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tv   Nixon White House Apollo 11 Eyewitnesses  CSPAN  August 17, 2019 10:15am-11:47am EDT

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to bozeman montana to learn more about its rich history. to watch video from bozeman and other stops, visit c-span.org/cities tour. you are watching american history tv, all weekend every weekend on c-span3. >> next, nixon admitted ray -- administration officials describe events in the white house in the days before the apollo 11 moon landing. we hear from two former presidential aides who were in the oval office when president nixon placed a call to astronauts neil armstrong and buzz aldrin, who were on the moon. nixon foundation cohosted this event for the moon landing's 50th anniversary. >> good evening, ladies and gentlemen. as people continue to wander in, we are going to get started because we have a hard queue at 8:48.
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hello to the audience watching at home. i'm the president and ceo of the richard nixon foundation. it's my honor to welcome you to our east room. we would like to begin as we always do. please rise for the presentation of the colors and the singing of the national anthem.
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>> present arms. >> ♪ oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight' o'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming and the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
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oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave? ♪ [applause]
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>> please, be seated. we have a lot to do and a lot of special guests to thank before we get going tonight. you will hear in a couple of moments from rhonda johnson, the president of at&t california. at&t is the cosponsor of today's events, which have been going on since the 5k race for space this morning. celebrating 50 years ago. i have heard the national anthem a lot of times but i have never reflected on the home of the brave being so perfectly incorporated when neil
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armstrong, michael collins and buzz aldrin took off in that capsule 50 years ago. we are also pleased to welcome rhonda's assistant vice president, richard. we have a very special guest. i would like to introduce you to kia eisenhower, the great-granddaughter of president misses nixon and the great great-granddaughter of president and misses eisenhower, and our honored special guest tonight. welcome. i hope i got that right. the great great-granddaughter of dwight and mimi and the great granddaughter of president nixon and pat nixon. sandy quinn, if you would stand up, a member of our former nixon foundation. mike is our library director from the national archives association. [applause] mike really makes the trains run. a terrific partner with the foundation.
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alberto sandoval is a senior director of communications and public directors at uci. thank you for being here. bill, legendary disney promoter, friend of the nixon foundation. he is now on the anaheim transit authority. we are glad to have you. supervisor don wagner and megan wagner, please stand up and say hello. we have the chief of staff to california senator, and anthony johnson, representative of assemblyman philip chen. and my friend lucy done from the orange county business council. if anything happened to tim, she was going to do the national anthem and didn't even know it. i want to thank francis french, we have three special speakers today, francis is a historian who spoke earlier in the library and theater today about the personalities of neil armstrong, michael collins, and buzz aldrin. buzz will be with us tuesday night.
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jason silverman is a senior dragon development engineer at spacex and spoke about the future of space travel today. although he's not here with us now, i want to acknowledge doug paul for and sparing comments. he was the at&t plant manager general control in new york with a key role in making the connections from the earth to the moon and he saw the live feed before nasa did. he played a crucial role in making the longest distance phone call in history possible so we thank him and want to give him a round of applause. [applause]
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i also want to thank the president society members who are here or in the library watching in the overflow room. i want to thank a few people before i ask up rhonda from at&t. this event began a few months ago with a lunch in d.c. jim, for a long time in the washington, d.c. and the vice chair of the george herbert walker bush foundation. given this was the most memorable phonecall in history, you would think at&t would be interested in being involved? he said, i will get back to you. i called randall, the visionary leader of at&t. randall sent me a letter saying, you really want to talk to nicole anderson, and we did talk to them at length. i can't tell you how pleased we are to have partnered from the start to the finish with at&t. i would like to introduce to you rhonda johnson. she oversees all of at&t in california. she lives in san francisco, sadly not in orange county, but she is down for the day. she oversees and directs all of at&t government affairs, public policy, philanthropic giving and
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social engagement activity throughout california. they have 33,000 employees in california alone. rhonda is a veteran of the communications industry. she spent more than 30 years with at&t. she actually comes from the finance world, having begun her career in chicago with the federal reserve there. at&t is one of our leading job creators and innovators in the united states and informing community engagements and celebrations. we are so pleased they have joint with the nixon foundation tonight, and the connection they made 50 years ago watched by 1.5 billion people, is indeed the most famous phone call in history. rhonda, if you could come up and share a few words. [applause] rhonda: thank you so much. i must say, and for those of you -- i am rhonda johnson from at&t. i now have the job of president
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of at&t california. we are so proud and pleased to be a part of this event and this day working in collaboration with the nixon foundation library. this has been a phenomenal day. i was able to participate earlier, see all the people that came through, and then myself personally to take a tour. i have been so impressed by what i saw in history that this president dead, not only with the apollo 11 landing, but everything in this museum is something you need to see. at&t has been and had is playing a role a little bit and what happened 50 years ago. we are all here today to remember that historic event when president nixon and billions of people around the world watched two american astronauts step on the moon's surface. to make and have that first step on the lunar surface in the sea of tranquility.
