[left] Francis McDonnell is the author of “Living on the Edge: My Years in the U.S. Secret Service.” He is also the president of the Philadelphia Donegal Association. [right] Dwight D. Eisenhower
By Francis McDonnell
During 1967-1968, the Philadelphia office of the United States Secret Service supported the former President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Protective Detail. John Eisenhower, son of the President lived in Chester County, Pennsylvania. The President would travel up to see John and his family by motorcade and on occasion by helicopter, which was positioned in Washington. We were required to stand post during his visits.
Sometime in 1967, I can’t recall the exact date, I was sent down to the New Jersey shore to work midnights in support of the President Eisenhower’s Detail. The Eisenhower Detail seldom worked nights wherever they visited. However, I relieved Agent Larry Brown of the Philadelphia Office at 11 p.m. on Saturday night and should have been replaced at 7 a.m. on Sunday. Due to unforeseen circumstances the day shift was late.
Around 7:45 a.m., President Eisenhower came out of his condo alone and said that he wanted to take a walk along the beach. I grabbed my weapon and threw my coat over it.
As we walked along the Atlantic shore, he motioned for me to come up and walk with him. He said, “How are you doing young man?” as we walked for awhile, but he didn’t say much. Agents were instructed to speak only when spoken to, so I sort of just walked along to his right and slightly behind him.
Being a World War II history buff, I just couldn’t contain my curiosity and I asked President Eisenhower if days like today brought back memories of June 6, 1944. He looked over and for a second tightened and said, “I think of D-Day every day.” There were a few references to World War II and then he switched the dialogue commenting about the sea, sky and the clarity of the day for his golf game.
If I had one moment in my career to relive, it would be this one. Only a history buff could truly appreciate this moment to walk with President Dwight D. Eisenhower along the shore of the Atlantic.
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