and then some. It was not merely that he covered 243,827 miles by train—which the historian Richard J. Ellis correctly compares to the distance to the moon—this most earthbound of all presidents also ventured fearlessly into the air, flying in the most perilous conditions to attend wartime conferences in remote locations such as Casablanca, Cairo, Tehran, and Yalta. Roosevelt was the first president to set foot in South America, when he visited Colombia in 1934, and he continued to travel around the region with visits to Haiti, Trinidad, Brazil, and Argentina. On his way to the Casablanca Conference in 1943, he spent nearly 90 hours in the air, in small planes that were forced to touch down and refuel in Trinidad, Brazil, and then–British Gambia. Many journalists and advisers worried about the dangers of FDR's penchant for air travel, but he laughed it off, later naming his plane the "Sacred Cow" and nearly accepting Walt Disney's offer to design a logo of a smiling cow with a halo over one horn and an Uncle Sam top hat over the other. With that not entirely dignified image, America entered the age of presidential air travel.

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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