Annapolis Roads, June 1944

From the Class of 1947's Shipmate Column (September 2016)

"Annapolis roads, June1944. Anchored and waiting in New York. BB34, vet of WWI and the only battleship reputed to have sunk a “U” boat. Eight 14” main battery in four duel turrets and myriads of broadside and aa, from 5” to 20mm. Teak decks and wartime grey. It was awesome!! She was waiting for aspiring Admirals to embark for a training cruise to the Caribbean. We boarded with sea bags and hammocks having been told we would be “hammock” sleepers on this voyage. However, our quarters were fitted with bunks and fireproof bedding. The combo over the starboard fire room and no air circulation was not too comfy. We soon “upgraded” to the deck under a turret and let the ocean breeze cool us as the New York proceeded to the tropics.

Our first stop was Norfolk for provisioning and arming. Those 14” projectiles were formidable and handling them was challenging! We did it, of course, with plenty of help from the crew. Actually we were the help. An occasional dropped case of melons heading for the wardroom provided some refreshment on a hot Virginia day.

We left Norfolk and proceeded to the Atlantic. The deep blue was beautiful and crossing the green river of the Gulf Stream was surprising. A green river in the ocean!!!

I was assigned as “first powder monkey” in the 14” turret. Just lift the powder from the scuttle to the loading tray. Tiny Atkins “46” was mid’n turret captain. He cautioned me not to drop the bag with the red end!!!!! 'Nuff said.

We stopped at Gitmo for a bit of R&R and briefing on the up coming exercises, AA and main battery. There was a naval historian aboard so he was provided with a good show.

We stood all the watches in all departments. Had lots of GQ and other drills.

I especially enjoyed the engine room. Triple expansion reciprocating (the largest and last on a navy ship). Here was naked power. Every moving part was visible. Pistons, crankshaft, connecting rods etc., hissing, clanking and water was everywhere. It was like being inside an internal combustion engine while it worked. You could also walk into the shaft alley and see the screw shafts slowly pushing the old dreadnought on her way.

On the way to Trinidad we lived the sailors life. Chipped paint, holy stoned the decks and all the watches. CIC was air cooled so it was a pleasant four hours and, of course, it was the nerve center of activities. Trinidad was great. We enjoyed shore leave and a few “rum and colas”. Soaked up the history on a guided tour. On the way back we put on a show for the ship. Hula girls (a la SOUTH PACIFIC). Chorus line music and entertainment. One of us did a take off of Jimmy Durante and he was known as “SCHNOZZOLA”."

“La Hazaña Espacial” -- NASA's 1969 Moon Landing

By Chester H. “Chet” Shaddeau, Jr. '47

2008 marks fifty years since President Dwight Eisenhower on the 29th of July 1958 signed the enabling Bill which created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration , so the below may be considered a sort of birthday celebration for NASA -- in whose cosmic vineyard I toiled happily for twenty-three years.

Quite naturally,  the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon in July of 1969 was a high point of my seven-year assignment in Chile as Station Director (STADIR) of NASA’s Satellite Tracking and Data Network (STDN) Station, located near the tiny village of Colina, some 25 miles north of Santiago, Chile’s capital.

First off, the reader should be aware that the function of the STDN was the tracking, telemetry, and command of the unmanned scientific satellites which still -- as then -- account for an enormous portion of NASA’s space activity.  Without question, though, the idea of manned flight much more completely captured the imagination and interest of the world at large.  Since the Station Directors (about twenty of us, worldwide) were NASA’s only local reps, we simply became  de facto, the point of the sword in the public information job.

From the time of my 1963 arrival on site in my initial NASA posting -- at Lima,  Peru -- and continuing with ever-increasing intensity when I moved on to the much larger station in Chile, a great part of my time was dedicated to lecturing at Universities, traveling to the smaller cities, talking to scientific groups and other segments of the public, and physically demonstrating as well as discussing the basics of space science  and describing NASA’s plans and program.

