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  Freedom 7 (MR-3): Joe Schmitt's changing shirts

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Author Topic:   Freedom 7 (MR-3): Joe Schmitt's changing shirts
ColinBurgess
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From: Sydney, Australia
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posted 03-10-2013 06:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm a little confused as I work out photographs to illustrate my next book, "Freedom 7: The Historic Flight of Alan B. Shepard, Jr." I have numerous photographs of the launch day activities concerning the suiting up of Alan Shepard prior to his Mercury flight, including the excellent disc prepared by J.L. Pickering, yet even though the NASA ID numbers in this disc are sequential, I've noticed that suit technician Joe Schmitt mysteriously seems to change his shirt three times that morning.

One moment he's wearing what seems to be a plain white shirt; then he is wearing a shirt with vertical pin-striping; then he is wearing a rather loud shirt with something like a floral pattern on white.

Can somebody clarify for me exactly what shirt Joe was wearing on launch morning, as I want to ensure I use the correct suiting-up photos.

ejectr
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posted 03-11-2013 07:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ejectr   Click Here to Email ejectr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Can't remember his screen name on cS, but his grandson used to be on the forum.

ColinBurgess
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posted 03-11-2013 11:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Many thanks: I conducted a search through the collectSPACE archives but couldn't locate him.

It may seem a rather silly thing to be asking about what shirt Joe was wearing on the MR-3 launch day, but so many photos of him wearing three different shirts are captioned as being the launch day suit-up and suit pressure tests.

The same actually goes for Gordon Cooper in the blockhouse on Shepard's launch day; he is somehow wearing two different shirts and it's rather confusing trying to work out which photos were taken on launch day or on earlier occasions.

heng44
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posted 03-12-2013 01:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for heng44   Click Here to Email heng44     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Only one of the many problems that photo historians face...

Especially in the early days NASA wasn't always accurate with dates.

ejectr
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posted 03-12-2013 06:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ejectr   Click Here to Email ejectr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't know if there are any posts with this person saying he is his grandson, but he and I struck up an off line conversation and he told me. I asked him to ask his grandfather if he knew my cousin who was a suit tech for David Clark Company.

Maybe he'll see this thread and contact you Colin. Wish I could be more help.

There is another gentleman on this site that once gave me Joe's current phone number so I could call and ask him directly. He told me he loved to talk about the old days. Maybe that gentleman would be kind enough to do the same for you. He posts regularly on the forum. I've since lost the number.

garymilgrom
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posted 03-12-2013 06:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Lou Chinal seems expert on Mercury - could you be referring to him?

ColinBurgess
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posted 03-12-2013 06:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks to all: I do have Joe's address in Texas and his home phone number, but as he is 97 years old I'm somewhat loathe to place a "cold" call to him. However if I can't get a definitive answer elsewhere I'll consider giving him a call.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-12-2013 07:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just took out Retro Space Images' MR-3 disc to look at the photos in question. I would say you can rule out the vertical stripe shirt as launch day, because Schmitt is not wearing a launch badge/button (whereas he has it on the white shirt and the floral pattern).

Grissom might be the clue however, to distinguishing the two remaining shirts. In photo MR3-0382, Grissom is wearing a tie with a tie clip towards the bottom and Schmitt has the white shirt on. In MR3-0407, Grissom has a darker tie on with what appears to be two buttons or tie tacs and Schmitt is in the floral print.

Now in MR3-0505, Grissom is at the pad with Shepard, and he's wearing the lighter tie with the clip at the bottom. So that would lead me to believe that Schmitt was wearing the plain white shirt on the day of the launch.

nasamad
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posted 03-18-2013 05:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for nasamad   Click Here to Email nasamad     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This forum never ceases to amaze me!

Some people wouldn't do this kind of thing if you paid them, yet we all do this just for that little tiny bit of extra knowledge and accuracy, and of course to help out a fellow cS'er.

