First used by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1945, the plane nicknamed “The Sacred Cow” had a one-of-a-kind, battery-powered elevator installed at the rear of the aircraft so Roosevelt could board it easily in his wheelchair. Stricken with polio in 1921 when he was 39 years old, Roosevelt was elected president in 1932 to the first of four terms. Roosevelt is renowned for steering America through the Great Depression and World War II — although he took great pains never to be seen in a wheelchair. The Douglas Skymaster that Roosevelt used is one of the flying treasures that visitors can see at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.
“‘The Sacred Cow’ is one of 10 former presidential aircraft located in our popular Presidential Gallery,” said Lisa M. Riley, public affairs specialist at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. “It is unique because it is the first aircraft purpose-built to accommodate the special needs required to fly the president of the United States and included uncommon luxuries in 1945 such as an electric refrigerator in the galley.”
The famous aircraft is particularly significant because President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 while on board.
“The act established the U.S. Air Force as an independent service, making ‘The Sacred Cow’ the birthplace of the U.S. Air Force,” Riley said. “Its name is a reference to the high security surrounding the aircraft and its special status.”
Opened to the public in 1954, the National Museum of the United States Air Force is the oldest and largest military aviation museum in the world, with more than 360 aircraft and missiles on display.
“Visitors can get a firsthand look at U.S. Air Force and aviation history starting with the Wright 1909 Military Flyer through modern air and space craft,” Riley said. “Climb aboard a space shuttle exhibit, walk through presidential aircraft and sit in a jet cockpit while you are here.”
Admission and parking are always free; a large parking lot accommodates buses.
Main image and credit: National Museum of the United States Air Force
Article by Jackie Sheckler Finch