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When President Franklin D. Roosevelt flew to the Casablanca Conference in 1943 on board a commercial Boeing 314 Clipper Ship, he became the first president of the United States to fly while still in office. Concerned about relying upon commercial airlines to transport the president, the U.S. Army Air Forces leaders ordered the conversion of a military aircraft to accommodate the special needs of the Commander in Chief. After encountering difficulties with converting a C-87A transport, the USAAF arranged with Douglas Aircraft to construct a new transport aircraft specifically for presidential use. Nicknamed the Sacred Cow, this VC-54C became the first military aircraft to transport a president of the United States when President Roosevelt took it to the USSR for the Yalta Conference in February 1945.
The first purpose-built aircraft to fly the president of the United States, the Sacred Cow is the only VC-54C ever constructed. To an untrained eye, it looks like any other C-54, but the Sacred Cow is unique. Beginning with a C-54A fuselage and a C-54B wings, Douglas made numerous modifications. For example, the ailerons are different from any B model. Furthermore, the Sacred Cow underwent extensive interior modifications. One special feature is an elevator behind the passenger cabin to lift the president in his wheelchair in and out of the plane-an otherwise difficult procedure. The passenger compartment includes a conference room with a large desk and a bulletproof picture window.
Roosevelt used the Sacred Cow only once; he died in April 1945. However, the Sacred Cow remained in presidential service during the first 27 months of the Truman Administration. On July 26, 1947, President Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 while on board the Sacred Cow. This act established the Air Force as an independent service, making the Sacred Cow the "birthplace" of the U.S. Air Force.
The USAF later assigned it to other transport duties, and it was retired in October 1961. In 1983, the Sacred Cow was shipped by truck to the U.S. Air Force Museum. The monumental task of restoring the aircraft began in August 1985, and it took 10 years and over 34,000 hours of work to complete. Appearing as it did during President Roosevelt's trip to Yalta, the Sacred Cow provides a wonderful exhibit for visitors and a superb example of the craftsmanship, skill, and perseverance of the Museum's Restoration Division staff and volunteers.