FORT ATKINSON, Wis. (WMTV) - When John Wolfram graduated from Fort Atkinson High School in 1967, he never expected to find himself two years later face-to-face with the astronauts from Apollo 11.
“At twenty years old, who thought I would be the first guy in the water to greet the astronauts?” wondered Wolfram.
Wolfram was born and raised in Fort Atkinson and joined the Navy. He was wounded while fighting in the Vietnam War before he was assigned to the USS Hornet.
“We all got excited about what was going on but little did we understand a month or two later that they would call on our team and that we would be the ones that would rescue Apollo 10 and 11,” he said.
His mission was to jump from a helicopter in the water and help tether the Apollo 11 space capsule back to the naval carrier.
“I would swim up and attach that sea anchor that was right underneath the hatch door window,” remembered Wolfram. “I was supposed to look in to see if the astronauts are OK.”
After receiving the initial thumbs-up from Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Wolfram remembers lots of smiles and high-fives.
“We got them out of the capsule and up in the helicopter and aboard the US hornet without any problems,” he recalled.
Wolfram shared this story with many Fort Atkinson residents at the Hoard Museum on Wednesday morning. Some were his family members, others fellow students with him in the Fort Atkinson Class of 1967.
“It’s always special when you get to come home,” he said.
While Wolfram reflected on the past fifty years, he’s also looking ahead to the future of NASA and space exploration.
“They want the first woman to land on the moon,” Wolfram said. “I mean if we keep trying there’s probably beyond Mars too.”
Wolfram will be giving another Apollo 11 talk on Sunday at Oak Creak Apostolic Church in Oak Creek.