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Published December 27, 2013, 08:31 AM

Apollo 8 recovery

Moorhead, MN (WDAY TV) - If you ask Dale Bonawitz of Moorhead where he was this day 45 years ago, the answer comes easily.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Moorhead, MN (WDAY TV) - If you ask Dale Bonawitz of Moorhead where he was this day 45 years ago, the answer comes easily.

The Navy veteran was on board an aircraft carrier that had a unique mission: To pick up the crew of Apollo 8 after they landed in the sea.

Dale Bonawitz is most comfortable in his cozy, laquer and stain-laden refinishing shop in Moorhead.

The long time furniture restorer has memories of his Navy Days scattered around the shop and Friday’s the day he remembers most.

Dale Bonawitz- Navy Veteran: “20 years old and sitting in the middle of the Pacific…”

45 years ago, he and his crew on board the USS Yorktown, went out to recover the Crew of Apollo 8.

Bonawitz: “December 27th, 1968.”

Dale went out in this boat to assist the frogmen who would pull the astronauts Borman, Lovell and Anders from the command module after splashing down in the Pacific.

Bonawitz: “They landed two miles from us. It was one of the closest splashdowns they had. We saw the beacon as they came down.”

The details from that great day can be found in a special Yorktown carrier book, outlining the challenges of that recovery like sharks and high seas.

Journalists swarmed the aircraft carrier deck once the astronauts and their module were recovered and onboard the Yorktown. This second manned mission into space; a shot of Earth no one had ever seen before… A peek at the moon and a Christmas Eve Earthrise nobody had witnessed.

Bonawitz: “20 years old; it was pretty impressive. Those three guys up there all that time make it back down to earth… Pretty incredible.”

Bonawitz has treasured photos of the astronauts who thanked the carrier crew for their work.

Everyone on the ship was given one of those.

That day, the Yorktown earned its place in history.

That Apollo Mission lasted six days.

The crew is remembered for reading from the Bible on Christmas Eve, live on TV.

At the time, it was the most-watched broadcast ever.

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