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we at at&t played a role. we did have one of our former employees part of that participate here today. we were involved in the transmission of that television view that we saw. i was a small child in a rural farm in illinois, sitting on the living room floor, watching the black and white tv of people stepping on the moon. i will always remember that. when i think back about what it means to make it happen, we heard from doug paul this morning, our employee, about what happened traveling 240,000 miles from satellite dishes around the earth, from nasa, and from the oval office up to the moon. it really is a phenomenon. when we talk about the transmission of the telephone call, that was something that was a historic event. i have now seen documents from the 60's that talk about how nasa first reached out to at&t and asked us to work with them,
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the u.s. air force, and u.s. ds to make that possible. it took a lot of people dedicated to the mission to make that phone call happen. it was the longest distance phone call ever. from the oval office and this lovely all of green pushbutton phone, where the president of the united states called the astronauts on the lunar surface. that call traveled those 240,000 miles up to the moon to the apollo station and then onto the backpacks and antennas, they were attached to the two astronauts as they spoke to the president. you can see the transcript. at&t is all about using our technology to make a difference in the world, connecting people. a little over 100 years ago, it was the first transcontinental phone call. alexander graham bell called from new york to send -- san francisco.
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50 years later, we made a call to the moon. in 1983 at the world's fair in new york we also had the first video conference phone call. then we developed the unix operating system, the precursor to things like windows and all that we used today. then we have the first wireless commercial telephone call in 1983. we now all carry around those devices that we can use and do marvelous things with, whether it is connecting family and friends, or telehealth and other things like autonomous cars and things of our future. no matter what it is, at&t is there to support technology. in fact, we have one of the most prolific libraries of patents. over 12,500 patents of at&t. we received approximately five patents a day.
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we continue to innovate. as i look back 50 years ago of the power and the bravery it took and the dedication to the mission, whether it was landing on the moon, the transmission of the telecast, or that phone call, it took people who believed in accomplishing a mission, dedicated to it with perseverance, and made amazing things happen. it was changing history. it's all about connections. that is what at&t's mission is about. we are so proud to be here, to be a part of this program, and i want to thank you for having us here and participating. and now i want to bring back hugh hewitt. he is the president and ceo of the foundation, but he is an author, lawyer, tenured law professor, a columnist, and a nationally lit note -- nationally known policy commentator. he's going to lead us through the wonderful program. please join me in welcoming him
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back. [applause] >> what you people don't realize is rhonda just did the trick, to stand with your hands before you speak without a note and deliver a message flawlessly. [laughter] many of us have seen president nixon do that many times. let's get started. alex eisenhower, larry higbee, john price.
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thank you. [applause] i want you to know there is only one hard break this program. we can go wherever the conversation takes us. at 8:48, we are going to the tape, because it is 50 years ago to the minute that president nixon called the moon. i have a clock in front of us here and you have a clock over there. if i have missed that, i have screwed up. so we are not going to do that. on my far left, grandson of president and misses nixon. great-grandson of dwight eisenhower and mimi eisenhower. please welcome alex eisenhower. [applause] to his right is quite chafing, one of the moving forces behind the redo of the museum. he has been a moving force in the nixon world as far back as 1962. he served as deputy assistant to the president and he was there on the night of the phone call. welcome. next, another longtime nixon aide also in the administration from the first day. he worked closely with hr bob alderman and is a member of our board and one of the driving
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members of the foundation for many years. welcome back. [applause] immediately on my left, a man i just met for the first time. john price was the special assistant to the president and executive secretary for the urban affairs council. one of the true movers of the mastic policy in the white house along with daniel patrick moynihan. i want to begin, if i could, because the moon landing and the moon phone call is for many of us a received a received memory. i remember it. i was 13. i am 63 now. i remember being woken up to watch it on tv and to it in ohio at 11:48. most people learn about it from their parents or grandparents. alex, i called your aunt tricia
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to talk about the family moment. i know you have spoken to your mom about it. can you tell people what your family was doing that night? >> yes. my mom told me she was on the second floor of the white house, and they were looking out over the rose garden. they could see her father, the president, talking on the phone to the astronauts, saying that it was actually the most exciting moment of all of her time in the white house. that moment watching him speak to another man on another planet. i'm sorry, on the moon. it was so momentous, she said it was the most exciting, electric atmosphere of all of their time in the white house. >> tricia nixon cox told me they would look from the television to the oval, from the oval to the television, because they couldn't believe what they were watching. the other part, i'm wondering if your father mentioned this to you, when it was done, your
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grandfather arrived. they went down to greet him. he was completely humbled by the event, totally overwhelmed by the courage of the astronauts and staggered by the history of the moment. has that come through to you? to your mom as well? >> yes. she says he was really excited about it. he thought it was a great opportunity. to actually bring the world together. even in his speech, he talked about the gray surface of the moon and the beautiful earth. i think he saw it as an amazing opportunity. >> we are going to talk about the context first before we get to the phone call. as you all know this began in 1957. i was a year old, wasn't my
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fault. the russians launched sputnik one. john, do you remember? let's get the reaction to sputnik. you go ahead. >> sputnik one was a slap in the face to american complacency. it was a benign era of good feelings. the country felt comfortable because they were being led by an intelligent, competent man who knew arms and armies. all of a sudden, sputnik goes up. it is the small iowa college -- i was at grinnell college that autumn. it is the small iowa college and the physics major grabbed me and said let's go see sputnik. we drove 15 miles into the even greater darkness. indeed with the naked eye could see sputnik circling the earth. the next morning i phoned my grandmother, who was the wife of a dairy farmer in southern iowa. i said, i just watched this
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soviet satellite circling the earth up in the heavens. she said it's not possible, god would not permit it. [laughter] but permit it he has. what happened after that was this back-and-forth of initial soviet accomplishments followed by american response. >> larry, your election of that? >> my recollection goes back to the fact that it probably was the biggest wake-up call the united states would have for any of our space programs and what resulted for the first time over
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the succeeding number of years was truly phenomenal than what we are celebrating here today. >> it kicked into motion a chain of events. the united states was not used to being second in anything. the fact that the russians got sputnik up there, it really was a public relations blackeye to the administration. they determined quickly couldn't be this way and they had to make this change. >> the space program is rightly identified with president kennedy. i have been in touch with the kennedy foundation director. i hope you get a chance to see it. it is so remarkable. president kennedy announced in houston on september 12 that we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.
