50 years ago, sailor aboard carrier found out about moonwalk two days late

The USS Bon Homme Richard in June 1969, just more than a month before the moon landing, in the Gulf of Tonkin.


By KENT JACKSON | Standard-Speaker, Hazleton, Pa. | Published: July 20, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — Lawrence Kelly was on the aircraft carrier USS Bon Homme Richard off the coast of Vietnam when a mail plane landed and delivered news that men had walked on the moon.

An issue of Stars and Stripes newspaper with the headline “A MOONWALK!” across the front page on July 22 first told Kelly and his shipmates of the moon mission even though Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had taken their historic walk two days earlier.

“We didn’t even know we had taken off. At that time, you didn’t get anything unless the Navy told you,” said Kelly, a machinist’s mate second class at the time who now lives in Beaver Meadows.

For the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Kelly dug out a scrapbook with the Stars and Stripes preserved behind plastic film.

The article by The Associated Press and datelined SEA OF TRANQULITY, The Moon, quoted Armstrong as he set foot on alien soil, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Their landing module, the Eagle, had to burn extra fuel to find a smooth landing site because their target spot was too rocky.

“When it landed, the Eagle had barely 49 seconds of hovering rocket fuel left, less than half the 114 seconds worth it was supposed to have,” the article said.

President Richard Nixon said the accomplishment, “will stand through the centuries as one supreme in human experience and profound in its meaning (for) generations to come.”

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Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, stands on the surface of the moon near the leg of the lunar module, Eagle, during the Apollo 11 moonwalk.

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