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  Apollo recovery ships' captains and helo pilots

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Author Topic:   Apollo recovery ships' captains and helo pilots
Lou Chinal

Posts: 946
From: Staten Island, NY
Registered: Jun 2007

posted 09-23-2009 01:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A friend of mine Randy, recently sent me some old copies of "Naval Aviation News".

There was an article in there that I thought might be of interest to cSPACE'rs: There was a table listing the recovery ships and the helicopter pilots, so here goes:

  • Apollo VII Oct. 11-22, 1968
    Ship - Comm Off. Essex- Capt. J.A. Harkins
    Recovery Pilot- Cdr. E.A. Skube

  • Apollo VIII Dec. 21-27, 1968
    Ship - Comm Off. Yorktown- Capt.J.G. Fifield
    Recovery Pilot- Cdr.G.M. Rankin

  • Apollo IX Mar. 3-13, 1969
    Ship - Comm Off. Guadalcanal- Capt.R.M. Sudduth
    Recovery Pilot- Cdr. G.M. Rankin

  • Apollo X May 18-26, 1969
    Ship - Comm Off. Princeton - Capt. F.T. Stephens
    Recovery Pilot- Cdr. C.B. Smiley

  • Apollo XI July 16-24 1969
    Ship - Comm Off. Hornet - Capt. C.J. Seiberlich
    Recovery Pilot - Cdr. D.S. Jones

  • Apollo XII Nov. 14-24, 1969
    Ship - Comm Off. Hornet - Capt.C.J. Seiberlich
    Recovery Pilot - Cdr. W.E. Aut

  • Apollo XIII Apr. 11-17, 1970
    Ship - Comm Off. Iwo Jima - Capt. L.E. Kirkemo
    Recovery Pilot - Cdr. C.B. Smiley

  • Apollo XIV Jan.31-Feb.9, 1971
    Ship - Comm Off. New Orleans - Capt. R.E. Moore
    Recovery Pilot - Cdr.W.E. Walker

  • Apollo XV July 26-Aug.7, 1971
    Ship - Comm Off. Okinawa - Capt. A.F. Huff
    Recovery Pilot - Cdr. S.A. Coakley

  • Apollo XVI Apr. 16-24, 1972
    Ship - Comm Off. Ticonderoga - Capt.E.A. Boyd
    Recovery Pilot - Cdr. Arnie Fieser

  • Apollo XVII Dec. 7-19, 1972
    Ship - Comm Off. Ticonderoga - Capt. N.K. Green
    Recovery Pilot - Cdr. E.E. Dahill
Don't thank me, thank Randy. He deserves the good guy award of the month. I hope this helps some cS'ers who are recovery buffs out there. (Randy, I'm going to send you a few bucks for postage, even though you didn't ask for it.)


Posts: 222
From: Bratislava, Slovakia
Registered: Apr 2009

posted 09-23-2009 04:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lasv3   Click Here to Email Lasv3     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This list fits very well with the one published in "Splashdown! (NASA and the Navy)" by Don Blair, except two differences:

According to the above book the Apollo 8 Recovery Pilot was Cdr. Jones and USS Princeton Commanding Officer in Apollo 10 recovery was Capt. Cruse.

To make it a little bit more complicated the book "Apollo: The Definitive Sourcebook" by David Orloff and David M. Harland gives Carl Cruise as a Princeton Commanding Officer for Apollo 10 recovery and Frank Hamler (Ticonderoga) for both Apollo 16 and 17.

And these differences we have "only" after 40 years - what will be there in 100 years time?


Posts: 555
From: South Carolina
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 09-23-2009 04:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you for sharing this. It's an interesting table, and those of us who collect this kind of information appreciate it!

One correction: According to multiple sources (including Yorktown's Apollo 8 mini-cruisebook and the live coverage of the recovery), the crew of the recovery helicopter for 8 was Cdr. Don Jones, Lcdr. Carl Frank, AWC Norvel Wood and AW2 James Dorsey.

