There are some significant dates that stick in my mind and I can clearly remember what I was doing at the time.
I remember listening to an old valve radio in my bedroom on the day that President Kennedy was shot. I was driving to Canberra on the day that Princess Dianna died and I watched the planes fly into the World Trade Centre on 9/11 as I was getting dressed before going to work.
I was a soldier in Vietnam when the astronauts landed on the moon.
That day was July 21, fifty years ago. My American friends will remember it as happening on July 20, but because we are on the other side of the International Date Line, it was already the next day for us.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of me being posted to a transport unit in Vietnam. I can’t believe where all those years have gone, and I guess that it is the same for all those involved in the Apollo 11 mission.
I kept a diary while I was in Vietnam and if you haven’t already read it, you can find it here. My diary entry for July 21 reads:
“Somehow, I’m back on the CSM’s (Company Sergeant Major’s) work party. We spent all day pulling down dead branches from the rubber trees and taking them to the tip. I learnt how to tie crown knots and splice rope today. The hoist on the truck stopped working so I had to take it to the LAD (Light Aid Detachment, or in civilian terms, the workshop) for repair.
We all took some time out during the day to keep an eye on the TV set in the recreation hut and watch the men on the moon. It seems incredible that man can actually be on the moon, let alone that we can see it on TV during a war.
We finished off the day by cleaning up the canteen.
The Artillery fired consistently tonight. There is a bang and a whoosh and then some time later, a second bang when the shell hits the target and explodes. Our gunners like Australian ammo best as they only have to set the fuse. With American Ammo, they have to make up the fuse, prime it and then set it in the round.”
(Our TV was tuned into the American Forces TV Network which was set up to provide entertainment to US and Allied Forces in Vietnam).
At the time. Jill was early into her career as a school teacher. She had a Prep Grade at Warrandyte Primary School and recollects having a small black and white TV set that sat on top of the piano in her class room .All the three prep grade classes in the school crowded into her classroom to watch the big event.
I also remember visiting the Smithsonian Institute in Washington and seeing the Apollo 11 spacecraft. I couldn’t believe how small and primitive it was. I often think whenever I turn on my iPhone that it has as much computing power as the computers that were used to plan and support the moon mission. Those three astronauts on that mission were indeed very brave!
I used to ask people what they were doing when the moon landing happened as a conversation starter but too many, now, weren’t even born then.