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 Post subject: Christmas 1968
PostPosted: Wed Dec 26, 2018 11:20 pm 
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Location: Boise, Idaho USA
I told this story to a lot of people this evening at the monthly Story, Story Night
event where we are given 5 minutes to tell a true story.


Exactly 50 years ago, on Christmas Eve, a momentous event occurred during my
lifetime which I can only describe as "A Golden moment" in history. The
year 1968 was a year of incredible turbulence in America. For me, it started
while my ship, a destroyer, was preparing to return home from an 8 month tour
in the waters off Vietnam. We had spent Christmas 1967 in Sasebo, Japan and
were anxious to go back home to our families, but our return trip was delayed
by one month when we were ordered to head at full speed to the Sea of Japan.
The USS Pueblo (AGER-2) had been captured by North Korea. We were told that
if the USS Peublo were to be recovered it would be our ship that would go in
to Wonsan Harbor and bring her out. Unfortunately, the Johnson administration
chose to have our fleet depart the area never to again return. The taking of
the Pueblo and the abuse and torture of its crew over the next 11 months
became a major cold war incident. The USS Pueblo, still held by North Korea
today, is the only U.S. Navy commissioned ship still being held captive by the
enemy. That's how 1968 started for me. Not a good start.

I want to talk about how it ended, but not until I remind you all about what a
horrendous year 1968 really was for America and the world. It has been often
called the most historic year in modern American history. The Tet offensive
in Vietnam was the cause of a large loss of life of American soldiers and
Marines. It sparked an anti-war movement that led to riots in Chicago during
the Democratic Convention that could arguably have helped Richard Nixon be
elected president that year. It witnessed the assassinations of Martin Luther
King and Robert Kennedy, and the rise of the black power movement that even
affected the Olympic athletes. There was the My Lai massacre of Vietnam
civilians by the U.S. Army that caused Americans to distrust and disrespect
our military. Young men were being drafted and dying at an alarming rate in a
foreign country.

I joined the Navy in 1961, being promised I would get a education as an
electrical engineer. I grew up watching movies and reading books about World
War 2 and I felt a genuine pride in being an American and thought that the
U.S. Navy would be a good career move. It was a time of peace and prosperity
in the world. America was leading the post war world and showing every
country how we wage peace with the Marshall plan, NATO and the United Nations.
There was a genuine feeling that this bunch of American leaders were truly the
greatest generation. But by the end of 1968, it was becoming apparent that
our leaders were failing us and that there seemed to be very little hope for a
good outcome of the cold war and even much worry that the moon project could
end in disaster.

By Christmas, 1968, the mood in America was much like the mood is today,
exactly 50 years later. We had lost faith in our leaders and our people were
restless. But while all this turbulence was going on, the leaders of NASA
made a momentus decision to change the entire game plan for getting to the
moon by the end of the decade. It became apparent that the mission of Apollo
8 must be modified to orbit the moon before Christmas. This orbit was
originally scheduled for Apollo 9 in 1969, but now it was more important than
ever that we need to get there before the Russians did and that appeared to be
imminent. It was a huge gamble with many risks. These brave men knew that
their odds of a successful mission was less than 50 percent, but this was war.
They all knew that the moon project was the most important feature of the cold
war. If the Russians beat us to the moon, we lose the war.

Well, it is now in the history books that we made it to the moon before the
Russians did, but it wasn't Neil Armstrong's message in 1969 that was the
golden moment, in my humble opinion. It was the message that was broadcast
from the 3 astronauts on Apollo 8 to the largest television audience in history
on Christmas Eve. The message was 2 minutes long. They took turns reading
from the Book of Genesis and then Frank Borman finished with this:

"And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry
Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth."


When I heard this on my television on that Christmas Eve, 50 years ago, it
nearly took my breath away. I get emotional every time I talk about it.
This message lifted my spirit and the spirits of people all over the world. It
gave us a sense that everything is going to be ok for humanity. There are
still good people in charge and we can look forward to replacing failures with
successes in the future. What was poignant to me about this message is that
it was one in which all people on the Earth could relate. It was a uniting
message, not a dividing one. Nearly all religions on Earth believed in the
story of creation as told in the Book of Genesis, not just Christians. It was
another moment of brilliance in the leadership of NASA, and it was Golden.
Even the Russian astronauts who heard the message said later they knew that
it was that moment which lost them the race to the moon and maybe even the
cold war.

It may not seem like it now, but there will come a time in the future when
great leaders will again fill our institutions, the Congress and the White
House. And if you have the good fortune to witness another moment like this,
don't forget to tell your grandchildren.

Book recommendations:

Rocket Men - Robert Kurson
Apollo 8 - Jeffrey Kluger
Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8 - Grover Gardner

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 Post subject: Re: Christmas 1968
PostPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2018 9:18 am 
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Joined: Sun Jan 18, 2015 11:43 am
Posts: 463
Location: Slovakia
Hi Roger,

...with small delay but I want say "Merry
Christmas – and God bless all of you"

In 1968 I could not see in live Apollo mission on Moon, before I was born 1969 :)
So I beleive this was big moment for all peoples on Earth.

I had about 5-6 years and my parents bring me from Russia very nice toy russian Lunochod with battery operated. This was my best toy how I sometimes have :)


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