“The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, Operation Overlord, 1944
D-Day, June 6, 1944: the Allied plan to storm the fields and sweep in from the beaches of Normandy to regain French soil from German hands. To say that it was a masterful coordination of troops, military equipment, and vessels of air, land, and sea understates the meticulous planning and training required for an international collaboration of this scale. Over 150,000 troops representing a dozen nations were landed in Normandy, France. Airborne operations involved 2,395 aircraft and 867 gliders that delivered troops and supplies. Almost 7,000 ships took part.
Dwight Eisenhower’s role as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe played a pivotal role in the Allied victory – not only of the D-Day invasion but of the triumph of Allied nations in World War II. Eisenhower subsequently became the Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). He went on to win the 1952 and 1956 Presidential elections by a landslide. After the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, Eisenhower authorized the establishment of NASA, which led to the Space Race. The United States ultimately triumphed, with the successful Apollo 11 mission and Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon on July 21, 1969.
Forgotten in the Desert
The airplane was at one time considered ‘The lost Air Force One’, abandoned in the desert and left for scrap. A crop spraying company bought a group of five Lockheed Constellations in 1970 – four of them were operable and the fifth used for parts. In 1980, the Smithsonian contacted the owner to inform him that the fifth aircraft was actually the first Air Force One. The patriotic businessman realized he couldn’t scrap it and for over a decade, tried to find a way to restore it. Karl Stoltzfus, Sr., the founder of Dynamic Aviation was the driving force behind saving First Air Force One.
Unwilling to let First Air Force One vanish into obscurity, he decided in 2014 to purchase the aircraft and restore it for future generations. “I grew up around round engine airplanes (radial engines), in fact I literally grew up on an airport,” he said. “When I saw this airplane was available, I took a look at it and eventually decided we ought to do something.This is an airplane that belongs to the American public. Eventually we want to invite people to go on board and see the exact location where President Eisenhower worked and lived. Our intention is to fully restore the interior to its original state and the plane to airworthy status. It needs to be made available to the American people.”
First Air Force One Facts
Lockheed Burbank, California
The history of the First Air Force One is incredibly unique. From carrying the President to being forgotten in the desert, the timeline of the First Air Force One’s life is a story all its own.