2019 White House Christmas Ornament Honors Eisenhower and Sikorsky H-34

It is fitting the White House Historical Association chose the Sikorsky H-34 helicopter as the official White House Ornament in tribute to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

President Eisenhower’s decision to employ helicopters in official capacity changed forever how the commander-in-chief could travel while able to conduct the nation’s business.


President Eisenhower takes flight


The story of President Eisenhower’s first flight in a Marine Helicopter is one often re-told.

It was the summer of 1957. President Eisenhower was enjoying a summer vacation in Newport, Rhode Island. Word came that the President must return to the Nation’s Capital as quickly as possible. Rather than take the Presidential yacht, the Barbara Anne, an aide suggested using the Marine UH-34 helicopter on standby for emergencies.

The President boarded the Sikorsky helicopter flying to Quonset Point Naval Air Station where Air Force One was ready for the flight back to Washington D.C. His trip would have taken two hours by car or 40 minutes by boat, but it only took seven minutes in the Sikorsky helicopter.

That Rhode Island flight marked the start of the Marine Corps detachment that — to this day — relies on Sikorsky helicopters to execute its no fail mission in the iconic green and white topped helicopters.

It is a proud legacy Sikorsky will provide for decades to come with the new VH-92A helicopter set to enter into service in 2020.

2019 White House Christmas Ornament

A fast, safe means of transportation


The success of that first helicopter flight in Rhode Island led a team to find out if a helicopter could take off and land on the White House lawn.

When it was determined there was indeed sufficient room on the South Lawn, the Marines and Army began sharing the responsibility of flying the President by helicopter from the White House to Andrews Air Force base, the home of Air Force One.

In December 1959, President Eisenhower flew aboard a Marine/Sikorsky S-58 and landed on the USS Des Moines in the Mediterranean. It was the first time a President made a ship board landing in any type of aircraft.

President Eisenhower embraced the capability of the Sikorsky helicopter. He even wrote a personal letter to Igor Sikorsky, founder of Sikorsky Aircraft, to recognize the 20th anniversary of the first flight of a helicopter (VS300) in the United States. The president wrote:

Eisenhower letter

“You are perhaps familiar with my use of helicopters in recent years. For my purposes they are invaluable. I have also been repeatedly impressed by stories of rescue missions in which their unique capabilities have enabled them to perform with particular effectiveness … saving lives that would have otherwise been lost:”

Now when you hang the White House helicopter ornament or catch a glimpse of Marine One in a news story — you will know the story.

Be sure to re-tell it.