Apollo 1: “We will never forget our three heroes” Cape Ceremony honors 45th Anniversary
By Chris Calkins, 45th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 30, 2012
CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- Brig. Gen. Anthony Cotton looked directly at the group of family members sitting in the front row of seats arranged at Complex 34 here the evening of Jan. 27.
Gen. Cotton, commander, 45th Space Wing, was one of the guest speakers at the 45th Anniversary of the Apollo 1 disaster when Air Force Lt. Cols. Edward H. White II and Virgil "Gus" Grissom, along with the third member of their Apollo 1 team, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Roger Chafee were killed during a "full dress rehearsal" in their Saturn 1B rocket.
A flash fire inside the capsule, later determined to have started by an electrical arc in an equipment bay following a momentary power outage, caused the death of all three astronauts at 6:31 p.m.
"Mrs. Grissom," the general said solemnly, "you have given more than anyone could have asked and we are grateful to each one of you for your sacrifices. I want to assure you that we are doing everything in our power to continue to tell the story of what happened here so that it may never be forgotten," he said to her and other Grissom family members present.
"More than 1,000 people have been to this very site over the past six months as part of our public tour program and heard the events of that fateful day," Gen. Cotton said.
Navy Capt. J. P. Heatherington, commander, Naval Ordnance Test Unit, and Mr. Kevin M. Manning, Associate Director for Business Operations, Kennedy Space Center, also joined Gen. Cotton at the podium.
"I'm humbled by the opportunity to represent the U.S. Navy here tonight," said Capt. Heatherington.
"When I think of these three heroes, I am reminded of the words of John Paul Jones: '"It seems to be a law of nature, inflexible and inexorable, that those who will not risk cannot win."
"We all know that's true. We all owe them so much," he said.
Mr. Manning, like Gen. Cotton before him, talked about future generations.
"We must always persevere with excellence and tenacity," he said. "My duty now is to bring our newer NASA team members here to this very spot so they can learn that lesson themselves," he said.
Also participating in the ceremony were Mr. John Winchester, who played "America the Beautiful" and "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Pamela Veleriodisla, who ended the evening by playing "Taps" under the complex at 6:31 p.m.