These trips were frequently scheduled and arranged by the U.S. Information Service (USIS), who also provided films, models, and other  visual props. The whole field was new to almost everyone, so rocket  propulsion, telemetry, orbital mechanics, classical astronomy,  and even basic physics needed a great deal of hands-on explanation before the man in the street could even begin to appreciate the whole panorama. (NB: The writer, too, had more than a little brushing-up to do!)

The early work of Newton, Kepler and Copernicus, as well as that of Tsiolkovsky and Goddard needed to be explained, in order to provide a logical link to the feats of Gagarin, Leonov,  Glenn, and Shepard, and  to the days of the Mercury, Gemini  and  Apollo flights.  As  the U.S. program progressed into the early circumlunar flights, it was clear that the interest of the public -- in Chile as well as throughout the world -- was focusing ever more closely on NASA’s plans and announced schedule.You may be sure that NASA’s Santiago STADIR was as  keyed-up as anyone!

For me, an added degree of anticipation was provided when it was announced that Neil Armstrong would command the Apollo 11 mission. I had worked with Armstrong earlier when, together with his fellow Gemini astronaut CDR Richard Gordon, he had made a 13-nation tour of South America in 1967, and Santiago was host to the group for a four-day official visit, including a scheduled day of rest, with the astronauts and their wives getting a day to unwind and to relax from their crushing public schedule.  The Ambassador  had designated me as Control Officer for that visit -- a little unusual, for such celebrity visits were generally handled by Foreign Service Officers of the Department of State.

In order to get things right, I flew to Buenos Aires, and followed every step of their visit there, commencing with their arrival, and phoning back every night to my Deputy STADIR in Santiago, Bill Edeline, to ensure that we avoided  any pitfalls and problems  I might have noted in Buenos Aires, to make certain that we learned ahead of time what seemed to work most successfully, and in general  to make the Chilean visit a success.  I then flew  back to Santiago in the NASA aircraft  with the astronaut party, and briefed them while in flight over the Andes as to what we had in store for them.  It all worked flawlessly, including an informal  visit at home with Chile’s President Eduardo Frei; another  to the STDN Station, absolutely entrancing our 300 employees;one to the village of Colina, where Gordon, an accomplished horseman, joined the local cowboys, both in their mounted parade and in their conspicuous consumption of the local Andean corn-based beer -- chicha --  drinking it from ceremonial cups made of cowhorns; and a halftime appearance at the National Stadium during a nighttime soccer match attended by 80,000, as well as dozens of other activities.
That visit had established a friendship with Gordon and  Armstrong  (both Naval aviators) which I cherish to this day, and of course I was in 1969 especially fascinated by the upcoming moon landing because I already knew the flight’s Commander -- among other things, we had found that we shared a mutual preference  for  Chile’s trademark grape brandy libation, the Pisco sour , over  the cowboys’ chicha!

It is hard to realize in today’s world of everyday satellite communication and television linkage around the world that these activities only became possible after NASA had put communications satellites such as Telstar and its successors into service, commencing in 1962.  By the time that the Apollo program had progressed to the stage where a lunar landing was imminent, worldwide  TV linkage through such satellites, while still costly and infrequent, was available,  and a large part of the impact of the Apollo program on the world’s public was  a result of the conscious effort by the USIA and NASA to ensure that insofar as possible,  reporting of the flights -- including our failures and difficulties -- took place uncensored and in real time , in the full sight of the world.  The obvious comparison with the Soviet Union’s  secretive approach  was not lost on the world public.

During my years of speeches and public appearances in Chile , and in the coverage of the earlier manned flights, every TV channel in Santiago had, at  some time, invited me to appear on one or another of their programs, and a TV partnership had grown up between me and Santiago’s veteran USIS Press Officer, Harry Kendall.  Harry had had years of experience as Liaison Officer between USIA and NASA , based at Houston from the time of the first Mercury flights, and observing all their launches to ensure that overseas posts were fully informed, so it was natural that on the occasion of the actual Lunar Landing, we worked together.  The local American community saw us together on TV coverage of NASA flights so often that they dubbed us the “Chet and Harry Show”, which will strike a chord if you are old enough to remember how popular Chet  and David (Huntley and Brinkley) were in that era.  Harry’s detailed familiarity with the manned flight program was a gold mine of information for the answering of questions from enthusiastic audiences, and we both became familiar faces on nationwide Chilean TV.

