When Americans first touched down on the moon, I was on perimeter
guard duty at my base in San Diego, CA.
The bases had been targeted by anti-war protesters, and guard duty, usually a routine and dull duty assignment, had taken on a little more urgency. Threats of unlawful entry and sabotage were not being taken very lightly.
There had been several ugly incidents in which yours truly and others had been spat on, or had objects thrown at them during daytime protests, and there was a fear (for the most part exaggerated) of clandestine night time trespassers.
The officer of the guard would send his senior NCO around periodically to ensure that the guards were OK (and, I suspected to ensure that they were alert). At one point, the NCO came around and told me to report to guard headquarters. This was pretty unusual, as he was not replacing me with anyone, so my sector was unguarded.
When I got to the guard shack, I found all the perimeter guards, all the NCOs and the guard officer, clustered around a small TV. As I stepped up, curious, all the guard officer said was, "I thought everybody here needed to see this."
We watched in complete silence for about 20 minutes, until the guard officer said, "OK, get back out there."
For the rest of my watch, I spent about as much time watching the sky as I did watching the perimeter fence.
- Author Unknown
I was a junior Navy officer on a highly classified intelligence mission near Southeast Asia. We were cruising on the high seas and a Soviet "fishing trawler" was following us - as usual. They were about five or six miles astern. We had all been listening to radio broadcasts about the moon landing all day. When Neil Armstrong finally set foot on the moon and broadcast those memorable words, you can bet we were all filled with pride.
Our pride was even greater a few minutes later when we noticed that the Soviet trawler was sending us an old fashioned flashing light signal. We were all high-tech and it took us some time to find an old "radioman" that could read flashing light. He was very much out of practice, but after asking them to resend the message numerous times we were finally able to read the message.
I will never forget the moment.
- Larry J. Wine, Marketing Executive
I remember vividly because I was in U.S. Marine Boot Camp at Parris Island S.C. Platoon 399. Our Sr. Drill Instructor, SSgt Robinson, got permission for us to watch the landing live on TV. With all the training for war and knowing that we all stood a better than even chance of going right to Vietnam after Boot Camp, the peace and tranquillity of stopping for that brief moment to watch the crowning achievement of President Kennedy's legacy being brought to life even brought some of us rough, tough marine boots to tears. I am almost positive I saw SSgt. Robinson with a tear in his eye... but none of us were brave enough, or stupid enough to point it out. I heard a couple of years later that he had been killed while on his 2nd Vietnam tour. That will ALWAYS stay with me....forever.
- Author Unknown
It was the height of the Vietnam War. The Tet Offensive was recently over, but escalation of U.S. troops was in full progress. Those of us watching the unfolding events of the first moon walk on board the USS RANGER, in port at NAS Alameda, getting ready for a departure to the Vietnam Area of Operations, were totally captivated by what was going on. In our discussions, we believed the war could not last much longer, that in this era of "prime directives" from Star Trek, the future looked brave and exciting. We lost the war, through no fault of the servicemen, but we held our heads high because we knew we were "going to the stars" at last. This world, with its puny wars, seemed so insignificant, yet we left our junk and "car" on the moon, and after several missions, did not go back, for whatever reasons. The sad outcome of the Vietnam War aside, the highlight of that time was our men on the moon. I will never forget..."for all mankind."
-Gary Greenough, USN/USS RANGER
On July 20, 1969, I was living in Yuma, Arizona, having moved there to try to begin a life away from heart-wrenching memories in my home town of La Habra, California. I was 22 years old, and my husband had been missing in action in Vietnam for exactly nine months -- since October 20, 1968. I had one small child (one and a half years old) and tried to keep a record of every memorable event -- both pertaining to her growth and to world events in general -- to be able to share them with my husband when he returned. At that time I was absolutely certain that he would surely be found alive. (To date, however, he has not been found, although his helicopter crash site has recently been found and positively identified -- forensic teams have not been able to identify any specific remains as belonging to my husband.) Yes, I remember.
- Author Unknown
On July 20, 1969, I was in Phu Hoa Dong, Vietnam near Cu Chi. I had just returned from the field and was resting that night in our base camp. I had just heard over AFVN radio, that the moon landing had taken place. It was about 8 or 9 PM and I remember I went outside to look at the moon. All I could think of was how far away they were compared to my situation. I felt a sort of sad companionship with them as we were both far away from our homes and it would be awhile before any of us would get home.