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when you reflect on what president kennedy said, the 60's descended into chaos. maybe the only thing that held together was the space program. >> i think this is an important moment. we hear it referred to quite often today that it would be a kennedy moment, for example, if somebody today set a goal that we were going to accomplish something in the next decade. america was ready for this call to arms. president kennedy put it out there. president nixon was behind it 1000%. he never wavered on it. he thought kennedy had made the right decision, and the president was very supportive. >> do you recall if shaping your college years was the space race in the background? >> too many things were in the background all the time,
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including several classes i didn't get to. [laughter] i think it did shape and begin to bring focus, which is a word i always associate with it whether you were in high school or in college, and is one of those things that capture the imagination and concern of the world, not just the united states, the world. i think our ability to react and come back strong and accept the challenge and beat the challenge is really what makes the u.s. a special place to be. >> do you want to add to that? >> the whole backdrop of the 1960's is divided between conflict and change and the space program. >> very much so, and what the latter did was give a common sense of purpose, of shared purpose, and finally a sense of accomplishment and national competence. >> you were in the campaign.
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how often did the space program come up in the 1968 campaign? the president won one of the narrowest victories in history. lost one in 1960. but what is the space program's role in the campaign, if any? dwight, do you want to start? >> at one point in the campaign, i believe it was in early october, james webb, the head of nasa, resigned. one of the reasons he resigned was the johnson administration, which would include humphrey, the candidate running against nixon, that they wanted to cut back on the space program. the president, being candidate nixon, put forth a statement saying it was imperative that the administration go ahead with program, fully fund apollo and keep it going. there was a moment in time where it was becoming a campaign
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issue. >> do you beat -- recall being shut down right away? >> it was a brief conversation. i think would happen with the space program in general was more a back drop issue the president saw, had value in terms of so many other things he was trying to get done, whether it was weaved together an alliance throughout europe or southeast asia, or bring new people into the alliances we have already had. it was a calling card that allowed you to get in and do other things. >> in domestic policy, it was very expensive. was there any question about the expense overwriting the importance of the mission? >> it was significant, something like 4% of the entire federal budget. staggering if you think about it.
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>> larger than the defense budget. >> right. but it was ramped up willingly and bipartisanly. only after as the joy and feeling slowly dissipated where the attacks back on for budgetary reasons. with the peace and growth dividends supposedly coming from vietnam, why shouldn't we take these moneys and apply them to other things? >> the space program is something always subject to people saying, why are we doing this and not spending the money on earth, on projects that would help the citizens of the planet here and in the u.s.? the important factor is that there were 104,000 people employed, putting together what happened here. it was a huge industry. can you imagine the united states without a space program? you are one of the younger generation. can you imagine growing up
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without all this around you? >> my generation takes it for granted. by the time i was born, men had already walked on the moon. it was part of being an american. just thinking that we could do the impossible. there have been lots of times where they talk about cutting nasa funding for nasa and now they are talking about private industry, taking the helm and going up into space. there were times when it felt like there wasn't much of a space program and there wasn't going to be, but it's exciting to see companies like spacex and a renewed interest in space. i just think it's one of the most interesting things in the world. >> it is important to remember it was a choice. he had to make a choice to go, to continue. he had to make a choice that night. president nixon is inaugurated
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on january 20, 1969, exactly six months before the lunar landing. in his inaugural address, he referred to the christmas eve 1968 mission of apollo eight and to astronaut william anders, who took a picture near the lunar surface. he later called it earthrise. that picture featured prominently in richard nixon's oval office. a view hangs in our oval office. the president then actually spoke about the mission in his first inaugural address. let's listen to that excerpt. >> only a few short weeks ago, we shared the glory of man's first side of the world as god sees it, as a single sphere reflecting light in the darkness. as the apollo astronauts flew over the moon gray surface on christmas eve, they spoke to us of the beauty of earth. in that voice so clear across the lunar districts -- distance,
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we heard them invoke god's blessing on its goodness. in that moment, their view from the moon, the poet archibald writes, "to see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful, and that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers in that bright loveliness in the eternal cold. brothers who know now they are truly brothers." dwight, was that the moon in the country of january 1969? country has been largely divided by 1968. in 1969, what you hear the president doing there is working and starting to put in place the important job of bringing the country together again. the rhetoric he uses is to
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inspire and have people have that magic ingredient and thinking things can be better. the moon program was a denominator of spirit in the country. he thought it was so important to lay in there. our late friend was proud of the phrase lift of a driving dream, which appears in the inauguration. do you think that was specific to the moon program or what they wanted to accomplish? >> i think it was generally what he hoped to do and hoped to restore. further to the point of how horrible things were.
