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Lee's Summit man recalls his role in the recovery of Apollo 11

USS Hornet
Posted at 9:06 PM, Jul 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-20 23:18:05-04

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo.  — While many celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, a Lee's Summit, Missouri man recalled his role in its recovery.

During David Landes' 21 years in the United States Marine Corps, he spent nearly two years on the USS Hornet, the ship that recovered the Apollo 11 astronauts once they splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.

"It was a WWII Essex class carrier, and it replaced the Hornet that had launched the Doolittle raid, that ship had been sunk," Landes said.

After finishing a tour in Vietnam, Landes said the ship got the call.

"Got the word, we got back from overseas, and we got the word that we had been selected as the prime recovery ship for Apollo 11," Landes recalled.

The USS Hornet left Long Beach and headed to Pearl Harbor to begin training for the recovery mission. Landes said it was a lot of work, but prepared them for July 24, 1969.

"I don't think it really impressed me until a few years later, that I had been a witness to a little bit of history, both with Apollo 11 and Apollo 12. We picked it up too," he said.

The recovery day felt like a normal work day for Landes, until President Nixon arrived on board.

"The rest of the day, for the most part, until everybody left, I was standing at attention some place and that's what most of us were doing," Landes said.

As Landes looked through old pictures, he remembered the day vividly.

"Mike Collins looked up and stuck his hand up and I nodded to him and kept walking," he said.

Landes has several books, memories and a framed piece of the Apollo 11 capsule that splashed down hanging in his office.

"This piece of foil I took off the Command Module, right between the the hatch and the handrail, and I know I wasn't the only one," Landes said.