Special Guest Marks 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11

Courtesy NASA    Few know the story of the U.S. Navy Frogman, John Wolfram, who became the first person the Apollo 11 astronauts saw upon their return to Earth. Wolfram can be seen standing at the top of the capsule with flower decals on his wetsuit.

Legendary frogman John Wolfram will visit Alameda as part of a series of events occurring across the nation to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. The USS Hornet played a pivotal role in rescuing the Apollo 11 astronauts from the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969. When Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins splashed down, the first person they laid eyes on was Wolfram in his inflatable raft. He had flower decals all over his wetsuit.

“Remember it was the 1960s,” Wolfram told the Woodland Daily Democrat. “Flower power represented peace and love. It was my statement to the world to give peace a chance in a very turbulent era and controversial war.”

A member of the U.S. Navy UDT/SEALs, Wolfram considered it a stroke of luck that he was chosen to head out and retrieve the astronauts. He remembers the re-entry capsule was still hot to the touch.

At the event on board the Hornet, Wednesday, June 12, Wolfram will greet the public, retell his story, display (and even sell) some artifacts from the mission and sign copies of his book Splashdown, The Rescue of a Navy Frogman which tells the full story of his historic experience.

Wolfram underwent training as a member of the UDT-11, just in time for the war in Vietnam. In two deployments, he earned a Purple Heart for a leg wound inflicted during a battle with the Viet Cong. He also lost eight close friends in the hostilities. 

His book also delves into this bewildering period of history and how he dealt with the intense pressures and stresses of his career. Eventually he fell into a lifestyle of using drugs and alcohol. Wolfram had a realization while hallucinating on LSD, in a Vietnam hotel, when he narrowly escaped the horrors of suicide. Part of his story is finding his way back to Jesus Christ. 

According to his website, “With the help of faith that never left his side, Wolfram weaves into his narrative how while he was trained to rescue others, he found himself in need of rescue.”
Today Wolfram is involved in missionary work around the world, with a special interest in the country of Vietnam. He recently built a memorial Bible school in central Vietnam in honor of his friends who died in the war.

Learn more at www.johnwolfram.org.

About Apollo 11
Apollo 11 was the spaceflight that landed the first two people on the Moon. Commander Armstrong and lunar module pilot Aldrin landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on July 20, 1969. Armstrong became the first person to step onto the lunar surface on July 21; Aldrin joined him 19 minutes later. 

Pilot Collins flew the command module Columbia alone in lunar orbit while Armstrong and Aldrin were on the Moon’s surface. 

They spent 21.5 hours on the lunar surface collecting samples before rejoining Columbia in lunar orbit.