July 20, 2019, is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Neil Armstrong was the first to tread on the moon’s surface and he and co-pilot ‘Buzz’ Aldrin’s initial act was to plant the American flag into the moon’s soil, stand at attention and salute it.
Americans who were alive at the time look back at that moment with nostalgic pride in our nation and how we rose to the challenge of President John F. Kennedy in 1961.
The challenge was put forth and America got behind what was called the “Space Race” which focused on beating the Russians to the moon. Unfortunately, President Kennedy did not live to see the culmination of his challenge as he was assassinated two years later in Dallas, Texas.
How is that breathtaking unprecedented historical achievement viewed today as compared to when it took place a half-century later? Let’s look at how this epic adventure was received in 1969.
[Almost] Worldwide Adulation for America
Most of the world was in awe of how America had accomplished what many considered impossible. Congratulations and glowing headlines were seen around the globe.
The whole world was excited and sent congratulations, including the Soviet Union which had been beaten there.
However, the leaders of the Soviet Union also responded denying that they were even trying to get to the moon! That claim was proved to be a lie twenty years later.
But have you heard the one about how the moon race was itself a hoax, because the Soviet Union was never trying to get to the moon in the first place? Or at least, that’s what the Soviets claimed to cover up their unsuccessful lunar-landing program. It was a lie that held fast until 1989, when a group of American aerospace engineers went to Moscow and finally saw the Soviets’ failed lunar-landing craft for themselves.
Yet, even though the world acknowledged the fact that Americans had done this, they were somewhat hesitant to call it an ‘American’ achievement. Moreover, America was also hesitant to make that claim wholeheartedly even then.
As proof of that attitude, here are the words that were etched on a plaque left on the moon by the Apollo 11 astronauts.
HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON
JULY, 1969 A.D.
WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND
While the gist of that statement would be approved by the vast majority of Americans and non-Americans today, it is certain that many segments of society would not approve of the wording. Today’s modern ‘progressives’ would object to the use of the words “men” and “mankind” as well as the designation “A.D.” for the year.
If NASA was so concerned that the “planet earth” be recognized as humanity’s home, why was it decided to plant an American flag on the moon? How did that decision come about?
Why Did We Decide to Plant the American Flag?
When the “space race” of the 1960s was in full swing the world saw it as a contest between two superpowers, the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. However, officials in charge at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA] originally planned not to display the American flag.
Many thought this should be understood as an ‘international’ mission, and that planting an American flag would be akin to claiming the moon as an American possession, especially in light of an international space treaty we had signed onto in 1967. Therefore some asked for many flags of various nations to be included or suggested perhaps a world peace flag be designed, while some thought it should be a United Nations flag set on the moon.
Others pointed out that not only had Americans executed the moon landing and carried out the Apollo program alone, but American lives were also lost in the process and American taxpayers had footed the entire bill.
Not to be forgotten are the three Americans who gave their lives in the pursuit of the dream of putting a man on the moon. Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger B. Chaffee perished in a tragic fire during the Apollo 1 mission, marking the first fatalities suffered by NASA…
For most those facts were more than enough justification for using an American flag and it was understood that,
Planting the American flag was not perceived as the USA claiming the Moon as their territory. No more than Amundsen planting the Norwegian flag at the South pole was a claim on the South Pole for Norway.
The argument was finally settled by Congress with threats to withhold funding for NASA, and a resolution after the fact to justify the decision to plant the American flag on the moon.
A House and Senate conference committee agreed on the final version of the bill on 4 November 1969 which included a provision that “the flag of the United States, and no other flag, shall be implanted or otherwise placed on the surface of the moon, or on the surface of any planet, by members of the crew of any spacecraft … as part of any mission … the funds for which are provided entirely by the Government of the United States.” The amendment, in deference to the Outer Space Treaty, concluded with the statement “this act is intended as a symbolic gesture of national pride in achievement and is not to be construed as a declaration of national appropriation by claim of sovereignty.”
Though the flag ‘controversy’ generated some heat, once Congress stepped in the dissenting voices were quiet. What might be the reactions in the present day about planting an American flag upon the moon?
