More than half a century ago, the President of the United States descended onto the Gulf Coast for a one-of-a-kind visit.
The rare visit by a sitting President to the area is remembered by many who lived along the Gulf Coast 53 years ago. In May of 1962, President Kennedy, Vice President Johnson and many other military leaders flew to Eglin Air Force Base to watch demonstrations of U.S. military airpower, as nearly every aircraft in the Air Force’s inventory was displayed and demonstrated.
Half a century ago, President Kennedy visits Gulf CoastHalf a century ago, the President of the United States descended onto the Gulf Coast for a one-of-a-kind visit.
Posted by The Pulse on Tuesday, October 13, 2015
A newspaper account of President Kennedy’s visit to Eglin Air Force Base in the summer of 1962 — just months before the Cuban Missile Crisis brought us to the brink of war — describes the demonstration of the nation’s airpower for the Commander-in-Chief:
The President flew to Eglin Air Force Base, and in a word of thanks and farewell after a four hour visit, he told a crowd on base, “I don’t think anyone could have watched the flying that we have seen today and the commitment to this country demonstrated by those who manned these planes and put in time without going back home a good deal happier.
The Air Force provided a pair for rocking chairs from which Kennedy watched two phases of its big show.
He also drove along a lineup of nearly three dozen different types of planes.
From a grandstand, Kennedy pushed a button that sent eight giant B-52 bombers with 64 engines screaming into a scramble that put them into the air 15 seconds apart. Six Voodoo interceptor fighters followed at five second intervals with loud blasts from their afterburners.
It was mock alert that would have been the real thing at 88 air bases around the world in the event of actual war.
Fifteen miles away, at the fire-power demonstration, the Air Force gave the president an hour-long show of missile power and accuracy. It wound up with a mass napalm bomb attack.
The fire bombs fell on simulated troop positions, their heat reached Kennedy several hundred yards away, and waves of red flame were followed by billowing black smoke.
The images below show the speech by President Kennedy and the letters thanking him for his visit: