Florida man remembers Wernher von Braun, Huntsville lunar legacy

WAAY 31 met up with a man who worked the Apollo missions and remembers von Braun’s legacy and the strange place he met the famous rocket scientist.

Posted: Jul 5, 2019 6:51 PM
Updated: Jul 5, 2019 9:24 PM

The influence of Wernher von Braun and his team stretched hundreds of miles, from the design and testing facilities in Huntsville to the launch pads and control rooms of Cape Canaveral, Florida.

WAAY 31 met up with a man who worked the Apollo missions and remembers von Braun’s legacy and the strange place he met the famous rocket scientist.

Jim Ogle

Jim Ogle is in his 80s now, but as a boy growing up near the Cape, he was an eyewitness to Wernher von Braun’s first rocket launch in Florida.

"It was July 24th of 1950...and it was the very first V-2 rocket to be launched here. It was on the front page of the Cocoa Tribune here the very next day after it happened, a very significant event and in my opinion was the first step towards the moon," Ogle said.

We met Ogle where he worked during the Apollo missions in the VAB, the vehicle assembly building. That's a giant building at the Cape where the rocket stages are stacked vertically and then transported to the launch pad, a mobile launch concept developed by von Braun and his team.

The mobile launcher is carried by the appropriately named “Crawler Transporter” at a snail’s pace of one-mile-per-hour. Bob Myers has been driving this beast for 36 years. He gave us a close-up look at the massive machine recently upgraded to carry the 18 to 24-million-pound SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft.

"Actually, it's smoother than you would think,” Myers said. "You're carrying America's space program on top, so you know, obviously you want to do the best job you can. So yeah, so it's quite an honor just to do that."

It was the same for Ogle and his team decades earlier. He was there for every launch. He still has his Apollo 11 firing room badge.

"The intensity in the firing room for that particular launch was horrendous. I'll never forget it,” Ogle said.

Something else he will never forget is meeting the most famous man on the team, von Braun, in line for the bathroom.

“I'm standing there in the line there along with everybody else, and Wernher von Braun comes up right behind me and I'm in awe," Ogle said. "I want to turn around and say, 'Hey, how you doing there?' I didn't know what to do or what to say, but the only thing I could do was turn around and I said, 'Dr. von Braun, would you like to go ahead of me?' It's the only thing I could do. And uh, he said, 'No, no. I take my turn.'”

This part of Florida is now known as the Space Coast. Ogle says they can thank the vision, wisdom and inspiration of the men and women of the Rocket City for changing the world forever.

“And it was Wernher von Braun out here with his rocket team from the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama," he said. “You know, had it not been for them, I don't know that we would have walked on the moon in '69 to be honest with you.”

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