This year’s official White House Christmas ornament is a helicopter. The holiday decoration is being sold to generate revenue for the non-profit White House Historical Association, which was founded in 1961 by the late first lady Jacqueline Kennedy to fund the executive mansion’s acquisition and display of Americana.
In recent years, each ornament has commemorated a symbol of a past presidency. This year's ornament is reflective of President Dwight Eisenhower, who was the first American president to regularly use a helicopter—initially an Air Force Bell 47 Ranger and later the military variant of the Sikorsky S-58, either the Army H-34C or Marine Corps UH-34, the latter depicted on the ornament. Both the Army and Marines provided rotorcraft for the executive mission up until the Ford Administration, which then gave the task exclusively to the Marines as part of an efficiency campaign.
Eisenhower’s first flight on the UH-34 came on Sept. 7, 1957, when, while vacationing at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, he needed to make a quick day trip to Washington during the Little Rock public school integration crisis. Eisenhower took the UH-34 to Quonset Point Naval Air Station, where Air Force One was waiting on the ramp. Using the helicopter cut a two-hour car trip to seven minutes. Sikorsky has provided helicopters for the presidential mission ever since.