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From Eisenhower to Clinton: Which US Presidents have already visited Bonn?

From Eisenhower to Clinton : Which US Presidents have already visited Bonn?

The last visit to Bonn by a US President was in 1999. In the 40 years of being the capital the city has received US presidents time and again. A review of conspicuous features, bizarre and historic moments.

It is now 21 years since Bill Clinton, as US President, was a guest in Bonn. While his successors George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump never came to the city, his eight predecessors have each been there at least once. A tour through conspicuous features of the visits.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first US President to visit the then Federal Capital after the Second World War. The people of Bonn welcomed him in August 1959 "with flags flying", the GA reported at the time. From Wahn Airport, the convoy had fought its way through lines of people to Bad Godesberg.

After only a few minutes, Eisenhower was so impressed that he resisted requests from the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Konrad Adenauers, to sit down so that the car could drive faster with the sunroof open. For almost two hours the two of them stood in the car. Talks with leading politicians and an entry in the Golden Book followed.

Triumphant reception for Kennedy

A similarly triumphant reception was given to John F. Kennedy in June 1963, when, after an acclaimed drive through the streets, Kennedy signed the city's Golden Book in front of the town hall and gave a short speech to the population. "I had the impression that I was at home. The welcome couldn't have been nicer," he said to the thousands of people.

It was a sad occasion for the visit of Lyndon B. Johnson in April 1967, who came to Bonn for the state funeral of Konrad Adenauer. Mr Johnson visited, among others, the Adenauer family in Rhöndorf. To get there, he took the Königswinter ferry. 1000 people waved to him. To ensure a safe passage, agents of the secret service searched the ferry for hours. But the president left a memory: he signed the guest book.

Jimmy Carter gave a speech at the market place

In contrast to Johnson or Kennedy, the security level of Gerald Ford's visit in July 1975 left little room for popular appeal. "Buzzing helicopters were pretty much the only thing that could be seen on Sunday by US President Gerald Ford, his wife Betty and the accompanying crew for the Bonners. However, a dog squatting next to the teahouse in the Chancellery Park caused a sensation, barking loudly and thus confusing the security officers. Nobody knew who the dog belonged to and how it got into the park. But the animal was let off scot-free.

Three years later Jimmy Carter presented himself to the public. 8,000 Bonners, at least, attended, the city even spoke of 15,000. On the market square he shouted in German "All men become brothers". The president went among the people and shook hundreds of hands. The GA wrote that Carter paid the city "easy compliments". Bonn was beautifully green and pleasant, and he could understand that when Adenauer made Bonn the provisional capital, he might have thought that democracy could flourish particularly well here on the Rhine. He also signed the city's Golden Book, and his daughter Amy is also immortalised in it, including on it a drawing of Mickey Mouse.

Bill Clinton hands over keys to the chapel

The first of Ronald Reagan's three visits to Bonn in June 1982, however, was accompanied by embarrassment: during his speech in the plenary hall, two of those present heckled and walked around between the rows of chairs or whistled using two referee whistles. Reagan reacted confidently and asked: "Is there an echo here?" (In) At the end, even the sirens wailed from the roof of the main customs office and other buildings - but the all-clear was eventually given. Demonstrators had triggered the alarm by radio signal.

Bill Clinton was the first US president to pay an official visit to Germany after the end of the Cold War. He came to Bonn three times; Ambassador John Cornblum described the visit in June 1999 as an "historic event". The Stimson Memorial Chapel in the American settlement in Bad Godesberg changed hands. Bill Clinton donated the chapel to the city of Bonn on behalf of the US State Department and handed over the keys to Mayor Bärbel Dieckmann.

"It is an exciting day. We are happy and very grateful that after long months of uncertainty we can now continue to celebrate our services here and keep our church home together with the Catholic community at Stimson Memorial Chapel," said Pastor Doug Satre. The Clintons signed the city's Golden Book, just as Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon and Carter did before. Clinton and Cornblum thanked Bonn and its citizens for almost 50 years of partnership and hospitality. "We are very proud to have been here in Bonn," said Clinton. It has been the last visit of a US President to Bonn to date.

From Eisenhower to Clinton

Nine US Presidents in Bonn between 1959 and 1999

Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first US President to visit the newly founded Federal Republic and the capital Bonn from 26 to 27 August 1959. John F. Kennedy was a guest from 23 to 26 June 1963 and, in addition to Bonn, visited Cologne, Hanau and Berlin (West). Lyndon B. Johnson travelled to Cologne and Bonn on the occasion of the state funeral for Konrad Adenauer from 23 to 26 April 1967.

Richard Nixon visited Bonn and Berlin (West) on 26 and 27 February 1969. In the run-up to the CSCEW conference in Helsinki, Gerald Ford also visited Bonn from 26 to 28 July 1975. On the occasion of the World Economic Summit in Bonn, Jimmy Carter visited Bonn, Frankfurt/Main and Berlin (West) from 13 to 17 July 1978.

The 40th US President Ronald Reagan visited Germany three times and particularly Bonn. In addition to his visits from 9 to 11 June 1982 and 11 and 12 June 1987, he was also in the former capital for the World Economic Summit from 1 to 6 May 1985. George H. W. Bush also visited Germany three times. But he visited Bonn only on 30 and 31 May 1989.

Bill Clinton visited Germany five times during his eight years in office. He visited Bonn from 10 to 12 July 1994, 5 and 6 May 1999 and 18 and 21 June 1999.

(Original text: Alexander Hertel. Translation: Mareike Graepel)