ALAMEDA (KPIX 5) -- It has been 50 years since the Apollo 11 astronauts were recovered at sea by the USS Hornet. The first person to reach that historic capsule was Navy frogman John Wolfram.
Wolfram was 20 years old, fresh out of Navy Special Forces training when he and his team were assigned to safeguard the Apollo 11 astronauts moments after their capsule splashed down. First, his team secured a flotation ring to keep the spacecraft from sinking. Then John climbed up and looked in.
"I looked into the hatch window to get a 'thumbs up' from the astronauts to let one of the doctors in the helicopter know they were okay," remembered Wolfram. "Once that was established, another helicopter came in close and more frogmen jumped in."
Wolfram modestly says it was a team effort they trained for. He says they knew what to do. Then a different frogman carefully approached the hatch. There was serious concern: moon germs!
"The astronauts open the door from the inside. Then uh, they were given these biological isolation garments," said Wolfram. "And then his job was to scrub down the capsule and the raft. And when they came out into the raft, they were also scrubbed down this Betadine solution."
When asked what the specific concern was, Wolfram replied, "I think it was possible moon pathogens."
Wolfram has been spending time on the Hornet lately, recalling those days long ago when the nation was glued to the space program, took pride in the success of completing complicated missions and believed manned space travel was just getting started.
After the Apollo missions, John resumed his normal assignments, which included service in Vietnam.
John is now 70 years young. He still joyfully shouts his old motto: "First one in the water! Hooyaa!!"
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