The Sequoia was the scene of some of America's most historic events: It was used during the Harding administration to enforce Prohibition; Herbert Hoover promoted his use of the Sequoia during the Depression in a misguided effort to elevate the spirit of a starving public; FDR and Eisenhower planned D-day; Truman decided to drop the bomb on Hiroshima and later conducted the world's first nuclear arms control summit; Eisenhower entertained Korean War veterans; Kennedy celebrated his last (46th) birthday party; LBJ lobbied for civil rights legislation, and planned Vietnam War strategy; Nixon negotiated the first arms control treaty with the Soviet Union, and later decided to resign; Gerald Ford conducted cabinet meetings on board; President Ronald Reagan once met the nation's Governors at the Sequoia in Richmond. Reagan later wrote in his diary: "I think before I leave I should get the craft back for future Presidents. Virginia. Emperor Haile Selassie and other world leaders have also sailed on Sequoia.
Distinguished Foreign Visitors:
Many distinguished foreign visitors have been entertained by Presidents, or conducted serious business with Presidents, on the Sequoia. During World War II,
presidents Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower planned European war
strategy with Winston Churchill and Field Marshall Montgomery, respectively.
Churchill also enjoyed relaxing on deck while FDR fished in the Potomac River. A
year after Truman decided, on the Sequoia, to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima,
Truman hosted the first the nuclear arms control treaty conference with Clement
Attlee, the British Prime Minister, and Mackenzie King, the Canadian Prime
Minister, who served throughout World War II. Eisenhower allowed Britain's Queen
Elizabeth to use the Sequoia during her visit.
LBJ entertained all of the African ambassadors and other leaders. Nixon and Henry Kissinger negotiated with Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev, the architect of detente, and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin for the first American-Soviet arms control treaty. Gerald Ford negotiated trade issues with Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Ironically, on approximately the 30th anniversary of Truman deciding (on the Sequoia) to drop a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, Japanese Emperor Hirhito and his wife came to Washington, D.C. to meet with President Gerald R. Ford and to cruise the Potomac River on the Sequoia. In 1979 George Bush used the Sequoia to negotiate with a Chinese leader.
Lyndon B. Johnson watched movies on the top deck by using the smokestack as a screen.
The crew was amused to watch LBJ's hair blowing in the wind when
watching the movies. LBJ complained both that the doorknob was too small
in the Presidential Stateroom and the shower was too small for his 6'3"
body. So the small doorknob was replaced with a large, Texas-style knob
and the shower floor was lowered three inches.
When LBJ used the Sequoia, he was inconvenienced by the lack of a bar at which to mix his favorite drink, a Scotch on the rocks. LBJ instructed that FDR's elevator in the main salon be replaced with a bar, which is still in use today.
The Irony of America's First Handicapped-Accessible Boat:
The Sequoia may have been America's first handicapped-accessible boat. During the early 1930's, FDR was frustrated that he needed the crews' assistance to move him from the Main Salon to the upper deck of the Sequoia. The public was unaware of his frustration since numerous photos were released to the public showing FDR standing on the Sequoia (with hands on the railing). FDR instructed that an elevator be installed between the upper and lower decks. This allowed FDR to travel between the Presidential Stateroom and the Main Salon without assistance.
When Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Congress was advised that the Act would require significant structural changes to the Sequoia, including the Presidential bedroom. Congress did not want to require such changes to America's Presidential Yacht, so a law was later passed that exempted the Sequoia from ADA compliance.
FDR's trips aboard yacht Sequoia, 1933 and 1934
The Crew's Favorite President:
Perhaps the crew's favorite President was John F. Kennedy. He was a young
Navy veteran who loved the sea, and he was not too much older than some Navy
crew members. Kennedy enjoyed every moment on the Sequoia, including his
last birthday party where family and close friends such as actor David Niven.
Although a different crew served each President, many Navy personnel served
more than one President. The cooks at Camp David also worked on the Sequoia,
so they would often see the President. Since the Sequoia was used by all
Presidents for relaxation, and especially by pre-war Presidents to escape
the heat of Washington, D.C. (before air conditioning was common), the navy
crews usually found the Presidents to be in a good mood when on the Sequoia.
This was not always the case, however. Herbert Hoover was quite glum during
the Depression. Hoover even put the Sequoia on the cover of his 1932 White House Christmas
A starving American public did not care that Hoover was using a 104-foot
yacht instead of a 318-foot yacht. The public saw Hoover's use of the
Sequoia as an example of a President who was out of touch with the needs of
a poor populace.