President Obama appeared in Normandy today to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. It's his fifth trip to France since becoming president, tying it with Mexico as the country Obama has visited most frequently.
Obama isn't the only U.S. president who's made repeat visits to France. It's the second-most popular presidential destination, behind the United Kingdom (and that tally includes several FDR fishing trips to the Bahamas). The cheese, baguettes and wine only explain part of the draw; the real reason for many of those trips is war.
Woodrow Wilson made the first presidential visit to France in December 1918 to attend a Preliminary to the Paris Peace Conference. It took him 10 days to get there. Over the next year, he returned to France three more times to attend the Paris Peace Conference, which resulted in the Treaty of Versailles, officially ending World War I.
Since then, there have been many more international meetings held in France and attended by American presidents.
Marking D-Day In Normandy
Obama is the fourth president to visit France to attend D-Day ceremonies, starting with Ronald Reagan who commemorated the 40th anniversary in 1984. Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush also attended D-Day memorial ceremonies during their presidencies.
Presidential travel overseas has become more frequent over the years as air travel has gotten easier. Air Force One is now a fully functioning office/living room. Long gone are the days of boats or trains — or unpressurized airplane cabins, as FDR had to endure.
But as much as ever, a visit from an American president makes a statement. It shows the U.S. values its relationship with that country or (like with Myanmar) the administration is pleased with the progress it has made. Often, though, it's in conjunction with a big international meeting.
Which countries have gotten repeat visits from U.S. presidents? Here's a list of the top 10:
And while we're at it, here are President Obama's top international travel destinations:
- Mexico (5 visits)
- France (5 visits)
- South Korea (4 visits)
- Afghanistan (4 visits)
- United Kingdom (3 visits)
- Japan (3 visits)
- Germany (3 visits)