It seemed strange - the great amount of human endeavor in technology to put men on the moon and there I was in the middle of a war. Seemed like two opposite ends of human achievement.
- Jim Johnson, Mechanical & Design Engineer
I remember exactly where I was on July 20, 1969. I was sitting in the den of my parent's house with my infant son on my lap, watching the astronauts walk on the moon! Mike had been born on April 16, and knowing this would be an historic moment that I would want him to remember, I made sure he could witness this event. Even though he was only 3 months old, this was important, and I wouldn't let him miss it! As we watched the men descend the ladder and take the first steps, I leaned down and whispered in his ear, "Mike, your Daddy is in Vietnam fighting a war for our country, and he couldn't be here with you, but I know he would be proud to know that you are watching the first Americans walk on the moon. These astronauts are also in a war for our country, but of a different type. They are fighting to learn the mysteries of outer space." Over the years, I have reminded Mike of this moment many times, and he KNOWS for sure where he was on July 20, 1969.
- Marilyn Severino
I spent the better part of July 1969 in the small town of Bien Hoa in the Republic of South Vietnam. Home to many Vietnamese, Viet Cong, and a few thousand US Army troops of the First Cavalry Division. Bien Hoa was home away from home to those of us who served at the First Team Academy. The FTA, an acronym that served many purposes, was the training unit for all Cavalry soldiers entering the country for the first time.
When we saw the video of Buzz Aldrin on the moon it was truly a shock to see that life, as we knew it, was changing so drastically. Knowing that the USA finally had the technology to put a man on a different planet while they couldn't end a police action in a different part of its own world was a revelation we could not accept.
I don't think I will ever forget that year away from "the World".
- Peter P. Salesses
I was in Tokyo, Japan in the U.S. Air Force. I was at work when I first heard the news over Armed Forces Radio. I worked on the C-141 Air Evac aircraft keeping them flying. I can remember how proud I was to be an American at that moment. The dead and wounded were flying in on a regular basis at that time and it sure lifted my spirits to hear the news.
In addition, the 25th anniversary of the Lunar Landing was another special occasion. My 17 year old daughter was studying in Japan on the 25th anniversary. She was a Foreign Exchange Student and lived there for a year. She is now fluent in Japanese. So this was a doubly proud time for me even 25 years later.
Thanks for taking your time to read this.
- Author Unknown
It was December, 1968. A rainy day in San Diego, not unusual for that time of year. I was returning to my ship after a few days vacation, and as I walked into the wardroom I sensed that the other junior officers in there were looking at me with some kind of expectation. I soon found out why as I sorted through the public pile of mail for the officers and found a postcard from my detailer telling me to expect orders to Vietnam via language school and weapons and survival training.
On June 6, 1969, I found myself in Saigon, residing in a very unfancy hotel, with public showers, and a sandbagged entrance with armed guards. It took me a couple of days to find that the original job to which I had been ordered had already been filled and that they would "have to find a job" for me.
"Hey, just send me back," I answered. They were not amused.
On June 8, 1969, my first child, a son, was born. I didn't find out until June 10, when I reported to Nha Trang, Vietnam. And that is where I was on July 20, 1969: Living in an old French villa with a bunch of 19 and 20 year old Army helicopter pilots. I, who had been since the age of 13, an avid reader of science fiction, particularly Bradbury and Asimov, and who had followed the space program with great interest throughout the sixties. I, who had graduated from Purdue University, the alma mater of Grissom and Armstrong, and had frequently eaten in a little coffee shop which claimed that Grissom had been a regular patron...I was in the middle--safely in the middle--of a war that we could not win. A war that would be won on low technology principles, while the most advanced technologies were being employed to actually send people to the moon.
For a long time, I kept copies of Time, and Newsweek, and the Saigon English language paper that announced to the world our success.
I was living in almost a resort city on the South China Sea helping the South Vietnamese Navy become self sufficient the day man walked on the moon. Somewhere, either just before or after the moon landing, Ho Chi Minh died.
I was so fascinated by the moon landing, that when our second son was born in 1971, about nine months after I returned from Vietnam, I wanted to name him Neil Armstrong Molnar.
That was too much for my wife.