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there had been something like 125 urban riots in the cities across america small and large in the prior year. and at that very place, most of us were sitting in front of the east side of the capital building. there were machine guns on either side of the stairs. just a few blocks down the road in washington, they were still smoldering fires left on his way back from inaugural to review the inaugural parade. these were tense times. >> i think the whole idea of the dream, he's always talking about dreams. he's trying to bring it back together again. he also had an uncanny sense of timing. when to take something out there and make it the issue.
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he clearly used the moon program more than once in that regard. >> i was with ray price and the candidate mr. nixon when the words were uttered in new hampshire at the launch of the presidential campaign in 1968, and he talked about what america needed was the lift of a driving dream. he was into that rhetoric at the outset of the campaign. i also want to talk about the space program and the soviet competition. he would be remembered as the greatest foreign diplomat of anyone who sat in the office. when 69 arises, it is not long long after the invasion of czechoslovakia.
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it is where our men and women are being shot at by soviet weaponry. the soviets are trying to get to the moon. how much of this superpower competition is realpolitik and how much is the driving dream going on? >> if nothing else, one of the ways we can define president nixon was he was incredibly pragmatic. the lift of the driving dream was important. beating the soviets was equally important and real. >> he was indeed both. the quaker impulse was in him. unlike herbert hoover, who is the only other quaker president to serve. the emblem of the logo on the president's grave is, it is most import to be remembered as a
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peacemaker. pat buchanan says in his book about nixon's white house wars that one of the most outstanding and remarkable features of this man was the reality of his commitment to finding peace. >> he was a quaker. he believes in peace. >> did we begin talking with the soviets and 69? i don't believe we did. >> i think they started to put out some feelers. does anyone recall the soviets reaction to this? >> i don't. >> what nixon did was he brought back some soviet medals, which had been confirmed by the soviet union were acts of bravery. nixon instructed that those metals be taken on apollo 11 and be left on the moon. >> let's talk about the tension approaching the launch.
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was there ever any doubt on your mind that it was coming down? to having delays. was there a countdown that you knew was going to be taken on? >> the president's attitude and position on the launch on july 16, and in the landing of the moon on the 20th was that it was one thing over which she had no control. the president had delegated authorities. people who knew the technologies and everything involved were the ones he was relying on.
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this did not involve considerations by the white house in terms of was poneman. -- postponements. if they needed to be done he would absorb them and had agreed with what the authorities said needed to be done. >> was it just the national director was back-and-forth? >> he had a science advisor. >> when we get closer to the launch, no presidential event is accidental today. when did the planning begin at the night of the launch in the night of the landing and the phone call? >> the planning recommendations from nasa were probably being generated in the later johnson years. once the president took office
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we had an assistant to the president, who became the point person with nasa. then president nixon had struck up a friendship with astronaut frank borman. frank was brought into the inner circle. frank's assignment was to keep the president posted on all the technical stuff he needed to know about the launch and what was going to happen and make some of the decisions. >> frank foreman's role, can you expand on it? did he have entrance and access? how did an astronaut fit in with a bunch of staffers who were trying to keep the president on schedule and doing a thousand different things?
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>> i think he became a trusted advisor. the other thing the president genuinely liked being with their personalities meshed well. had he not wanted to get into private life would have been a significant factor politically, both in the united states republican party, and probably a significant advisor for the president. >> when the launch took place, the only person with the president was frank borman. >> that occurred at 9:32 in the morning. let's watch that footage. >> 30 seconds and counting.
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astronauts report it feels good. t -25 seconds. 20 seconds and counting. t -15 seconds, guidance is internal. ignition sequence starts. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. all engines running. we have a lift off. lift off on apollo 11. collect the building is shaking. man is on the way to the moon. >> i see a lot of people younger than me. how many of you went through the experience of having a television roll into your elementary school classroom so you could watch the launch? that happened on challenger. how nervous were you three guys when this thing went down? >> when it occurred? >> when the launch went off. >> as opposed to the 72 seconds
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after the launch of challenger. i was there. we were seated in a high school football stadium stand. a good distance away from the actual launch site because of the power of the 7.5 million pounds of thrust. president johnson was there. he was in the front row.
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he had been brought there thanks to richard milhouse nixon, who sent a newly refurbished air force one to pick up him and his wife as a gesture of respect and thanks for what johnson had done for this program. when the actual ignition occurred, you heard nothing, there was no audio. then all the sudden the ground began to literally shake under your feet. it was only a moment later the air was slapping you against the face. >> how about at the white house? >> i felt like i had a split personality. on the one hand you are trying to figure out what you need to do now. it's out of your control.
