The Reagan Speech Preservation Society

Haile Selassie's Yacht

Modified: Friday, 19 March 2021 10:18 by admin - Categorized as: Podcasts
The following is a collection of the materials used in creating the third episode of the Citizen Reagan podcast about the Reagan's Radio Commentaries Reagan's speeches given when he was a private citizen. As you listen (and read, when the transcript is available), you understand why I went back to A Time For Choosing for a history lesson.





I'm back again with some more research inspired by the words of citizen Ronald Reagan.

In a departure from my usual work with the Reagan Radio Commentaries, I thought I'd go back about ten years...both from the Commentaries AND my own history doing research. This broadcast will also serve as the origin story of my love for Citizen Reagan.

It was late-August 2010 and I was going on a roadtrip to Washington D.C. with my brother. Instead of bringing music or trying to hunt down good stations on the radio as we drove, I loaded some speeches onto my iPod for the drive. One of these was Reagan's "A Time For Choosing," the televised speech he gave in support of Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election. Goldwater would end up losing in one of the most lop-sided elections in U.S. history, but this speech catapulted Reagan to political fame. Within 3 years, he would be governor of California. I had heard the speech before, but this was the first time I really listened to it. I started hearing names and facts and events that I didn't know.

So now we declare "war on poverty," or "you, too, can be a Bobby Baker!"
"Who was Bobby Baker?"

We haven't balanced our budget 28 out of the last 34 years.
"Had we really not balanced our budget 28 of the last 34 years in 1964?"

We spent $146 billion. With that money, we bought a $2 million yacht for Haile Selassie.
"Why did we buy Haile Selassie a yacht for $2 million?"

When we got home, I began to do internet searches. Bobby Baker was an assistant to LBJ starting during his time in the Senate and some might have called him LBJ's bagman. Thanks to records with the St. Louis Federal Reserve, I found that, yes, we'd run a deficit 28 of those previous 34 years. Research and research and more research. I found more speeches with more stories and names to investigate, like Martin Koszta. Koszta, in turn, led to my hobby of digital restoration of old books. If you listened to my first podcast, Koszta was the subject.

Today, I'd like to talk a little about that yacht.

Haile Selassie, put mildly, is an interesting story in himself. He was the Emperor of Ethiopia, forced into exile after the Italians invaded in 1935. He remained exiled for 5 years, until English forces in Africa forced the Italians out during early 1941. For this reason Selassie would be a strong proponent for the United Nations, particularly after the League of Nations had failed to do anything about the Italian incursion. He was also a close ally of the West.

Selassie was also a religious figure to some, viewed as the Messiah in the Rastafarian movement. He would rule as Emperor from 1930 to 1974.

In 1961, after annexing Eritrea, Ethiopia gained access to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Wanting to build a Navy, Selassie would reach out to the United States for a ship with which he could train naval officers. The United States would grant him a ship. Enter the USS Orca.

The USS Orca had been built in the 1940s, launching from Washington state in October 1942. She would remain in the Pacific theater for the remainder of World War 2, tasked as a seaplane tender. She was retired in 1947, to be reactivated in 1951 for the Korean War. In 1960, Orca was mothballed again, but would remain for less than 2 years before being refit and transferred to Ethiopia on a loan-to-buy program. Ethiopia's goal was to use it as a training ship for its navy, but it also happened to be the largest ship in their Navy, essentially making it their flagship as well.

The ship, renamed the Ethiopia, would remain the flagship of their navy until the 1990s when Eritrea regained its independence and Ethiopia became a land-locked country once again. The Ethiopian Navy would relocate itself to Yemen’s port of Aden where it remained until being sold for scrap.

So, was Reagan right? Had the United States given a $2 million yacht to Haile Selassie?? Not exactly. To call it a yacht could be inaccurate, but it fits with the media coverage at the time. One part of the media reports Reagan did not mention was that the ship was decked out with gold wallpaper, which seems a little over the top for a training ship, and equipped with air conditioning, which seems legitimate due to the climate of the African horn. At this point, it would be difficult to learn what the Ethiopian Navy did actually do with the ship. If Selassie himself would "oversee" (and I'm using air quotes) leisurely trips around the Gulf of Aden, ok, it's a yacht.

Let's look at that $2 million price tag. A 1962 article from the Deseret News about the ship states testimony at the House Foreign Affairs committee put the refit of the ship at $2.5 million, then another $500K for the training of a Norwegian crew (which would then be used to train the Ethiopian sailors). Also mentioned in the article is that an earlier report from the State Department given to Democratic Congressman of Texas J. T. Rutherford put the cost at $175,000 for the refit.

A 1967 newspaper article from the Eugene Register-Guard shares that the ship is back in the United States, receiving repairs with the taxpayer on the hook. This article states the total amount spent is $4 million.

In 1976, the ship was sold to Ethiopia outright. No information about the price can be found at the moment, but who would not be surprised if we, the American taxpayer, lost out on the deal.

If you read or listen to Reagan's A Time for Choosing speech, in this section, he is speaking about the vast amounts of money involved in foreign spending. He's not so concerned with helping a few friends, but while the United States racks up debt, we are paying millions of dollars to other countries that do not share our ideals, and it is being used for questionable reasons. If you’d like to read and/or listen to the speech my wiki, located at has a full transcript and a link to the Reagan Foundation's video of the speech on Youtube.

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