Apollo 11 frogmen reunite in Wapakoneta

WAPAKONETA – The four frogmen who lifted astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins from their Apollo 11 capsule in 1969 are themselves enjoying a bit of fame at the Wapakoneta Summer Moon Festival.

Clancy Hatteberg, Mike Mallory, John Wolfrom and Wes Chesser are in Wapakoneta for the Summer Moon Festival, an opportunity for the community to remember local hero Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon.

The four Frogmen were members of Underwater Demolition Team 11 and were assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Hornet.

Wolfrom was the first frogman in the water, tying a sea anchor to the capsule to keep it upright in the rough sea.

Mallory and Chesser helped put a flotation collar around Apollo 11.

The four shared their experiences with a crowd at the Armstrong Museum on Saturday as people watched archival footage on a TV screen.

“The 1960s were just an exciting time for the space program,” said Chesser. “The goal was to send a man to the moon and that’s what (President) Kennedy said in the early 1960s. We wanted to send a man to the moon by the end of the decade and of course. , it happened. This is a big deal. “

This is the first time the four have come together in 52 years.

“We got the job done incredibly fast and 52 years later we meet and it’s like yesterday. It was cool because we were so close, ”Mallory said.

“It’s really good to see them,” Chesser said. “Then I realized how much I had sort of lost over the years. Sometimes it’s just hard to get back together with people from the past, just because of life and situations and circumstances, but it’s great and I just hope we can get together more frequently.

Mallory was asked what he remembers the most about that day.

” The Sharks. I wake up thinking of them. Your hair stands on end on your arms because it came. We were just shark bait there and we would jump to the side of the pod a few times while being chased by the sharks, ”Mallory said.

Mallory is the one who put a flower sticker on the Apollo 10 capsule, reminding him that he “bored” himself for it.

During the Apollo 11 rescue, the flower sticker was there too. “I couldn’t put it on the windows so I put it on John (Wolfrom) and he was standing on top of that raft and looked really good up there with that flower,” Mallory said.

Armstrong Air & Space Museum executive director Dante Centuri said the meeting of the frogmen was something special.

“It’s amazing because you would think after 52 years everything has happened and it doesn’t. This is the first time that the frogmen have gathered in a group of four since the mission and we are delighted that it is in Wapakoneta. They came to the museum, downtown or to the run, ”Centuri said.

Four frogmen who brought Apollo 11 astronauts to safety 52 years ago spoke about their experiences on Saturday at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum.

Contact Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.

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