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on the other hand you're sitting there thinking about all of the other things that can go wrong in this chain of events. you couldn't get it off your mind but you didn't want to think about it sometimes. >> as you walked down the corridor in the west wing, you could hear from room to room, every television was on by every staff person in the white house. >> there has been a lot of attention paid in the last couple of weeks to william safire writing a memo to your boss called the in event moon disaster. was there more worry than we had been allowed to understand? >> it's the white house trying to cover every eventuality. i think it was something that was discussed. then they said this is going to work, we are going to go for it. the rest is history. >> it's interesting, this has
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gotten a lot of attention in the last 10 days. it has gotten more attention in the last 10 days 50 years later than it did 10 days around the actual landing on the moon. this was not something that was talked about. the day of the event, i do not recall it being mentioned once. i think it was on a shelf. if something had gone haywire, they would have gone and gotten it. it was not top of mind, it was way down. this was a positive we are going to do a type of experience. there was no focus on this.
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your great-grandfather, i'm sure your father has told you this, prepared a memo to the troops or actually prepared a memo to the world accepting responsibility for the failure of the d-day invasion. have you ever talked about whether your grandfather was impacted by your great-grandfather's contingency planning for the worst-case? >> honestly not too much. it has been a miracle the mission was a success. you had so many decisions that were life or death. i don't know how he handled this. >> let switch to the day of. sunday church surface -- church church service. buzz aldrin
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would hold a church service on the moon that was not allowed to be broadcast because of concern that the aclu would object. talk about the church service the president went to and how it occurred? >> the president and established when they came into the white house sunday church services in the east room, nondenominational. on this particular sunday, the 20th of july 1969, the head of the residing minister, the minister of whittier college, where the president has gone to college, a quaker, one of the featured parts besides the prayers of a safe landing and safe return, one of the featured talks was by frank, who read from genesis. he read what he had read around christmas time of 1968 as they circled the moon, and he read
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genesis back to earth. that got an incredible amount of attention at that time. >> i read and preparing for this that they had objected to the read him -- to the reading. and a presbyterian elder in the western church outside of houston had requested to receive the elements of the presbyterian communion on the moon. they went radio silent because of the objections of frank foreman's readings. >> i could say this. if anybody had objected to frank reading that genesis at that church service, president nixon would
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make sure frank gorman read that. probably twice. bob wrote in his diary, president nixon was really intrigued with his participation in the moon landing events. you are working closely with hr bob every day. >> he was a fairly serious man and didn't suffer fools or anybody else lately. he was really focused on the president and what we could get done with the time we had. looking at that whole thing it became obvious we needed to move very strongly to try to integrate the space program into the other things we were doing. it was one of the few times there was glee, absolutely on the part of the president, clearly on the part of bob. one of the reasons bob was so pleased to see the
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president was happy about this whole thing. it really set up a tremendous amount of joy throughout the white house. and i think throughout the nation. >> it's very telling. bob was a serious man. he chronicled that when stepped on the moon the president went her. desh went are -- went, hooray. >> we have a special treat. you couldn't get a super eight camera into the white house today. how often did you take a super eight camera into the white house? >> i took it into the white house every day. bob had one, i had one. there is roger, our technical advisor, who later went on to notoriety. here is
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bob at his desk, working on some papers. you will see his confirming -- conferring with roger. there was a lot of waiting time going on on this particular day. frank is in a room you never see. that is the president's little office off of the oval office. that is the set on which president nixon watched the lunar landing. there is frank on the phone probably with nasa. these are home movies we took. so they are 50 years old. there is the little tv the president watched it from. there is the press secretary. we use the cabinet room. the official photographer, the guy with the cigar. the guy with this cigar is me. don't ask why we smoked
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cigars, but we did. we really staked ourselves into the cabinet room. the windows were dark, so we are into nighttime. the module landed at 4:15 in the afternoon. this is a still shot of the cabinet room. the oval office is down through that doorway. we are all sitting around their waiting period the president is over in the executive office building. this was right ahead of the actual moonwalk. >> i know there are a lot of ashtrays there. that's a lot of ashtrays.
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>> you see significantly decline as the ministration goes forward. >> can we replay that home movie? the cigar smoking in the white house is really a -- i don't think that is allowed by law anymore. that is bruce. he was in charge of the press. roger, who was a television advisor. basically got the president prepped as how everything was going to work. there is bob at his desk and roger. >> no cigar. it was dark out, later in the day or evening.
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frank began on the phone with nasa. he was costly getting updates and checking to make sure everything was working the way we had been told it was going to work. frank would give the news to roger ailes. that's the little tiny set. the 20 inch color set. the president never watches television, larry is saying. and the official white house photographer and bruce. and again, to self promote. [laughter] >> walk me through what you three did on that day. you were running around with a camera, dwight.
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>> i was sitting right there. how the back of my head and my right hand lifting a cigar. i had hair. i don't smoke anymore and i have no hair. then that evening, and again thanks to dwight, i moved on into the oval office. the staff people, it was a waiting process. we got there mid morning. we are waiting until late evening. we are sitting around chatting, trying to talk to frank. i got six or seven calls from the president that lasted a minute or 30 seconds. he is over in his office and he is antsy. it was
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kind of a hurry up and wait type of thing. >> a lot of people were in their offices. the one thing you didn't want to have happen is a communications breakdown. as dwight said, it hurt. >> now we have media circuses, where it is considered an and norma's event an enormous event. there are 1.5 billion people watching this thing -- an enormous event. there are 1.5 liam people watching this thing. -- 1.5 billion people watching this thing. -- 1.5 billion people watching this thing. we are talking abc, nbc and cbs.