A Modern-day Response to America’s Flag on the Moon
Readers may recall that in October of 2018, less than a year ago, a film entitled “The First Man,” was released based on the life of Neil Armstrong. It was directed by a French-Canadian man who decided to omit the planting of the flag in the film.
Many people were understandably upset about this gross omission. The movie came under severe criticism from the start because of this.
One might wonder why anyone would choose to leave out one of the most patriotic and iconic scenes ever in a film about the man who actually stuck the flag into the lunar landscape. Ryan Gosling, the actor who plays Armstrong in the flick, defended the omission to reporters at the Venice Film Festival.
“I think this was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement [and] that’s how we chose to view it,” Gosling told reporters at the film festival. “I also think Neil was extremely humble, as were many of these astronauts, and time and time again he deferred the focus from himself to the 400,000 people who made the mission possible.”
Gosling, who is also Canadian, and the director have the right to their opinion. They also have the right to make the film in any fashion they please even if certain parts are left out.
However, it is also my right, and anyone else’s right, to point out that purging critical facts from what purports to be a true story is not the right thing to do, even when you don’t like those facts. To not include the planting of the American flag on the moon in a film like this is also to distort history outright, and no one has the right to do that!
That someone outside of America didn’t want the flag scene included in their movie should not surprise anyone. Moreover, it wouldn’t be that surprising in this present political climate of the country if an American director had done the same.
The Left Hates the American Flag
It is certain that the Kapernicks and Rapinoes in this nation would applaud removing the American flag from the moon or from history altogether if they had their way. Heck, they couldn’t even handle the Betsy Ross flag on a pair of shoes!
I also do not doubt that certain Leftists in Congress, some of whom are running for President in 2020, would be in lock-step with them. How can I be so sure of this?
I am certain because of the non-outrage of the Left toward a despicable act which took place at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or I.C.E. detention facility in Aurora, Colorado. There on July 12, protestors went on facility grounds and took down the American flag, and raising the Mexican flag in its place!
Authorities in Colorado restored an American flag to its place Friday evening after protesters demonstrating outside a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility pulled down the star-spangled banner and flew the flag of Mexico in its place. The protesters also removed a “Blue Lives Matter” flag, honoring law enforcement, spray-painted it with the words “Abolish ICE,” then raised the flag upside-down, on a pole next to the Mexican flag, according to local media.
The Aurora Police did not attempt to stop this from happening. Why not?
Aurora Chief of Police Nick Metz said it was to protect safety of the large majority who were acting peacefully and the safety of officers. He added that his folks were ready to decisively engage if they witnessed assaultive behavior or damage to the building or surrounding property that could jeopardize its security or public safety.
So, let me get this straight. It was ok to damage and deface the property of the U.S. Government as long as it was the flag!?
Is it not an assault on national sovereignty when the American flag flying on American soil is replaced by the flag of another nation? Soldiers have faced death all over the globe spurred on by the Stars and Stripes and the Aurora police won’t risk confrontation with a group of unarmed protestors tearing it down! Seriously?
July 20, 1969, is indeed a day which should be recognized as a monumental achievement all around the globe. But we should not forget that without American effort, sacrifice, ingenuity and faith, there would be nothing to recognize or celebrate at all.
That was the impetus behind placing the American flag on the moon six times during the short time we sent astronauts to the moon. The program ended in 1972 with the Apollo 17 landing.
Eugene Cernan, commander of Apollo 17, still holds the distinction of being the last man to walk on the Moon, as no humans have visited the Moon since December 14, 1972.
The first, last and only human beings to walk on the moon were Americans. Each mission planted an American flag to mark their presence.
It all began 50 years ago, and both the event and the flag under which it happened deserve acknowledgment and respect. Moreover, I hope and pray we will also understand that the greatness of America need not be a thing of the past if we will both stand for Old Glory, and kneel only before our LORD.
But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. Romans 11:4-5 [ESV]
Sources: The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001
Featured and Top Image courtesy of collectspace.com – Public Domain
Inset Image 1 courtesy of NASA Johnson’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 2 courtesy of NASA APPEL Knowledge’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 3 courtesy of Marshall Space Flight Center’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 4 courtesy of Elvert Barnes’ Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 5 courtesy of Thomas Hawk’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
All other sources linked or cited in the text