#OTD February 22, 1946 | The Long Telegram
75 years ago, George Kennan, an American diplomat living in Moscow, sent an 8,000-word telegram to President Truman’s State Department. Today, “The Long Telegram” is regarded as a foundational U.S. document, right up there with the Declaration of Independence, The Federalist Papers and George Washington’s Farewell Address. As a sign of its enduring significance, the telegram’s 75th anniversary appears on top-ten lists of historic moments to note in 2021.
HISTORIC PHOTOS OF CAMP DAVID
Nestled in the Catoctin Mountain Park in Frederick County, Maryland, is Camp David, a retreat for use by the President of the United States.
Officially a U.S. Navy installation, the facility was originally built by the Works Progress Administration as a camp for government employees, opening in 1938. President Franklin D. Roosevelt took it over and named it “Shangri-La,” for the mountain kingdom in Lost Horizon, the 1933 novel by James Hilton. It was later renamed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in honor of his then-five-year-old grandson, Dwight David Eisenhower II.
Over the years, American presidents and their families have used it for a variety of reasons. Some spent weekends there relaxing with their families. Others have used it to study, write, or confer with top advisers. A few have used it to conduct global diplomacy and forge historic peace agreements. During his first visit to Camp David, President Biden played Mario Kart with his granddaughter Naomi (and won!).
President Truman didn’t find such amusements in the 1940s. In fact, during his first visit to the presidential retreat, Truman told the officer in charge, Lt Commander William M. Rigdon, his assistant naval aide, that he felt cooped up with all the underbrush that had grown up all around the camp.
A work party from the yacht USS Williamsburg went to work cutting down trees, removing stumps and clearing the foliage. While he told the crew they did a great job, he confided in others about the use of the place and how much improvement it needed. Ah, “one man’s treasure…”
Thanks to the photo archives at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, we can step back in time to experience the presidiential retreat as the Trumans found it in the 1940s. While it may not have been a perfect utopia, it certainly hits our mark for a beautiful, remote respite.
President Truman arriving at Shangri-La.
A wooden gateway sign welcomes visitors to Shangri-la, Maryland, where President Harry S. Truman enjoyed short vacations. Originally from the Naval Photo Center, this historic image (taken September 6, 1950) was later given to the Truman Library by the National Archives.
A sign posts the speed limit as 15 mph at the access road through Shangri-la, the Navy Rest Camp in the Catoctin Mountains, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Maryland. (September 6, 1950)
The black and white photo fails to capture what must have been spectacular fall color surrounding the main lodge known, also known as the “Big House” at the Shangri-La retreat in October 1945.
First Lady Bess Truman and three of her friends inspect an anchor outside the lodge at Shangri-La (now Camp David), Maryland. Left to right are: Bess Truman, Adelaide Twyman, Louise Duke and Mary Bostian. It is believed that the photo was taken in 1946, when the Bridge Club visited Mrs. Truman in Washington.
Bess relaxes on the Shangri-La patio with family and staff. Seated left to right are, Bess Truman, Reathel Odum (the First Lady’s social secretary), Mary Jane Truman, Natalie (Mrs. Frank) Wallace, and May (Mrs. George) Wallace. (ca. 1946)
Here’s the view of the Catoctin Mountains they would have enjoyed from their wicker chairs.
The interior views were less spectacular…
But the draw was the setting itself, and the extraordinary company. Eben Ayers visited Shangri-La in June 1949. He is caught in this photo scratching his head while seating with other unidentified guests. Ayers served in the White House as liaison for the press-radio division of the Office of Inter-American Affairs. In January, 1945, he became part of the White House staff as a press officer until he retired at the end of the Truman administration.
Bess Truman stands outside the door to the lodge at Shangri-La (now Camp David) in Maryland. Next to her (left to right) are an unknown man (likely a member of the staff), and three friends, Mrs. William (Louise) Duke, Mrs. Tom (Adelaide) Twyman, and Mrs. Kenneth (Mary) Bostian. ca.April 1946
Unidentified guests play Backgammon on a picnic table next to the swimming pool at Shangri-La. (September 6, 1950)
A sketch of Shangri-La identifies its location as being “in that area between the Equator and the Arctic Circle.” In fact, it’s not far from Washington, D.C., and is a short drive from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Today, Camp David continues to be closed to the public, and a high level of security is maintained.
The photographs reproduced in these pages all come from the holdings of Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.
The Daughters of Yalta
A Distinguished Author Event Celebrating the 136th Birthday of First Lady Bess Wallace Truman
Featuring Catherine Grace Katz
Saturday, February 13 | 2 PM CST
Please join us online for the 2021 Bess Wallace Truman Birthday Celebration featuring Catherine Grace Katz, author of The Daughters of Yalta. Read More
A Lasting Valentine’s Day Gift
The Perfect Personalized Gift for Your Sweetheart
VALENTINE’S DAY IS SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 14
Please Order by Friday, February 12
Profess your love on Valentine’s Day with a custom engraved Valentine’s Day Brick – a unique gift that will last forever. Order by February 12 to receive a downloadable certificate announcing your thoughtful gift. Read More
The Long Telegram
George Kennan and the Most Influential Cable in American History
Featuring Evan Thomas, in Conversation with Truman Library Director Kurt Graham
Tuesday, February 23 at 5:30 PM CST
Before the “Cold War,” there was “The Long Telegram.”
75 years ago this month, a Moscow-based U.S. diplomat named George Kennan sent an 8,000-word telegram to President Truman’s State Department. The “problem of how to cope with [the Soviets],” he argued presciently, “is undoubtedly the greatest task our diplomacy has ever faced and probably the greatest it will ever have to face.”
Today, “The Long Telegram” is regarded as a foundational U.S. document, right up there with the Declaration of Independence, The Federalist Papers and George Washington’s Farewell Address. As a sign of its enduring significance, the telegram’s 75th anniversary appears on top-ten lists of historic moments to note in 2021.
What influence did this 19-page cable have in 1946? And how does it continue to inform U.S. policy today? Read More
Isaac Woodard and the Awakening of President Truman
“YOU CAN’T CURE A MORAL PROBLEM BY IGNORING IT.” – President Harry S. Truman
Today marks the 212th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, remembered for his leadership through the Civil War and our nation’s greatest moral and political crises.
But February 12 marks another important day in American history. This is a difficult and mostly forgotten story, but one we feel certain President Truman would ask us to remember. It changed the course of American history. It changed him.
75 years ago today, Sergeant Isaac Woodard – a returning, decorated African American WWII veteran – was removed from a Greyhound bus in Batesburg, South Carolina, after he challenged the bus driver’s disrespectful treatment of him. Woodard, still in uniform, was arrested by the local police chief, Lynwood Shull, and brutally beaten and blinded while in custody.
You can hear it straight from Harry…
Exclusive Sneak Peek
Step Inside the $26 Million Truman Museum Renovation
Wednesday, February 10 | 6PM CST
The renovation of the Truman Library and creation of the new Truman exhibition is nearing completion. The exhibit and audiovisual installation teams are busy finalizing the state-of-the-art multimedia, hands-on interactives, and cases for never-before-seen documents and artifacts. Read More