2019 White House Christmas Ornament Is a Military Helicopter

  • The White House Historical Association’s 2019 White House Christmas Ornament honors Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States. (White House Historical Association)
    The White House Historical Association’s 2019 White House Christmas Ornament honors Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States. (White House Historical Association)
  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower posing next to the first presidential helicopter, a Bell UH-13J Sioux, on the South Lawn of the White House Grounds. Although presidents had used airplanes to travel for some time, helicopters were not adopted for use as presidential conveyance until Eisenhower's administration. (White House Historical Association)
    President Dwight D. Eisenhower posing next to the first presidential helicopter, a Bell UH-13J Sioux, on the South Lawn of the White House Grounds. (White House Historical Association)

The 2019 White House Christmas ornament could have special meaning for many military members or history buffs.

The ornament, announced Tuesday, commemorates both President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the first-ever use of a helicopter by a president.

"This ornament symbolizes President Eisenhower's commitment to innovation. Eisenhower was the first president to fly in a helicopter while in office in July 1957, and thereafter the helicopter became a feature of White House life," the White House Historical Association, which produces the ornament, said in a news release. "It was often used by the president to commute short distances, demonstrating to the public and indeed the world that it was safe."

This photograph by Warren K. Leffler, of the U.S. News and World Report, shows a helicopter carrying President Dwight D. Eisenhower leaving the White House for Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on May 20, 1958. The East Wing of the White House is visible in the background. President Eisenhower was the first president to use helicopters regularly for presidential transportation. (White House Historical Association)
This photograph by Warren K. Leffler, of the U.S. News and World Report, shows a helicopter carrying President Dwight D. Eisenhower leaving the White House for Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on May 20, 1958. The East Wing of the White House is visible in the background. President Eisenhower was the first president to use helicopters regularly for presidential transportation. (White House Historical Association)

Eisenhower took his first helicopter flight from the White House lawn to Camp David, Maryland, on July 12, 1957, on a U.S. Air Force Bell H-13J-BF Sioux. The H-13 was replaced in 1958 by the Sikorsky UH-34 Seawolf; in 1961, by the Sikorsky VH-3A Sea King; and later, the VH-3D.

Eisenhower used both Army and Marine Corps pilots to transport him, and the 2019 White House Christmas ornament isn't meant to specifically represent any single helicopter, association officials said in the release.

"One side features the Presidential Seal, representing Eisenhower's two terms as commander in chief of the Armed Forces," according to the release. "On the other side is his five-star rank, honoring his military service as a general in the United States Army."

This photograph is of President Dwight D. Eisenhower disembarking from a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter that landed on board the USS Des Moines in the harbor of Athens, Greece. Behind President Eisenhower is his Naval Aide, CAPT Evan P. Aurand. Eisenhower was visiting Greece from December 14–15, 1959 as part of an 11-nation goodwill tour. (White House Historical Association)
This photograph is of President Dwight D. Eisenhower disembarking from a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter that landed on board the USS Des Moines in the harbor of Athens, Greece. Behind President Eisenhower is his Naval Aide, CAPT Evan P. Aurand. Eisenhower was visiting Greece from December 14–15, 1959 as part of an 11-nation goodwill tour. (White House Historical Association)

The ornament is, however, "proudly supported" by Lockheed Martin, which owns Sikorsky, the release notes.

Each year since 1981, the association produces and sells a White House Christmas ornament focused on honoring a specific president or White House anniversary.

Several of the ornaments over the years have depicted aspects of the U.S. military. For example, the 1991 ornament, which commemorates President William Henry Harrison, shows the president in full military dress riding a white charger horse. And both the 1994 and 2010 ornaments depict the U.S. Marine Corps band.

The 2019 White House Christmas ornament is available for purchase on the White House Historical Association website.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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