On the actual date of the approach and landing on the lunar surface by Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin, Channel 13 -- the Catholic University’s station  -- assembled a sort of round table of commentators, consisting of local scientific, news, astronomy, and political personalities, as well as a station announcer as “animador”, plus Kendall and myself.  For several hours before the actual landing we alternated at commentary on the flight’s progress as well as reporting and explaining the accelerated level of activity reported from Houston Control, and  the live coverage of the astronauts themselves.

As the evening progressed, the comments of the astronauts and of Houston’s controllers became extremely abbreviated, and referred to some pretty arcane bits of information, relating to meter readings, flight attitude, and specific pieces of equipment.  In these instances, the group turned to Kendall or myself for clarification of the jargon involved, because as time went on it sounded less and less like the formal English some of them had learned in schools. The producer finally proposed to me that I simply do a “voice-over”
simultaneous interpretation of the NASA broadcast, allowing the English to be heard and then immediately translating it into Spanish during the pauses--simultaneously editing as necessary to make it fit into the time available. This method was  quite workable, since the astronauts and the controllers wasted no words, but spoke somewhat laconically, concentrating on their efforts, and almost always leaving appreciable spaces in between phrases -- not to mention the built-in three-second delays occasioned by the distance over which the transmitted voices had to travel to and from the earth!

As “Eagle” -- the lunar Landing Module -- continued its descent, I noticed that larger and larger numbers of station technicians, who had previously been working at their TV production tasks, plus costumers, make-up assistants, and others, were crouching on the floor, looking up at the large-screen display of the NASA satellite feed from Houston which was behind our stage set, instead of going about their jobs behind the scenes.  I finally realized that the lighting had gradually changed, and that there were two baby spot key lights on me, with the rest of the stage in darkness, and that the whole broadcast had been reduced to retransmitting the satellite feed, with occasional cuts to me to explain where that “gringo” voice with the funny accent was coming from.

And so, right down to the surface of the moon, and until I translated “Houston -- aquí la Base Tranquilidad.  El Aguila ha alunizado!”, ‘that’s the way it was’.Then everybody in the studio gave themselves over to cheering and deliriously pounding each other on the back while the action on the screen became  less tense, and while NASA made preparations for the astronauts’ descent from the lander to the Moon’s surface.
Everything else about that landing felt a little anticlimactic, even though the Lunar  Module’s capability to lift off from the Moon’s surface, put itself into orbit, and rejoin the Command Module, in which Mike Collins  was orbiting the Moon, had yet to be successfully proven. 

In the event, that too was perfect, as was every other public aspect of the flight. No account of that evening in Santiago would be complete, however,  without one morepersonal recollection. It will be remembered that the astronauts unveiled a commemorative plaque and then, during the setup of the scientific instrument package  (ALSEP), which they would leave operating on the Moon, they also unfurled a U.S. flag, which Aldrin saluted while Armstrong took his picture.  A bitter preflight hassle at Houston had  eventually concluded that to avoid charges of “Yanqui imperialism”, they would NOT --- as originally planned -- broadcast the United States’ national anthem from Houston at this point.  The question was moot in Santiago.

Channel 13 management, on their own initiative, and without discussing it with any of the other participants, played “The Star-Spangled Banner” over Chilean TV at this point, and everyone in  the studio cheered wildly when it ended.I, for my part, simply shed  tears of joy and pride -- both for my own beloved country and for Chile, where I was lucky enough to  live for over seven happy years, and whose land and people  I came to love quite as I do my own.

I am shedding those same tears of joy again as I write this -- and remember that night.  Viva Chile!  Viva NASA! 


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