FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Astronaut Legend Neil Armstrong Receives Naval Astronaut Wings
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amy Kirk
USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, Arabian Gulf (March 10, 2010) - Legendary Astronaut and former Naval Aviator Neil Armstrong received a pair of honorary Naval Astronaut Wings in a small ceremony aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) March 10 in recognition for his dedicated service to the U.S. Navy and breaking new boundaries in space exploration.
Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon July 20, 1969, was aboard Eisenhower as part of the “Legends of Aerospace” tour sponsored by Morale Entertainment.
“Today is a special occasion for all of naval aviation. As you can imagine, it is a tremendous honor for me to present Neil Armstrong with astronaut wings,” said Eisenhower Commanding Officer, Capt. Dee L. Mewbourne. “We present these wings on behalf of the generations of naval aviators – past, present and future.”
Described by many as humble and unassuming, Armstrong accepted the wings with great honor.
“I take these wings with great pleasure and great pride,” Armstrong said. “I have made certain achievements in my life and been recognized many times, but, there is no achievement I value more highly than when I received the wings of gold [for naval aviation]; to be given a second pair of gold wings is just as special.”
Prior to the Eisenhower visit, in a conversation with Capt.(Ret) Edward F. Bronson, Armstrong, who served as a naval aviator from 1949 to 1952, mentioned he never received a pair of Naval Astronaut Wings. The wings were not authorized until 1961 when they were first presented to Cmdr. Alan Shepard Jr.
Word quickly reached Vice Adm. Thomas Kilcline, Commander, Naval Air Forces, and through a series of calls between Commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic and Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, it was decided that it would be a fitting tribute to present Armstrong with a pair of Honorary Naval Astronaut Wings aboard an aircraft carrier conducting flight operations at sea. Armstrong qualified for carrier landings aboard the USS Cabot (CVL 28) and USS Wright (CVL 49) in 1949. He earned his first wings of gold in 1950, and made his first jet carrier landing on USS Essex (CV 9) in 1951 while assigned to Fighter Squadron 51.
During the ceremony, Armstrong said that since that time nearly everything in his career has had its roots in naval aviation. “I have learned so much throughout my career and I owe a tremendous amount to the Navy,” he said.
Mewbourne expressed gratitude to Armstrong for enriching the lives of all Eisenhower’s Sailors by visiting the ship and sharing his stories and experiences. “You reminded us that we need to push the envelope every day, but also stay professional.” Mewbourne said. As Mewbourne and Capt. Roy Kelley, Commander, Carrier Air Wing 7, pinned on the wings, Armstrong’s friend and Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell joked that it was tradition to throw the recipient in a lake after he received his wings.
Armstrong offered these final words to the crowd, “You will be surprised how much the Navy will follow you through the rest of your life. You all have a long naval life ahead of you, and it’s great.” Others in attendance, as part of the “Legends of Aerospace” tour were Astronaut Gene Cernan, the last man on the moon, Brig. Gen. (Ret) Steve Ritchie, the last Air Force Pilot Ace, and Bob Gilliland, chief test pilot and first man to ever fly the SR 71 Blackbird, known as the fastest and highest-flying production aircraft in the world.
Eisenhower is underway in the Arabian Gulf on a regularly scheduled deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet. Operations in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility are focused on reassuring regional partners of the coalition's commitment to help set conditions for security and stability. U.S. forces maintain a naval and air presence in the region that deters destabilizing activities while safeguarding the region's vital links to the global economy.
1003010-N-3595W-007 USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, North Arabian Sea (March 10, 2010) Astronaut legend Neil Armstrong is presented with honorary Naval Astronaut Wings by Capt. Dee L. Mewbourne, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) during a two-day visit aboard the ship as part of the Legends of Aerospace tour sponsored by Morale Entertainment. Armstrong was joined by fellow Astronauts Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan during the presentation. Eisenhower is conducting a regularly-scheduled six-month deployment to support maritime security operations in the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gina K. Wollman)