Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wilson's Voyage

My US History class in on World War I and one of the topics we have been discussing, of course, is Wilson's participation in the Versailles treaty and the League of Nations. Trying to drive home the distance Americans felt to Europe at time, I asked them how long it would take to go from New York to Europe in 1918.

This got me off on a tangent to figure out how long it took Wilson to travel across the "Pond." I found this site from the Naval Historical Center that talks about Wilson's voyages in this period on military vessels:
Between December 1918 and July 1919 USS George Washington carried President Woodrow Wilson across the Atlantic four times, twice eastbound to participate in World War I peace negotiations and twice westbound, returning him to the United States. It was the first major overseas trip by any American Head of State. Except for a brief break in February and March 1919, President Wilson was out of the country for more than half a year.

Wilson's first trip on George Washington began at New York on 4 December. Convoyed by the battleship Pennsylvania and ten destroyers, the transport's nine-day voyage brought her near Brest, France, on the morning of the 13th. Met there by a large force of U.S. Navy battleships and destroyers that had been serving in European waters, she was ceremoniously escorted into the port, where the President disembarked to continue his journey to Paris by rail. Following two months of negotiations, he reembarked on George Washington on 15 February 1919 to return to the United States, arriving at Boston, Massachusetts, on 23 February. The ship then steamed back to New York to prepare for further work.

After but ten days at home, during which he endeavored without much success to build Congressional support for his diplomacy, on 5 March 1919 President Wilson departed New York on George Washington to begin his second trip to Europe. Upon arrival at Brest on 13 March he returned to Paris, where negotiations with the other major allied powers were so difficult that, on 7 April, Wilson publicly inquired when George Washington could take him home. She was not immediately available, being actively employed returning U.S. service personnel from the former war zone. In any case, the President remained in Paris until the Treaty of Versailles had been signed. On 29 June Woodrow Wilson boarded USS George Washington for his final Atlantic voyage, which ended at New York (actually Hoboken, New Jersey, the ship's normal terminal) on 8 July 1919.

I also had to go look - it took John Quincy Adams 80 days to go from Charlestown, MA to St. Petersburg, Russia in 1809!

1 comment:

Paul Swendson said...

You can understand why Theodore Roosevelt was the first to travel outside of the U.S. while an active president. This may also give some insight into why Woodrow Wilson wore himself out and suffered a stroke.