Posted in Images Military History

Apollo 11 recovery

UDT frogman Lt. Clancy Hatleberg secures the hatch on the Apollo 11 capsule after he and his crew assisted the astronauts into the life raft. (U.S. Navy photo)

From a previous piece I wrote about SEALs in space,

When the Apollo 11 command module landed in the Pacific Ocean after astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon, it was SEALs that were assigned to recover their craft. “Sea King” helicopters from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet carried a handpicked team of four SEALs, wearing special isolation suits to protect them from possible lunar pathogens, to wrestle the “bucking bronco” from the ocean.

Wes Chesser, Clancy Hatleberg, John Wolfram, and Mike Mallory jumped into the water, fighting 12-foot waves and 28-m.p.h. winds to perform the daunting task of attaching a 200-lb. inflatable raft to the 12,000-lb. Apollo capsule as it pitched up and down with the ocean swell. Failure could have resulted in the astronauts and their capsule sinking to the bottom of the sea.

Posted in Military History

Today in U.S. military history: from bicycles to space travel

1897: A crowd of over 10,000 greets the black soldiers of the 25th Infantry Regiment’s “Bicycle Corps” (featured image) as they ride into St. Louis’ Forest Park, completing a 41-day, 1,900-mile trip from Fort Missoula, Montana.

1944: Thanks to a custom-built landing vehicle known as the “Doodlebug,” specially modified to carry ladders that allows vehicles to scale rocky shorelines, the Fourth Marine Division avoids the heavily defended beaches on Tinian and catches the island’s Japanese defenders off guard. By August 1, the island is secured and Seabees begin construction on the runways that the B-29s Enola Gay and Bock’s Car will use to deliver the atomic bombs that bring World War II to an end.

1945: 600 aircraft from Task Force 38, commanded by Vice Adm. John S. McCain, and hundreds of B-29 “Superfortress” bombers attack mainland Japan. Five Japanese warships are destroyed and several more damaged in the raid.

Meanwhile, President Harry Truman authorizes the use of the new atomic weapon, and Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold is presented with a list of potential targets. Truman informs his Soviet counterpart Joseph Stalin that America has developed such a weapon, but the Stalin has already learned this from spies within the Manhattan Project.

1950: A captured German V-2 rocket with a WAC Corporal missile fitted on top as a second stage blasts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Florida’s Atlantic coast. “Bumper 8” traveled 200 miles downrange and reached a height of 10 miles in the first-ever launch from a facility that will soon begin sending men rockets — and later, men — into space. Continue reading “Today in U.S. military history: from bicycles to space travel”

Posted in Images Military History

Hornet Plus Three

Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin ham it up in the Mobile Quarantine Facility aboard the USS Hornet during their 21-day quarantine after splashing down in the Pacific Ocean after the Apollo 11 mission.
Posted in Military History

Buzz Aldrin’s lunar communion

While looking into the food that the Apollo 11 astronauts ate during their lunar mission, I learned that not only did Buzz Aldrin — a Presbyterian elder — read Bible verses during journey, but also took communion once he and Neil Armstrong landed on the moon.

“I would like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in — whoever and wherever they may be — to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way,” Aldrin radioed back to Earth. He then read John 15:5 silently to himself from a 3-by-5-inch notecard. “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.” Once Aldrin completed his reading, he poured his wine and ate his bread.

The first food and drink on the moon was communion. Continue reading “Buzz Aldrin’s lunar communion”

Posted in Images Military History

Sea of Tranquility

Apollo 11 lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin carries science modules to their deployment area after landing on the moon on July 20, 1969. Good news: The laser ranging retroreflector Aldrin carries in his right hand is so accurate that NASA scientists could measure the distance between the earth and moon to within one millimeter. Bad news: we have learned that each year, the moon drifts 1.5 inches further away from the earth.