U.S. Navy Photographer Remembers Return of Apollo for Moon Landing Anniversary
NORTHLAND UNCOVERED: Patrick Shaw remembers his time as U.S. Navy Photogressman 2nd Class
DULUTH, Minn. – It’s been 50 years since the return of the Apollo 11 module that carried the three astronauts who first walked on the moon.
It’s a moment millions call one of the greatest achievements of man. July 1969, American astronauts landed on the moon. And the events that followed, only few had the chance to see in person.
“I just like the fact that it didn’t get lost in history,” U.S. Navy Photographer Veteran Pat Shaw said.
A born and raised Duluthian, Shaw was one of 16 military photographers aboard the USS Hornet when Apollo 11 returned to Earth.
“We thought we were going home then we ended up finding out we’re doing Apollo 11 recovery, so that meant we went back to Hawaii,” Shaw said.
Shaw was 18 years old when he enlisted in the military. He started in the aviation field before he was assigned sea duty where he was a cook on the ship and then a photographer.
“It was very intense work from July of ’69 to November of ’69 between 11 and 12. You basically didn’t have much of a day off,” Shaw said.
When Shaw and the men on the Hornet found out the Apollo 11 astronauts were joining them, they prepared as well as they could.
“Slogan for Apollo 11 was the Hornet plus three– the capsule and the three astronauts,” Shaw said.
His duty for the recovery was up close and personal.
“Everything that’s been on TV lately, you see the astronauts walk out of the helicopter to the trailer, well I was on a set of scaffolding filming that,” Shaw said.
All of his training was dedicated to capturing 19 seconds of history as the astronauts traveled from capsule to containment trailer where they’d spend the next 10 days.
Shaw says he didn’t realize how important a role it was he played during the return of Apollo.
“It was work. Another day, just more intense,” Shaw said.
But now looking back, he’s thankful for the stories he gets to tell because of his front row seat.
“There was three thousand people there and that was it, that saw it. Well, 3800. And even all the people aboard the ship didn’t get to see all the stuff that I did,” Shaw said.
Pat Shaw, now 71, says he most loves getting to tell his story to kids in school. He’s grateful for the books and pictures he’ll be able to pass on to his own kids some day.