The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission–which was the first manned mission to land on the moon is next month.
In light of this milestone, Navy Frogman, John Wolfram, is embarking on a tour to share his experiences with the splashdown recovery mission that occurred on July 24, 1969.
Wolfram reflected on this world wide event and how he felt about being the first man to greet the astronauts upon their return.
“I was a sea anchorman”, Wolfram said. “I was the first one in the water; I was 20 years old, 2 years out of high school. I knew I was making history, I knew the world was watching and didn’t wasn’t to mess up. I wanted to make the navy proud, I wanted to make my mother proud, and I wanted to make sure the astronauts were well taken care of.”
Wolfram, said that Apollo 11 was different because NASA was worried about space germs!
“Apollo 11 was different than all the other space recoveries because NASA had a contamination procedure going on”, he said. “They didn’t know if there were any lunar pathogens that might contaminate earth.”
While Apollo 11 was a national event, Wolfram highlighted the fact that three of the men involved in the splashdown were from Wisconsin, including himself.
“The officer in charge of our Navy group that put on the biological hazard isolation garment was from this area, Chippewa Falls”, said Wolfram. “The pilot that was in charge of the helicopter 66 which picked the astronauts up and took them back to the USS Hornet was from Madison, and I am from Fort Atkinson Wisconsin.”
Pictures of the recovery show Wolfram with flowers on his wet suit.
He recalled that during Apollo 10, the Frogmen put a flower on the space pod and NASA didn’t like that so he decided to put them on his suit.
These flowers represented more than just 1960s fashion.
Wolfram said that the flowers were a sign of peace and love at the time, so they used them as a silent protest to the Vietnam War.
After the splashdown recovery, Wolfram was sent to Vietnam.
During this time, Wolfram admits that he fell into the drug scene and began to spiral out of control.
“When I went back the second time, I got involved in the 1960s drug movement”, he said. “I had roommates that introduced me to LSD and pot and those kinds of drugs. So I kind of had a crash down.”
Shortly after returning to Vietnam, Wolfram was wounded in battle.
“When I got to Vietnam the second time, I was wounded in a firefight”, Wolfram said. “I spent several months in the hospital. I lost five of my seal teammates. I lost three high school friends. So when you’re young and you’re facing eternity, you begin to think.”
The events in Vietnam led Wolfram to contemplate suicide.
“I was messed up on LSD one day and heard these hideous voices yelling at me saying that I was going to die over here so I should just kill myself”, he said. “I walked over to the bed and pulled out my pistol, and pointed it at my head, but I heard a little voice, it was god. I put the pistol down and that was the beginning of a journey to discover god.”
After the war, he returned to the United States and devoted his life to God by becoming a preacher.
Wolfram will be speaking at Pentecostal Assembly Church in Eau Claire Sunday June 23 at 10 a.m. to share his life changing story through so many historical events.