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this is going to be covered by a pool, which meant there would be a representative media that would feed the information to all of the others. it was not the big elaborate media circus it would be today. >> there weren't 100 people sitting there yelling and asking questions. the media had its own specific area within the west wing. a lot of the offices had to demand any eventuality. >> in the oval office, you had the network television cameras. you also have some of the print press there. the mood was fascinating. the media folks were very subdued. there is an extraordinary mood. this is a noncontentious title of a thing.
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there is no one going on that is questioning whether this is happening or why are we spending money? this is suspense 101. what is going to happen next? >> walter cronkite was there that day. >> i will say simply a raw went up from our group in the cabinet room. just a raucous scream. it was just a moment of absolute excitement. >> i would agree with that.
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people were transfixed on the whole issue and what we had done as a nation, what this meant to the world, and asked you to think again about your place in the world and where you really were not part of something that was so much bigger than people have dreamed. >> the overall feeling of the white house has been exemplified by the president and he is riveted to looking at the television. he starts watching what is happening. this was the technical crew getting ready. it's interesting for sound reasons, his whole top we cover with brown felt trying to keep
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the noise level down. he is starting to look at the tv . watch what was happening. he he will come back to it in a second. he kept his focus on what the men were doing. roger is explaining what nasa said. he is asking about the call. that is the pool camera that fed all the networks. >> i'm going to preface it by saying he spent the early evening -- when did he come over?
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>> he came over to the little office right before armstrong stepped on the moon. they were in the little office one that happened. wiping moisture off of... >> i would agree with that.
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people were transfixed on the whole issue and what we had done as a nation, what this meant to the world, and asked you to think again about your place in the world and where you really were not part of something that was so much bigger than people have dreamed. the overall feeling of the white house has been exemplified by the president and he is riveted >> no, he didn't need makeup. maybe under our formula, maybe had spent the weekend before in key biscayne. one of the tricks with richard nixon that he learned early on from 1960 and jack kennedy was that he looked heckuva lot better when he had a tan and therefore he spent a lot of time in florida. [laughter] but all of you. alex, you know. the modern media is where no one goes without hair or makeup and they would have been all over him. but in 2019 come you don't talk for 15 seconds without hair and makeup if you are a public figure. [laughter]
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>> talk to me about the tension about the phone call as we approach the 10 minutes to go mark. we had that earlier today talking about this extraordinary technical event. where you worried -- at that point, the biggest thing is work. they are on the moon but phone call is an amazing technological achievement. who was running that at the white house? >> my answer would be the white house communications agency and that is a part of the department of defense. when their sheet came in, it is the one that says the presidents call and it puts the time and it says the call to the sea of tranquility, the
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moon. we have those notes in the exhibition. how much time did he spend prepping for what he would say to the astronauts? do any of you know? >> i don't. >> i can't say. >> probable considerable time knowing him. i can imagine he was in the office with a pad on his lap and he wrote out several different thoughts you might have and how he would do it. this is a man who always prepared. he always wanted to tell the story about winston churchill and how one time 70 came up to winston churchill and said, how -- someone came up to winston churchill and said how do you do that, it is so great. and winston church hillside part of the work i -- winston churchill said part of the work i do is writing out those responses.
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>> one of the things we always did was have special remarks for anything he might be speaking about ahead of time. the process was always the same. he would turn the page over, right out his own remarks, look at it quickly, toss it in the outbox, and he would sit there and give those remarks word for word for word perfectly with no notes in front of him. if you notice, there are no notes in front of him there. >> can we move back to the moment of him sitting in that desk in the intensity with which he was watching the three consoles. when the astronauts were out on the moon and about to talk to him, they lifted a flag through a lanyard and it extended the flag as if the wind were blowing it. at that point,
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nixon clapped 3 or 4 times and saluted in the room. -- three or four times and saluted in the room. at the very end of the talk, someone in the press spoke and the president said i would hate to get the toll charges on that call. one of the press guys said, make it collect. [laughter] >> let me ask you if any of you have any memory. the president and misses nixon are buried outside in the final resting place. misses nixon was so central to his life and do you have any recollection how she approached this evening and the space for in particular? >> i don't. when alex was talking, the girls watching
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through the window and i don't know whether they referenced whether mixes miss going -- whether misses >> she was there. >> and when she finished, your mother, father, and aunt went to the rose garden and when he got done doing the simulation for the photographers -- after the call, there was a press opportunity for the photographers and then he got up and walked through the rose garden doors and that is when your mom and dad and aunt greeted him in the rose garden and misses nixon was still at the mansion, i believe. >> so in terms of the number of people in the room for this, i counted six. was that normal? did he keep the office staff small and in the room? >> when this happened? >> yeah. >> absolutely, unless you needed to be there, you weren't there. >> how many people were in the
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cabinet room? >> the cabinet room is different. it is a place where the staff is together. >> are there 20 people in there? >> i would say six or eight, just like it showed in there. for a good portion of this, most of the staff needed to be in their office. >> the other part is -- it was sunday and a lot of people just weren't in. >> but as dwight said, you could go down the hall and see the tv is on and there is usually one staffer or more manning that office. >> i can't imagine someone not going to the white house on the day they are landing on the moon. did someone say they had something better to do? >> i don't think so. >> what was bob halderman doing so central to the president? >> he was with the president and also along with frank and