- David L. Molnar,
On July 20, 1969 I was in the lobby of Intercontinental Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. I was a major in the Air Force stationed in the northern part of Thailand on the Laotian border. I was a special operations helicopter pilot involved in the Vietnam war and was on a three day R&R to Bangkok. There were probably a hundred people in the lobby, of all nationalities, watching the lunar landing on TV. Having been a remote up country location for the past year, I was astounded by the moon landing. We did not get much news about the real world at our base as we were involved with daily survival. I felt very proud to be an American that day and it lifted my spirits from the daily struggle of the Vietnam war.
- Author Unknown
Perhaps it was the moon landing in 1969 that provided me with the incentive to continue my education, and pursue my dream of learning to fly airplanes. At the time however, I was a new replacement in the II Field Forces in Vietnam. As a very young soldier, I had only been "In Country" for about 1 month when the lunar landing occurred. While I cannot recall many pleasant memories about my experiences there, I can vividly recall walking into the enlisted man's club to see a color television and the events of the moon landing about to occur. Along with at least 50 other soldiers we watched as the lunar lander descended to the moon's surface, and we then waited impatiently as Neil Armstrong climbed out of his craft and stepped onto the moon's surface. The loud cheer was deafening, and everyone applauded this great event. It was a truly wonderful feeling to be an American, and watch these events unfold.
As luck would have it, I would draw my first guard duty the next evening.. I remember looking up at the moon as we sat in complete darkness on our base perimeter and thinking that people are there, and we are here. From the chaos of a war zone, I was able to think about the relatively peaceful surroundings of the moon base all those thousands of miles away.
The months that followed brought many other memories of my stay in Vietnam. One of the best was when we were able to see and meet Neil Armstrong during the Bob Hope Christmas Show later that year. This was the closure on an event that will stay with us forever.
- Author Unknown
On July 20th, 1969, I was just returning from a home leave and reporting back into Long Binh, South Vietnam. As a Regular Army Officer, I had just completed one year of duty there, and had volunteered for an additional six months assignment up in the I Corps Combat Zone.
We did have AFN as a source of world news, but I must admit that the news of Apollo 11 did not really penetrate my consciousness. I was too apprehensive about my upcoming command assignment, taking over a Signal Group which supported the US Marines, the US Army units, and the South Vietnamese units in that area just below the Demilitarized Zone.
Yet, I did reflect on comments made to me some time earlier by Frank Borman, a West Point classmate, who had so successfully commanded an earlier Apollo mission. It just seemed so unreal to think that a human was walking on that big mysterious white ball up in the sky above me!!
- Author Unknown
At approximately 3AM, July 21, I was in my bunker outside of Monkey Mountain, Vietnam, listening to the landing of the Eagle on armed forces radio. Although only 20 years old, I had always been interested in space, astronomy and space travel, so I had been eagerly anticipating the entire Apollo 11 mission. At the time when we heard that "the Eagle has landed", being the only one awake at this time, I let out an excited yell and almost woke the entire camp and set off an alarm.
Several months later, I was able to meet Neil Armstrong when he came over to Vietnam with Bob Hope and his Christmas show.
Whatever your political convictions and opinions regarding America's role in Vietnam are, I have never been more proud to have been an American in Vietnam at that very moment. It was special!!
- Author Unknown
In July of 1969, I was one of many of my generation that was seeing exotic southeast Asia as a guest of my Uncle Sam. In this case the U.S. NAVY at it's installation at Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam. This was my third time to visit this region of the world, and my second time to visit this particular base. In that regard, this was an unlucky chance, in as much as this was the month that Cam Rahn base was hit by the North Viet Army for the one and only time in it's history. I had just arrived two days before, and the night of the attack, I was just going to sleep. Not only did the rocket attack knock me out of my bed, as I was on the second story of the barracks, I went out a kick panel and hit the ground running. At that time my weight was in the 250 lb. range and as I am only 5' 9" tall, the comments were that they (my shipmates) had never seen a fat boy move so fast. I don't remember all that happened that night except the noise and the mad dashes here and there. All in all between what was happening to me and the happenings in space, an interesting month.
