China Lake, California (JFK+50) Fifty-two years ago today, Friday, June 7, 1963, President John F. Kennedy toured the United States Naval Ordinance Test Station here in China Lake.
This was the first presidential visit to the site in its 20 year history dating back to 1943. The tour was the last stop on a western tour of military sites including witnessing a demonstration the previous day aboard the USS Kitty Hawk.
After welcoming ceremonies, the President was driven to the demonstration area. The commander-in-chief was shown various tactical weapons and given a description of each. Then, seated on the reviewing stand, JFK used binoculars to observe the naval air demonstration which included a salute in his honor.
Among the fighter aircraft he observed were Douglas Skyraiders and Skyhawks. One Skyraider jet aircraft was capable of carrying up to 84 rockets per mission.
The President was also shown the capabilities of machine guns mounted on Trojan trainer jets. These guns, then being used in the war in Vietnam, were capable of firing 1000 rounds per minute, or 8000 rounds per minute per aircraft. The machine gun used in this demonstration was the 820mm Cannon.
JFK was then motored to the Michelson Laboratory* to inspect a classified exhibit and afterward driven through the town of China Lake, a Navy-built community of 12,000 people.
At the conclusion of the tour, the President greeted each of the pilots who had taken part in the day's demonstration and made a brief address. JFK expressed appreciation to everyone and said he was impressed by two things in particular, the healthy-looking children who had come out to see him, and all those people who serve the United States of America, which he called "the last best hope."
*Albert A. Michelson (1852-1931) was born in Prussia & immigrated with his family to the U.S. in 1854. He was appointed to the USMA by President Grant and began teaching physics & chemistry there in 1875.
AAM was head of the Physics Department at the University of Chicago for 21 years and was presented with the Nobel Prize on Dec. 10, 1907.
"Michelson remembered as artist, Nobel Prize winner," by Theresa Goldstrand, February 28, 2008, NAWCWD, www.navair.navy.mil/
"The Presidential Visit, 7 June 1963," 16mm movie produced by the United States Naval Ordinance Test Station, Department of Defense, www.jfklibrary.org/