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providing information. remember, we were getting ready to leave on a trip. >> in his diary he said for part of the afternoon he went back to the hotel. they had not moved permanently to washington and he was packing for the trip. >> it was a pretty tight schedule for those guys. so after this, 50 years to the moment, how long until he leaves to the -- leaves the white house to go down and greet them? how long does he wait till he leaves? >> we walk was on the 20th. he stated at the white house on the 21st. on the 22nd, he flew to san francisco. on the 23rd, he flew to johnson island and johnson island out to the uss arlington. he spent the night on the arlington and then at 4 a.m. the next morning, he by helicopter went from the
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arlington to the uss arnett -- hornet and wendy/don't occurred, -- hornet and when the splashdown occurred , they brought the esther not -- the astronauts to the hornet. >> you traveled with a french person down to cape canaveral? -- cape canaveral, who was he? >> he was my seatmate and we chatted. he had been raised in the french global service. he was living in hanoi when the japanese invaded and was imprisoned during the war and then on the steps of hanoi's city hall, he saw ho chi minh visiting with american officers. he told me about this and later sent me a book he had written.
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what i didn't know and was -- and what was not meant to know was this was a cover for him. he was the director of air france. he was going down to watch the space launch as an error france director. the reality was, as dwight knows, that he had come into scene nixon and kissinger the day before because he was the intermediary between richard nixon and ho chi minh. he was the guy who was opening the path to the negotiations. it was the first meeting they had all had together. he carried a letter from nixon to ho. and the first meeting between kissinger and the viet cong was held in his
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apartment in paris. >> where were dr. kissinger, secretary of state, and the vice president at this point? >> they were all playing gin rummy together. >> i know henry was in new york because on the phone long he called henry and had a long conversation that day. the vice resident is not on the phone long for that day nor is the secretary of state, so i don't know where they were. as we get there, there are thousands of people involved in this. we are two minutes away from 50 years ago and thousands of people have to execute. was he nervous at all? >> was he nervous? nervous is not a word -- anticipatory is the word that was used in one of the films that we did. and i think that there was this high degree of expectation of something big transpiring. but i would not use the word nervous.
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>> i think focus may come a little closer with dwight's expectation on top of that. >> we are now at 8:47, in the phone call occurs at 8:48. i am just going to walk into the break and we can anticipate the president waiting -- this is a replica of the green phone. the real one is in the exhibit and you can go see it. put yourself in the mind of richard nixon waiting to talk to those landing on the moon and the longest phone call in history. >> it is frank that gives him the queue. you don't see it, but
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that is what happened. >> neil and buzz, the president of the united states is in his office and would like to say a few words to you, over. neil and buzz, i am talking to you by telephone from the global room at the white house. this has to be the blank phone call made from the white house. for every american, this has to be the proudest day of our lives. for people all over the world, i am sure that they join with americans in recognizing
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what an immense feat this is. >> what did he do immediately after he hung up? did he go out to the rose garden to meet misses nixon and the girls? >> immediately after that, the pictures were taken and all the still shots that were seen in the paper and that took five minutes and then he got up and went out to the rose garden to see alex's parents. >> i was told two days ago that he was humbled talking to these people. he said in the moment of being incredibly proud to be an american. i wonder if you would have the reflection on that. >> i am sure in his heart of hearts he was feeling tremendous pride in what has happened for
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the nation and what these men had accomplished. >> i think that was true throughout the white house. >> yes, and it is so indicative of the kind of role the president can play in a type like this in understanding the breadth of the peoples interest that you >> alex, would you remind us what your mother said about that night. it is on the wall in the museum. she remembered it being the most electric moment of her time in the white house. this is the most excited she was. another thing her grandmother told her was when they went on the trip, operation moonbeam, and when they were traveling around, hundreds of people that came out to nixon were calling them moon
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king and moon queen. [laughter] she thought that was interesting for their role in the whole event. >> in the south pacific, it turned into a red ball and disappeared. we have more wing on on the uss hornet here? >> they have just landed on the hornet and have been picked up in the water. the band is playing. you will notice that the helicopter is going down below and the men went below deck here and were taken out of the helicopter through an air chamber and they went into the
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-- we will see that in a minute here. the president is with tom payne and the head of nasa and they are aboard the hornet and on the left you can see the image of secretary of state rogers who was there. this is where the president talked to the astronauts. they are in this airstream holding area which they had to stay in for how many weeks? two weeks? on the right is admiral john mccain, john mccain's father, who was chief of the operations in the pacific. here is the president. the astronauts have now gotten into this unit from the helicopter and they are at this window and they are talking to the president. this is super eight footage. i think we have some actual footage of the
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voices. but that is the present, very animated and really getting a kick out of this. [laughter] there is buzz aldrin, he is getting a kick out of it. >> we will be honoring him with the richard nixonx greatest comeback -- nixon greatest comeback award. he goes on to guam. why is that? we have the ambassador to germany to talk about the address he gave, why on to guam? >> because we are in the process here of adjusting body clocks and getting for a launch from guam into manila. the first stop was manila. this is the motorcade leaving the airport in manila to see the landing on the moon. this was along the way,
