The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California is a showcase of the life and times of Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9th, 1913 to April 22nd, 1994), the controversial 37th President of the United States (Republican) from January 20th, 1969 to August 9th, 1974 when his presidency ended in political turmoil with the infamous Watergate scandal. With an inevitable impeachment impending, Nixon resigned from the post and Vice President Gerald Ford took over the presidency. On September 8th, 1974, President Ford pardoned Nixon for “all offenses against the United States” which the then President Nixon “has committed or may have committed or taken part in“.
Despite the controversy Nixon oversaw some significant moments in United States history including a historic phone call on July 20th, 1969 to the NASA Apollo XI Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during their first moonwalk which he said was “the most historic phone call ever made from the White House“. He was also a great statesmen who in 1972 initiated dialog with the then isolated Peoples Republic of China and established the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty with the old Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union. He eventually ended United States involvement in the Vietnam War in 1973 and subsequently also ended the military draft.
Nixon was also a lawyer, bureaucrat, US Navy officer (joining in 1942, he went on to serve as Officer In Charge of the Combat Air Transport Command at various locations in the Pacific including New Caledonia, Bougainville, the Solomon Islands and Green Island before resigning from his Lieutenant Commander commission in January 1946), Congressman for California (1946 to 1950), Senator for California(1950 to 1953) and Vice President to President Eisenhower (1953 to 1961). Post presidency he continued as an elder statesmen meeting numerous world leaders as a private citizen and no doubt advising following presidents on his discussions (his 1986 meeting with Soviet Leader Gorbachev is said to have provided valuable insight that helped President Reagan to later negotiate peace with the Soviet Union). He also became an author and public speaker. I discovered a lot about the man who I knew very little about previously.
The museum grounds house two unique attractions which you can tour. One is the small house built by his father in 1912 that was the Yorba Linda 1913 birthplace of Nixon and his home until 1922 (it was later used by a school next door before becoming part of the museum in 1990) and the other a famous Sikorsky VH-3A Sea King helicopter. This particular VH-3A dubbed Army One was constructed in 1960 with tail number 150617 and was used to transport the President by the US Army. Originally, since 1957 both the US Army and US Marine Corps conducted presidential and executive transport duties and the moniker would change from Army One to Marine One depending on which service was flying the President. The US Army conducted these flights from 1957 until 1976 and the US Marine Corps continue this duty today.
This VH-3A helicopter was used to transport Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford. President Nixon flew in the helicopter on 180 occasions including overseas trips such as the 1974 summit meeting with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and on August 9th, 1974, the day he resigned from the presidency, the helicopter took him from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base to fly home to California aboard Air Force One. The VH-3A was retired in 1976 and became a trainer for the Secret Service before being put into storage. It was later restored and loaned by the National Museum of the Marine Corps to the Nixon Library in 2006. You are not allowed to take photos inside but I can tell you it is in pretty good condition and you can just imagine what discussions went on within the cabin during those presidential years especially on his last day in office!
A model of the Boeing 707 / VC-137C Air Force One (Special Air Mission or SAM 26000 which was operated by the USAF from 1962 to 1998) used by Nixon and 7 other Presidents including John F. Kennedy is on display within the museum (Nixon named it “The Spirit of ’76” in respect to the then upcoming United States bicentennial in 1976) along with a pristine looking 1967 Lincoln Continental limousine that was used by Presidents Johnson, Nixon, and Ford. This big 340 hp V-8 limousine features 1.8 tonnes / 2 tons of armour (!), bullet proof glass all round that is thick enough to withstand a .30 caliber bullet, a fold down rear platform for the Secret Service to stand on whilst driving and truck tyres that have an inner steel disc that enables the limousine to continue driving at high-speed for up to a distance of 80.46 km / 50 miles even if all 4 tyres are flat!
There are many photos and artifacts within the museum from Nixon’s childhood, throughout his career to his death following a stroke in April 1994 (the museum collection was inherited by the United States government / National Archives in 2007 from the private foundation that used to control the library). Keep an eye out for the unique gifts from Elvis Presley and there is a small room with memorabilia from NASA’s moon mission including the telephone Nixon used to speak with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon in 1969. You can also see a piece of Moon rock in one of the display cabinets.
All in all the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum is a very interesting place to visit. I discovered many little bits of information about the early life of Richard Nixon that I had not been aware of and the links to aviation are always welcome.
NOTE: On July 20th, 2015 the library announced a year long closure for a $25 million renovation and a museum update commencing September 28th, 2015. New exhibits, updated technology and interactive displays will be installed during the closure but the research library, gardens and outdoor exhibits will remain open during the renovation, including Army One. I made it there just in time!