We'd all still be hanging around on alt.space.history if you hadn't started this site Robert.

chet
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posted 03-18-2013 12:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Now in MR3-0505, Grissom is at the pad with Shepard, and he's wearing the lighter tie with the clip at the bottom. So that would lead me to believe that Schmitt was wearing the plain white shirt on the day of the launch.
Not so sure about that:

ColinBurgess
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posted 03-18-2013 04:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Chet, there are five important words in the caption on that Associated Press photo: HOLD FOR RELEASE AT LAUNCH. Even though the date plastered on it is 5/5, the evidence shows that it was not taken on launch day at all - in fact it was probably taken a few days earlier on what was presumably a pressure test on the suit. It would then be released to the world media as a "launch day" photo - even though it was not.

The determining factor for me, as pointed out by Robert Pearlman - and I fully concur - is that the pressure test took place a little before Shepard would have strolled out to the transfer van for transportation over to the launch pad. So why would Gus Grissom have changed his tie between the pressure test and escorting Al out to the launch pad? Robert and I have both studied (thanks to J.L. Pickering's excellent Freedom 7 set of photographs) the hi-res set of shots pertaining to launch day and the earlier delay or test days and have come up with a number of anomolies.

The biggest problem is with NASA's sloppy labelling of all these early photos, and not just with this flight. Check any NASA photo site and you'll see mislabelled photos, photos clearly reproduced back-to-front, and even the names of the astronauts misspelt. We have all fallen victim to this, and the fault lies directly with NASA for not offering us a factual, pictorial account of this space flight and others.

Dedicated researchers such as J.L. have a mammoth job on their hands as NASA clearly identifies a whole host of MR-3 photos as being taken on launch day. So how else do we explain Joe Schmitt changing his shirt three times, Gus Grissom changing his tie, and Gordon Cooper in the blockhouse also opting to change his shirt in the midst of the countdown?

In seeking clarification, I have been placed in touch with a close relative of Joe Schmitt, and he will be asked to resolve the question. I wouldn't mind betting that he has also been perplexed in the past over this misidentification of one of the most important days in 20th Century American history.

As soon as I (hopefully) have the definitive response from Joe, I will let everyone know. Meanwhile I sincerely thank all of those who have sent me messages of support and assistance off-forum and like so many others I am continually grateful for the tremendous level of support, encouragement and expertise demonstrated by the good folks at collectSPACE.

moorouge
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posted 03-19-2013 03:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm a simple person with simple thoughts and believe in simple solutions. So, why Colin do the words 'Hold for release on launch day' preclude it definitely not being taken on the 5th May.

Is it not possible that it was taken when it says it was and that the words simply mean 'Don't release this photo if there is a launch delay'?

Just a thought.

ColinBurgess
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posted 03-19-2013 06:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Eddie, You're far from a simple person, old mate.

Until I hear back from Joe Schmitt himself through a relative who is contacting him about this question I can't offrer a definitive response. However some knowledgeable sleuths and I have been examining dozens of photos alleged to have been taken on "5/5" (and stanped as such on the reverse) and we are amazed at the number of clothing changes many key personnel such as Joe Schmitt, Bill Douglas, Wernher von Braun, Gordon Cooper and Gus Grissom seem to have mysteriously made on what NASA says was launch day.

I believe NASA was sloppy or even deceitful in their photo identification for this flight, and perhaps others, and just decided to label anything involving Shepard in his spacesuit as being taken on launch day, when very clearly that is altogether impossible.

If you do not have Retro Space Images' excellent MR-3 disc there are numerous "launch day" photos of Shepard to be found at Google Images and elsewhere online, and once you start examining them you'll be amazed at the number of clothing changes these guys seem to have made in the hours before launch!

So Eddie, I firmly believe the photo in question was taken a few days earlier (possibly during the cancelled launch on May 2) and as it was such a nice photo it was listed as "Hold For Release at Launch" and then released to the press after the successful launch.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-19-2013 07:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The "hold for release" caption also states this photo was an AP wirephoto and no where credits NASA.

Today, the Associated Press (AP) does circulate NASA photos, but always with credit back to the agency.