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all of the kids with the flags. there are the astronauts on the moon. this is the start -- the first stop on the goodwill trip that the president did after the moon landing. the goodwill trip, the philippines, indonesia, thailand, india, pakistan, romania, and great britain. huge, huge crowds everywhere we went. this had all been timed to be immediately after the moonwalk. it had been done with the idea that it was going to be a successful venture. with the vietnam war and everything, this is a way of trying to bring back the united states prestige in the world. >> how much planning went into
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this? >> lots of planning went into this. this trip was incredibly complicated, particularly the romania and pakistan stops. both of those countries had leaders who had ties to the chinese and it was part of the strategy that eventually led to the president going to china. >> we are wrapping up here. the astronauts have to be in quarantine and make a triumphant return to the united states. as the dinner on august 13. before they leave on the goodwill to her, what was that like? >> well, exuberant. the president was in euphoria and is static to have these men going around the world on a goodwill trip to represent the united states and what had been
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accomplished. put another way, he was harvesting all the greatness that had been accomplished. >> the people were there in mexico city? >> 7 million people came up to see them when they landed. they were really extraordinary. buzz in the omega been the most famous people on the planet. -- buzz and neil may have been the most famous people on the planet. one word you could use is authentic. >> i would say that is a good definition. they were the rock stars of the world. >> they get back to the white house today's after -- two days after. it has been four months and they are still superstars and rock stars. how important is it when they get back?
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>> november 5 they get back, it is interesting. i never put that together. the silent majority was a famous speech the president gave where he called on the great silent majority to speak up on the vietnam war. i believe that the great silent majority was further impacted by this picture you see here. and by the president being with the astronauts on the south grounds. >> i would like to wrap by talking about the impact. you said it coalesced the vast majority of americans being proud again despite the war. >> i think as bill safire set of richard nixon, he is a layered
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cake. one of the elements that was probably in his mind is one that struck people all over the world, whether they are religious secular. the sonnet first and last phrases goes something like this, i have slipped the surly bonds of earth and danced the skies. i have trialed the unjust panelist sanctity -- and touched the face of god. bringing it down to earth, english was the language spoken in that one sentence by neil armstrong. english was the language spoken in this phone the language spoken in this
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phone conversation, so there was definitely a moment of american -- an american moment. that was followed up by all kinds of tactical moves. president nixon took on one of his visits to the soviet union piece of moon rocked to present him. it was a nice tactical move and a nice way of saying we beat you. that moon rock sits in the cosmonaut museum in russia. there were so many layers to this but they start with a deeply spiritual one. >> he gave all of the leaders of both parties a tiny piece of moon rock, despite the fact that nasa wasn't excited about that whole thing. the thing i think about the silent majority is i got the feeling that was the first time he felt he broke through and really had established a unique and separate group of people that really were more pro-american and proud and willing to speak up about what we had done, or something else. the name, the
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silent majority, really resonated with him and an awful lot of people and gave him a path to move forward. >> i would just like to say the kennedy assassination and 9/11 served each in its own way to bring americans together. and what is so special about this particular event and we have heard it referred to in terms of the hundreds of millions of people that watched it is this event truly brought the whole world together. i want to say the world could use another event like this. >> alex, i want to close with you in earlier you talked about playing flashlight tag with your grandpa. when you were young,
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did it ever occur to you that this is the guy that called the shots after the technological difficulty? what is your reflection watching this tonight? >> it is always interesting looking at him as a historical figure, especially since i do not really know a lot of what he did as president. i shied away from politics when i was younger. i looked at him strictly as a grandfather. it is always fascinating just seeing how much of an impact he has on the world. his signature is on the moon right now. that blew me away when i heard that today. it is just amazing, all of the things he has accomplished and that he was able to be a part of this. >> he signed a plaque that is on the moon and the plaque says, we came in peace for all mankind. i can't think of a better way to
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end on that except perhaps to have tim capper come up and lead us in god bless america. would you all stand. [applause] ♪ (music)land that i love stand beside her and guide her thru the night with light from above from the mountains to the prairies to the oceans wide god bless america my home sweet home
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god bless america my home sweet home let america from the mountains to the prairies to the oceans god bless america my home sweet home (music) (music) ♪
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[applause]
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ladies and gentlemen, i would like you to please join me in thanking our panel for their recollections tonight. and once more, thank you at&t for making this possible. good evening and safe travels on your way home. good night. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] (music) (music)
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author of the book america in the 1960's joins us to take your calls. to take those drugs and why they had the effect is something we are still wrestling with of scholars. drugs isology of imperative as an understanding not just of the 60's but of the production of history. what drugs we use a given the abilitylace and to change the direction of a given society. woodstock to do years sunday at 9:00 a.m. eastern. tvo live on american history on c-span3.

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