Anniversaries and a beginning
I live for anniversaries of all kinds, my way of keeping the past alive. So I set the target to begin this eclectic blog on this date.
Seventy years ago today, my father, a staff sergeant with the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division, was wounded in Belgium in the waning days of the Battle of the Bulge. He was leading two men on a patrol when they came under mortar fire. He was hit, splitting open right leg at the thigh to the bone. The other two on the patrol ran off and left him. “I don’t blame them,” he once told me, “One was a green replacement and the other, well, he’d seen too much action.” My father crawled through the snow, taking God knows how long, until he reached the American lines. “The minute I saw those guys, I couldn’t move another inch.”
He was safe. Or was he? Riding in an ambulance to the rear, they came under shell fire. “I remember the guy riding with me nervously lighting up a cigarette.”
His war was over. Or was it? He desperately wanted to get back to his outfit, G Company. Evacuated to England, he harangued the doctors into releasing him before he’d fully healed. “I really wasn’t in a shape to go back.” Luckily, the war ended while he was in transit.
Exactly one year to the day after being wounded, he got married. I often wondered why he chose that date. His sense of humor, I think. Plus, it’d be damn hard to forget your anniversary date.
His memory lives in my memory which I pass on to you. That is the stuff of this blog, not just personal ones but stuff like:
50th Anniversary of Gemini 2
Gemini 2 — you remember it, of course. January 19, 1965, one day before LBJ’s inauguration. the second and last unmanned test of the Gemini capsule, the first flight of a fully outfitted one, the final test before manned flight. Just an 18-minute suborbital flight, proving the ability of the heat shield and spacecraft to survive the highest stresses expected during launch and landing. Gemini 2, up and down and quickly forgotten.
Well, not completely. Gemini 2 lives on to this day in the re-entry footage shot through the command pilot’s window capturing the fiery ionization trail streaming from the capsule, swirling and flashing against the atmosphere, some of the best re-entry footage ever shot, still appearing in documentaries, sometimes as a stand-in for Apollo re-entries. I’ve even seen it used as a visual for an Apollo TLI burn.
Gemini 2 — living on into the 21st Century in that iconic film.
That stands for Translunar Injection, the third-stage burn that sent Apollo out of low Earth orbit. And that’s where we’re headed — beyond the bounds of the mind’s gravity.
We’re going to fly every flight together from Gemini to the moon, as if we were the pilot for each mission.