John Wolfram, a retired Navy SEAL, was the first person to see the astronauts back on earth, and he’s sharing his story, which took him from the jungles of Vietnam to one of the most famous splashdowns in history. (WFTV)
Photo: WFTV.com
Photo: WFTV.com

Former Navy SEAL was first to welcome crew of Apollo 11 back to Earth after historic moon landing

It took hundreds of thousands of people to get Apollo 11 to the moon and back.

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John Wolfram, a retired Navy SEAL, was the first person to see the astronauts back on Earth, and he’s sharing his story, which took him from the jungles of Vietnam to one of the most famous splashdowns in history.

Wolfram said that, while in Vietnam, he heard the Apollo 8 crew read the Book of Genesis while orbiting the moon.

“We had a month and a half to go before we were headed home to the United States,” Wolfram said. “When I got back, they asked us to be involved in Apollo 10 and 11."

Wolfram’s mission was to wait for the capsule to splash down, swim out, secure the vessel and make sure America’s heroes had made it back safely.

On July 24, 1969, the astronauts of Apollo 11 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean and Wolfram was the first person to welcome them home.

A thumbs-up through the glass confirmed that each of the three astronauts had made it back safely.

Then, they had to make it out of the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

“We were having a lot of shark activity, so the first thing I did was look in the water to make sure it was clear," Wolfram said.

Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were then quickly ferried to a waiting ship. Wolfram, on the other hand, still had a spacecraft to secure.

“I jumped on top of that capsule. The bosun shot out a line. We grabbed it at the end and attached it to the end and it was taken aboard the USS Hornet," Wolfram said.

And with that, Wolfram's role in history was complete.

The crew of Apollo 11 spent five days in quarantine. Wolfram got a few awards and a story to tell for the rest of his life.

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