- Author Unknown
At the moment it happened, I was in Danang, VN, in my office, sharing a radio with as many staff as we could round up. It was near noon and very hot that day in Vietnam. It was a very proud and exciting moment for us all. At the time, I was a Major and the Executive Officer of Marine Wing Facilities Squadron One at The First Marine Wing Headquarters in Danang. I had just finished a short tour as an attack pilot and Aircraft Maintenance Officer in Marine Attack Squadron 223 at Chu Lai, VN. It is another of those events that I will never forget where I was when it happened. Semper Fi!,
-D.E. Andersen, LtCol USMC Retired
As I lay in my bed, late at night in the barracks at Cameron Bay South Vietnam with the sounds of battle to the north and more closely, the roar of launching of aircraft at frequent intervals, I heard the Armed Forces Radio Network broadcast of the Apollo Moon mission. The date was July 20, 1969, in the United States, and the event unfolding at the Moon was the culmination of a long love affair that I had with the space program. Although my dreams of becoming an astronaut would not be realized, I could listen to the events unfolding, from the undocking of the LEM to the landing and then the first foot step on the moon, and dream that I was there. The country was divided on how the war in Vietnam should be executed and it showed in the poor results that we were obtaining. Yet, at the same time, the country was united in the Apollo project and from that, we were achieving results that no one thought possible. These two contrasts show that when Americans get together and decide on a course of action that we can accomplish anything.
- Author Unknown
On July 20, 1969 I was at the US Army base at Chu Lai, South Vietnam. I was up at night with some friends listening on the radio and looking at the moon. I remember thinking that my parents were doing the same thing at the same time, but so far away. I wrote a letter the next day telling my mother to look at the moon so that even though we were so far apart and so far from what the astronauts were doing on the moon, we would be looking at the same thing.
- Dennis Schulte, Teacher/Coach
I was in Gio Linh, Vietnam, which is right on the DMZ. I was with a small Vietnamese unit (five men). There was pretty much a clear view of the Moon. I explained what was happening. I was not believed.
- James W. Crabtree
I was in Plieku, Viet Nam in the US Air force as a military police officer. I recall listening to Armed Forces radio detailing the landing on the moon. We were allowed to fire our weapons as a way of salute to the astronauts. I remember thinking, "I'm at war and we are putting a man on the moon."
- Ron Lindsey, Police Officer
I was a "Fairly New Guy" M-60 machine-gunner with Mike Co., 3rd Bn, 5th Marines. We were in the Que Son Mountains on Operation Durham Peak. As I was humping the mountains--hot, tired, sweaty, and scared--I remember my platoon commander telling us to stop and take a break, when the platoon radioman said, "Hey! An American astronaut crew just landed on the moon and someone named Armstrong just stepped onto its surface!"
We all just laughed as one of our platoon sergeants said. "I wish they were here and we were there; besides, it don't mean nothin'!" Never have seen the video or film from that landing . . . but I will never forget that day nor the Marines I served with. Semper Fi.
- Tony Goodrich, former Lance Corporal, USMC
In the summer of 1969 I was all of seven years old, so I didn't much care about the world beyond my backyard tree house and our neighbors' swimming pool. Not even the war in Vietnam that caused so much rage between my older sister and my father at the dinner table bothered me because Vietnam was only some abstract, faraway place I heard about on the evening news. One night as I listened to a news report about American soldiers fighting Viet Cong guerillas, I asked my father why we were fighting gorillas. The only guerillas I knew about then were the gorillas I had seen in "Planet of the Apes" the summer before.
On the night of July 20, 1969, I sat on the back lawn with my best friend as our parents watched the moon landing on TV, our fathers shaking their heads in disbelief and our mothers crying. We looked through my friend's cheap, refracting telescope to see if we couldn't see Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon. My father tried his best to explain that the moon was just too far away for us to be able to see them, but nothing like a little scientific fact was going to deter us from trying anyway.
With the faith that only seven-year-olds could have, we continued our search. As we searched, through the open screen door I heard Armstrong's crackled "one small step" and the whole world seemed to stop. I heard gasps from inside our house and from the open windows and screen doors across the neighborhood.
At that moment, it all seemed so simple. If you wanted to go to the moon, you went. You loaded up in a rocket, and you just went.
A few days later, my father brought me home a poster of a painting of the Apollo 11 crew, and I hung the smiling faces of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins above my bed; they were the smiles of confident, sure men. That poster sustained me in the years to come as I grew up and learned that in Vietnam my friends' brothers and fathers died, and that maybe you could go to the moon, but you couldn't always save the world.
- Phillip Murray