By Kyle Peschler
Apollo 11 was one of the most historic moments in the Vietnam Era and a turning point in the Cold War against Soviet Russia. Being such a momentous occasion for the United States, everyone who was alive at the time would remember where they were and what they were doing when they first heard of the event. Since Apollo 11 occurred in the height of the Vietnam Era, our volunteers remember exactly where they were when news broke of the Moon Landing.
Joseph Foster had graduated from Coast Guard boot camp earlier that year in 1969. His first official orders were to report to the 12th Coast Guard district in Honolulu Hawaii. Joseph was scheduled to go out onto Ocean Station Victor, a geographic location in the Pacific Ocean where there is nothing for miles. There Joseph helped give aid to navigation for ships and aircraft. Joseph’s ship, the Coast Guard Cutter Mellon, was stationed there from the end of July to the middle of August, right when the Apollo 11 mission took place. The Apollo 11 mission was scheduled to land several miles south of where Joseph was located. Joseph has a personal connection to the Moon Landing. His uncle was a design engineer for Roman Aircraft and was part of the design team for the lunar lander control system. Joseph’s uncle’s name is on a plaque attached to the lunar lander that was left on the Moon after the mission was complete. Just like most Americans at the time Joseph and his shipmates were thrilled when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. Although they couldn’t see it, the radio broadcast was playing throughout the ship.
Frank served in the 69th Infantry Regiment of the New York State National Guard until November 1970 when he enlisted into the U.S. Army. Frank served in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971. Frank had just graduated high school at the time of the Moon Landing. Frank remembers watching the event on television with his friends. Frank and his friends were in awe and thrilled with what they saw. According to Frank, it is hard to describe the joyous feeling he had when Neil Armstrong touched the surface of the Moon.
Cappy served in the Marines and was deployed to Vietnam in 1966. Cappy was a tank crewman for the Bravo Company, 1st Marine Division. Cappy wonders to this day if the Moon Landing really happened. He never saw the purpose of sending a man to the Moon other than to beat Russia. Cappy often asks why we should care about sending anyone to the Moon since no one can live on it. Cappy believes that the Moon Landing was nothing more than a waste of time and money.
The Apollo Moon Landing occurred July, 20, 1969. I arrived in Vietnam on July 10, 1969. To say my mind was occupied elsewhere would be an understatement. I was newly assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and on or about the 20th, I arrived at my unit Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry as a newly assigned Company Clerk. We did hear about the landing on Armed Forces Radio and eventually from Star and Stripes (military newspaper). I then received letters from home that included articles about the landing. Quite frankly, it was somewhat of a non event for me and I never sensed the event generated much discussion among the Infantry soldiers. We had other things to keep us occupied. Clearly, it was a momentous achievement for the United States and the World but to the Infantry soldier it was another day in the bush trying to stay alive. I was fortunate to spend most of my time in a Base Camp but it was not without its dangers as well.
The Apollo 11 Moon Landing was a historical turning point for the United States. It showed just how far technology had come in under a century while symbolizing a stunning victory over Russia in the Space Race and the Cold War. While many of our volunteer veterans were off fighting in Vietnam during this historic moment, others were back home and remembered exactly what they were doing when they heard the news of the Moon Landing. Most of the veterans remember watching or listening to the historic event on the news and couldn’t help being ecstatic. They felt as if the United States gained a major victory in technological advancements along with the Cold War. There are other volunteer veterans that also question if it really happened. They believe that the Moon Landing was nothing more than a waste of time and money all for the sole purpose of beating Russia. At the end of the day, our volunteer veterans can agree that the Moon Landing is still a notable event in American history which they were alive to witness.