Fort Atkinson native John Wolfram will be at the Hoard Historical Museum Thursday, July 11, to share his experience of being the first Navy SEAL frogman to meet the Apollo 11 astronauts after they returned to Earth.
Wolfram will be speaking at the Fort Atkinson museum at 11 a.m. His program is free and open to the public.
“The Hoard Historical Museum is very honored to have John Wolfram join us to recount his part of the Apollo 11 moon landing,” said Merrilee Lee, director. “John is from Fort Atkinson and is excited to share his story in his hometown.”
After completing the first trip to the moon 50 years ago, the astronauts waited in their capsule for Wolfram to attach a tether to the spacecraft so they could exit and begin their decontamination process.
Wolfram later completed a second tour of duty in Vietnam and was awarded the Purple Heart for a wound received under fire.
The Apollo 11 spaceflight was launched on July 16, 1969, and Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on July 20, 1969, at 20:17 UTC. Armstrong became the first person to step onto the lunar surface six hours later on July 21 and Aldrin joined him 19 minutes later. They spent about two-and-a-quarter hours together outside the spacecraft, and collected 47.5 pounds of lunar material to bring back to Earth.
Command module pilot Michael Collins flew the command module Columbia alone in lunar orbit while his fellow astronauts were on the moon’s surface. Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21.5 hours on the lunar surface at a site they named Tranquility Base before rejoining Columbia in lunar orbit.
After leaving the moon and returning to the Earth, Apollo 11 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969. That is where they were met by Navy SEAL frogman Wolfram.
As the sea anchorman, Wolfram was the first man in the water for a short period of time all by himself. Attaching the sea anchor required a fast swimmer, and Wolfram has said that because of his swim team experience on the Fort Atkinson summer swim team and later in high school, hwI easily qualified during the team trials.
His story is featured in “Moon Men Return: USS Hornet and the Recovery of the Apollo 11 Astronauts,” written by fellow Fort Atkinson native Scott Carmichael. Knowing his former classmate had been a part of the recovery of Apollo 11, Carmichael went about trying to track him down. Jim Simdon of Fort Atkinson, a childhood friend of Wolfram’s, put Carmichael in contact with Wolfram’s sister, Pam Badura, also of Fort Atkinson.
And in time for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Wolfram himself has written, “Splashdown: The Rescue of a Navy Frogman.” In it, Wolfram not only describes in detail his journey to become a Navy frogman, but also shares with readers his personal struggles, coping with drugs and the controversial war, along with his subsequent faith in Jesus Christ.
Today, Wolfram runs a wide range of domestic and international evangelism ministries. He recently built a memorial Bible school in central Vietnam in honor of his friends who died in the war.
“John’s program at the Hoard Historical Museum on July 11 at 11 a.m. is a wonderful way to remember the 50th anniversary of this momentous occasion in human history,” said Lee. “People have been staring at the moon for millennia wondering what it is like. John had the unique opportunity to be in direct contact with people who could answer firsthand what the moon is truly like.”
Wolfram has donated images and other items, including a piece of gold foil from the Apollo 11 capsule, to the Hoard Historical Museum, which has created a new long-term exhibit dedicated to Wolfram.
“The Hoard Historical Museum is dedicated to preserving, protecting, and promoting our history and culture,” said Lee. “It is also important that we share our more recent history, especially the history regarding local heroes, such as John.”
The Hoard Historical Museum is located at 401 Whitewater Ave. in Fort Atkinson.
The museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
For more information, call the museum at (920) 563-7769, visit www.hoardmuseum.org and like the museum on Facebook.