Jones (the CO of HS-4 at the time) and Chief Wood repeated their respective roles on the Apollo 11 recovery. Apollo 8 was also the first of the five recoveries accomplished with "Old 66," the famous SH-3D.

On edit: The post above this one is correct about Capt. Carl Cruse being Princeton's CO during the Apollo 10 recovery. Capt. Stephens became CO later in 1969.


Posts: 373
From: Australia
Registered: Jul 2003

posted 09-23-2009 09:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ross   Click Here to Email Ross     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The above list of prime recovery ship's captains including the correction of Captain Carl Cruse for Apollo 10 agrees with the list on my Recovery Ship Cover and Postmark website.

For those who are interested my site lists the captains of all PRSs from Mercury Atlas 1 to ASTP. I am, however, looking for the captain of the USS Lake Champlain for Gemini 2 and Gemini 5 and the USS La Salle for MOL. I also need confirmation of a couple of the early PRS captains (I've marked them with a '?'). Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I also hope to eventually list the Recovery Helicopter pilots for all the missions so the above list will prove to be very useful.

Thanks to Lou and Randy.


Posts: 889
From: Ajax, Ontario, Canada
Registered: Apr 2008

posted 09-23-2009 10:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Did I read correctly that Old 66 crashed and was lost?

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 27328
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 09-23-2009 10:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, see: Location of Apollo recovery helicopter 66?

(There is also some more recent mention in the thread: Spent rocket stages.)

And Dwayne Day's The Space Review articles:

Lou Chinal

Posts: 946
From: Staten Island, NY
Registered: Jun 2007

posted 09-23-2009 01:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I can't vouch for the authenticity of the information here. I just copied it from the "Naval Aviation News", February 1973 issue. It said that LCdr. Paul Mullane was the Editor and Harold Andrews was the Techincal Advisor.

Anyone who wants to add to it, go right ahead. I know that there are more than just a few recovery types out there that would find this interesting, I know I did.


Posts: 1239
From: Washington, DC, USA
Registered: Apr 2003

posted 09-23-2009 08:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for micropooz   Click Here to Email micropooz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ross, great list! I had made one up a long time ago, but it wasn't nearly as comprehensive as yours.

The CO of the Lake Champlain for GT5 was James Longino, Jr., (ref).

With respect to one of your question marks, I also have Weymouth down as the CO for the Lake on MR3, but I didn't list my reference when I made up my list.

And in the "fun facts to know and tell" category, the CO of the USS Kiowa (ATF-72, prime recovery ship for the Able-Baker monkey flight on May 28, 1959, was Lt. Joseph Guion. He just spoke to our local Space Unit chapter in DC/Baltimore a couple of weeks ago. A debrief will come out in an upcoming Astrophile.


Posts: 1488
From: Brimfield, MA
Registered: Mar 2002

posted 09-23-2009 08:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ejectr   Click Here to Email ejectr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I met the recovery pilot from Apollo 7 at a company 25th anniversary party in 1992. He was the guest of our Mid Atlantic Regional Sales Manager.

He was amazed that I knew the names of the 3 astronauts of Apollo 7. He shared some stories about the recovery and their brief stay aboard the carrier.

He actually seemed more amazed at my Navy career than his own. Nice guy. Very unassuming.


Posts: 77
From: Troy Michigan USA
Registered: May 2009

posted 09-28-2009 08:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MichaelD   Click Here to Email MichaelD     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As for old 66, did they ever plot her latitude and longitude, and confirm if she is in 220ft or 800fm of water?

Is anyone serious to recover her?


Posts: 300
From: Martinez, CA, USA
Registered: Nov 2000

posted 01-16-2010 11:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cfreeze79   Click Here to Email cfreeze79     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From the survivor and rescuers accounts, the helicopter was likely destroyed on impact with the water. The "220 foot" divers have not been found, and fall into the realm of "urban legends" in my opinion.

Of course, it would have been nice if Dwayne Day had contacted me in the writing of his article, as I was the one who pressured the Navy to release the mishap report, and pushed the now-indefinite effort to recover #66.

All times are CT (US)

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