March 17, 1966

I have mentioned before that my father stole fire from the sun. At least that’s what his daughters believe.

He sent me this email a few days ago. Of course, I was raised listening to this story over and over again. It never grows old. I’m not a fan of falling or of drowning, so the image of my dad jumping from a helicopter into the ocean fills me with awe, even now. He has copies of each of the photos shown below. They are the artwork of my family history, as familiar as any family photo. Dad was nineteen years old at the time of this jump.

On this day in ARS History astronauts Neil Armstrong and David Scott blasted into space on the Gemini 8 mission. Their flight was aborted after only six orbits and the capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean 500 miles east of Okinawa. A three man PJ team consisting of Sergeant Larry Huyett, Eldridge Neal, and Glen Moore, jumped from an HC-54 to the spacecraft. This was the first time USAF air rescue forces came to the rescue of a Gemini capsule; and the first time PJs attached a flotation collar on a Gemini space capsule. The astronauts, spacecraft, and PJs were recovered by the USS Mason. (source data from Pararescue 50 Years)

This was a HIGH-visibility mission at a critical time. The PJs were invited on the Ed Sullivan show, and the publicity added support for approval of the beret and bloused boots – the distinctive uniform we wear today.

NASA Photo ID: S66-18603, File Name: 10074316.jpg Film Type: 120mm
Date Taken: 03/17/66
Title: Gemini 8 crew stands on deck of recovery vessel

Description: The Gemini 8 crew stands on the deck of the recovery vessel, the U.S.S. Leonard F. Mason, with three U.S. Air Force pararescue men. Left to right (standing) are Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, command pilot; A/2C Glenn M. Moore; Astronaut David R. Scott, pilot; kneeling, left to right are A/1C Eldridge M. Neal; and S/Sgt Larry D. Huyett.

Photo source – submitted to USAF U.S.A.F. Pararescue Association Digital Historical Archive by multiple sources

7 thoughts on “March 17, 1966

  1. How awesome! I'm calling my 12 year old over right now to come see these!

    I wish my grandfather had shared more of his experiences with me when he was in WWII. I would like to know some of those stories now, but they are gone. I did manage to have him write some stories out for me in his final years when we were communicating through email. One of them has some lasting record in the movie Midway. A crisis landing in a Corsair he was piloting was made to look like “actual footage” in one scene even though it didn't happen during the Battle of Midway.

  2. that's so awesome!!!

  3. Which one is your Dad? So cool! My grandfather retired as a 4-star general in the air force, and when he retired, he was interviewed for the air force archives about his career. One of my most prized posessions is a transcription of the interview, which spans his entire career from when he graduated from West Point in the late 30's until he retired in the 70's. He was a bomber pilot in WWII and partipated in the landing at Normandy.

  4. Cool stories, ladies.

    Uh, I suppose you wouldn't know my dad's name, huh? He's the short guy between the astronauts and is on the right side of the capsule in the water picture.

  5. Hi Michelle
    My Dad worked on the gyro and navigation systems inside the rocket and the capsule. He had a photo of this in his office, the pre-flight and the post flight. Funny your Dad was on his wall…. 🙂
    Barb S.

  6. That is REALLY cool, Michelle!!!
    – Deb

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