Perhaps, it was done differently back in the 1960s, but separate from the shirt issue, is it possible this shot was not a NASA photo and therefore is not in the public domain?

On edit: J.L. shared with me a scan of the back of the NASA litho for this shot, showing its release by the space agency.

Interestingly, the caption on the back reads that this was for the "final fitting" of Shepard's suit, not suiting up for launch day, though NASA captions even written contemporary to the mission are not reliable. For example, on the same caption, Joe Schmitt's last name is misspelled ("Schmidt").

moorouge
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posted 03-19-2013 03:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Colin - another simple thought

Looked at some of the photos in question. The one's with Joe wearing the plain white shirt (NASA#'s 61-MR3-102 and 61-MR3-103A) are timed at 2.45a.m.. The one with the floral pattern (61-MR3-77) is of a final suit adjustment and pressure test. Is it possible that Joe changed shirts on launch day so that both shirts are valid launch day photos?

ColinBurgess
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posted 03-19-2013 05:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Possible? Of course. Did he? Very unlikely. All shall be revealed once I get a response from Joe.

moorouge
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posted 03-20-2013 02:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Will await the outcome with interest. However, Colin, remember the words of Sherlock Holmes - "When one has eliminated the improbable, what is left however impossible must be the truth."

heng44
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posted 03-20-2013 05:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for heng44   Click Here to Email heng44     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
See around 1:40 in this clip.

ColinBurgess
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posted 03-20-2013 06:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well spotted, Ed. I'd actually viewed several documentary clips hoping to see something like this, but to no avail. For those viewing the clip, that's Joe Schmitt actually preceding Shepard as they walk out of Hangar S for the transfer van on launch day. And Joe is wearing ... a plain white, short-sleeve shirt.

Thanks, Ed. You are a champion.

heng44
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posted 03-20-2013 06:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for heng44   Click Here to Email heng44     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Glad to help, Colin.

I am currently trying to date a series of photos of Mission Control taken during Apollo 8, so I am faced with similar problems. Some photos can be dated by what is shown on the TV-screens. Others by comparing the clothing of astronauts and flight controllers with photos that were positively dated.

It is sometimes frustrating, but it can be rewarding when a piece of the puzzle is solved.

I don't know why NASA doesn't hire J.L. and me to straighten out their archives. Hell, I would do it for free...

onesmallstep
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posted 03-20-2013 11:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Free? Don't do that , Ed - just request an exhibit of some of your paintings on board ISS. That would be payment in kind as the (off) world's most exclusive art gallery

mikepf
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posted 03-20-2013 02:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikepf   Click Here to Email mikepf     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I bet what happened was that they were all just so excited on launch day that they kept spilling thier coffee. They didn't want to be recorded for history with coffee stained shirts.

Lou Chinal
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posted 03-25-2013 02:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes Colin, that guy who had his phone number is me. Email me.

Gary, you have a very good memory.

ColinBurgess
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posted 03-26-2013 12:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Email sent, Lou.

ejectr
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posted 03-26-2013 06:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ejectr   Click Here to Email ejectr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Lou Chinal:
Yes Colin, that guy who had his phone number is me.
I knew it was you, Lou. Just didn't want to give your name in case you didn't want it known.

Lou Chinal
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posted 03-26-2013 01:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Okay everyone, I called him! The phone number that Colin and I have is still good. He said he was feeling a little weak (he's 97) so I didn't want to start asking him a lot of questions. I am sure Colin will get to the bottom of this (I already emailed him) mystery.

Robert, I took it upon myself to speak for everyone on collectSPACE in wishing him continued good health.

Lou Chinal
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posted 04-04-2013 11:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
After many emails to Colin Burgess I think this is what happened. There was a full dress rehearsal on April 28-29, in which Alan Shepard and John Glenn both suited up. There was also a launch attempt on May 2, 1961. Only Shepard was suited for that one. The flight finally came off on May 5.

After going back and forth with Colin, I believe the picture above was taken on April 29, 1961.

All times are CT (US)

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