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Franklin D. Roosevelt (in suit, seated in jeep at left) reviews US troops as military commander Lieutenant General George S. Patton (right), Casablanca, Morocco, Jan. 17, 1943.
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President Obama travels to Kenya on Thursday to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, and then continues his African trip with a visit to Ethiopia, the first time a sitting U.S. president will visit that country. He’ll be focused on global business and peaceful diplomacy—a far cry from what happened with the first sitting president to visit Africa.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt landed on the continent 72 years ago amid World War II, it was the first time since the Civil War that a sitting president had visited an active war zone, as well as the first time ever that one had traveled by plane. The occasion was Roosevelt’s January 1943 visit to Casablanca to discuss the conflict with Winston Churchill.

As TIME reported shortly after, the trip was a fruitful one. The air-travel part of the plan was kept secret—an important concern given that the president’s plane was flying over an ocean patrolled by Axis planes and ships—but, once he arrived safely and the meetings got underway, the world was looped in on what had happened:

Read the full story from 1943, here in the TIME Vault: Appointment in Africa

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Write to Lily Rothman at

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