South Bend man has piece of Apollo 11 capsule

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Fifty years ago Tuesday, Apollo 11 launched on a mission to put the first man on the moon.

A South Bend resident used the occasion to talk about the supporting role he played.

While Jack Driver wasn’t in the Apollo 11 capsule, at one point he was close enough to touch it — and he has proof.

“The Marines had to guard [the Apollo 11 capsule], so I saw it peeling, so I peeled off a little piece and laminated it because it was so fragile,” Driver told NewsCenter 16 while holding a thin gold piece of the capsule’s exterior.

Marine Pfc. Jack Driver was on the U.S.S. Hornet when the aircraft carrier was called upon to retrieve the Apollo 11 capsule after splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

“It had three big parachutes to stop it, when it come through the atmosphere, to slow it down, so when it hit the water, [it] made a big splash,” Driver said. “[The] ship pulled up next to it, and then they hoisted it up on the deck and put it on a platform. Then, they rolled it inside, and then put a barrier around it for us to watch.”

Driver enlisted in the military after his brother was drafted, because he thought the two would serve together in Vietnam.

But fate had other plans for J.D., and he has since attended the 30th and 40th Apollo Mission anniversary ceremonies, and he will soon attend the 50th in California.

“Every time they have that anniversary, I go. I go back. So, next Saturday, I'll be on there, taking pictures,” Driver said. “I was part of history. First man on the moon.”

Driver is a native of Portage, Michigan, who moved to South Bend’s Golden Oak Village about five years ago.