Friday, January 28, 2011


Life Changing Event III. The 1960's (The Apollo Project ).
Wallace A. Johnson MBA
Commander Spaceship DEWAJ

I don't know who said it, but some wise sage is credited with saying that in one's lifetime, one goes through five important life changing events. I have given that some thought and I have decided to make those events the five major entry points for my blog. I have put them down as follows:

Event I. Growing Up In Havana, Cuba. 1925 to 1932
Event II Returning to USA. The Deppression years. 1932 to 1941.
Event III. Retiring From The Military and Joining North American Aviation. The Apollo Program. 1960 to 1970.
Event IV. Joining Litton Industries 1973 to Retirement 1992.
Event V. Current: Retired Living The Good Life.

This Article Covers Life Changing EVENT III. The Apollo Program. 1960 to 1970

When I hired on with North American Aviation, I was put on contract to the Strategic Air Command. I had a Top Secret Clearance and was acting as a civilian in-flight Inertial Navigation Instructor flying in B52's flying out of Columbus AFT, Mississippi. My duties taxed me physically and mentally. It was a very important job and I was proud to have been chosen to perform it. Keep in mind, although retired military, I was still considered a civilian, and I was flying 13 hour missions that covered much of the globe's geography requiring in-air refueling from KC135 tankers. All the while, the B52 had live nuclear weapons on board, and our training missions would take us from Mississippi to Chicago, Ill, where we would in a simulated strike, destroy the city of Chicago. We would then fly to Miami, destroy it, then fly out to the Gulf Of Mexico, refuel, fly to San Francisco, destroy it, then Seattle, followed by In-air refueling again, destroy Houston, then go back home to Columbus AFB, Mississippi. It was a responsible job that needed to be done, and I was qualified to fill that role. But the realization that should some adversary decide to attack us with nuclear weapons, finding us at war, knowing that the attack profile under those circumstances with a B52 which I was flying in, with a certainty of 100%, that I would never return home, made me realize that at any moment I could be experiencing a Life Changing Event for sure.

Imagine how pleased I was to realize that the Company I worked for had won the Apollo Contract. I can still hear President Kennedy making his speech to the Congress and saying "First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish." Imagine my mind racing at the thought. As important as my present job was, what could compare with the possibility of being involved with such a noble endeavor. I immediately went about the business of finding out just how I could somehow get involved with the program. I put in for vacation and flew out to the West Coast where my home was in Long Beach, Ca. just a few miles from Downy, Ca. the home of North American Aviation. I ultimately met Dr. Joel Canby who was the department head of the Human Factors Group who were working on the Apollo Program. It took me about four months, but ultimately, Dr. Canby had me assigned to his group and I transferred back to Downy and started the most amazing Event of my life up to that point.
I had the pleasure of meeting and closely working with the "Original Seven Apollo Mission Astronauts" chosen for the Lunar Landing Mission.

Group members
* Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr., USN, (1923–1998)
MR-3 (Freedom 7), Apollo 14
* Virgil Ivan (Gus) Grissom, USAF, (1926–1967)
MR-4 (Liberty Bell 7), Gemini 3, Apollo 1
* John Herschel Glenn Jr., USMC, (born 1921)
MA-6 (Friendship 7), STS-95
* Malcolm Scott Carpenter, USN, (born 1925)
MA-7 (Aurora 7)
* Walter Marty (Wally) Schirra Jr., USN, (1923–2007)
MA-8 (Sigma 7), Gemini 6A, Apollo 7
* Leroy Gordon Cooper Jr., USAF, (1927–2004)
MA-9 (Faith 7), Gemini 5
* Donald Kent (Deke) Slayton, USAF, (1924–1993)
Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

All of these men were very close to my age at the time and now that I am 85 myself, many of them have made the transition which we all will eventually make, leaving these earthy bounds and becoming once and for all part of the Cosmic realm.

Wallace Johnson MBA MCEC
Apollo Project Test Pilot
Commander Spaceship DEWAJ


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