July 14 – Happy Birthday, President Ford!

Posted on July 14, 2017

You probably know that, if a United States president dies in office, then the vice president is sworn in as president. (Eight presidents have died in office, so far, and have been replaced by their V-Ps.)

And if a president resigns, or is impeached and convicted, or is removed for cause according to the rules of the 25th Amendment, again, the vice president is sworn in as president. (Only one president has resigned; no presidents have been removed from office because of impeachment or according to the rules in the 25th Amendment.)

Of all the vice presidents who became president when the office became vacant, Gerald Ford was the only one to become president because of a resignation. On August 9, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment for attempting to cover up the Watergate break-in, plus other "dirty tricks" and abuses of power. Vice President Ford was sworn in as president that day.

Ford was also the only American president who had never been elected as president or vice president. He had been appointed as the vice president under Nixon when Nixon's elected vice president, Spiro Agnew, resigned. (Agnew faced criminal charges of extortion, tax fraud, bribery, and conspiracy! Wow!)

The first four V-Ps to become president were not elected after serving their partial term - and therefore they were president but were never elected president. This group includes John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, and Chester Arthur.

However, in more recent times, three V-Ps who became president ran for re-election and won a second term. These include Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, and Lyndon B. Johnson.  

Ford broke the newer pattern. In 1976, he ran against Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, and Ford lost. 
Ford's time in the Oval Office wasn't amazing. He pardoned Nixon (a controversial act), and during his presidency South Vietnam was conquered by North Vietnam. Also, during Ford's term the American economy faced growing inflation and a recession. Wham, wham - double bad news.

More "wham, wham!" 

Back before his career in politics, Gerald Ford was in the Navy during World War II. There, too, he faced double bad news: his aircraft carrier, the USS Monterey, was rolling dangerously in giant waves kicked up by a typhoon (a hurricane storm) AND was on fire! 

How does a ship catch on fire during a wet, wet storm?
Well, with all that pitching and rolling and yawing, in the storm, several aircraft had torn loose from their cables and collided on the hangar deck! 

You see, the hangar deck is the carrier's "garage," where most of the aircraft are kept when not in use. It's not the top deck, which is the flight deck. Rain wasn't falling below decks! 

Reporting for duty the morning of December 18, 1944, Gerald Ford was almost swept overboard as the ship rolled. He lost his footing and slid to the edge of the deck. The two-inch steel ridge around the edge of the carrier helped him catch himself and roll into the catwalk below the deck.  

At that point, Ford was ordered to face death a second time: he was asked to assess the fire raging below. He managed to gather the information needed and get back safely to his commanding officer, and the ship's crew was able to put the fire out.

With the fire put out, the aircraft carrier limped out of the "Pacific theater" of the war and over to Bremerton, Washington, for repairs. Not only was Ford lucky to have survived, all his shipmates were, as well, because their fleet lost three destroyers and more than 800 sailors during that dreadful typhoon!
Here is Ford as a WWII sailor
during a more relaxing moment...

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Emmeline Pankhurst Day

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