When Neil Armstrong made his giant leap for mankind, he brought along an American flag. But it took one small step for Hollywood to erase our national emblem from one of the most important moments in human history.
A ruckus has arisen over the new feature film “First Man,” which dramatizes the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon mission. The filmmakers intentionally omitted the dramatic sequence in which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin erect an American flag on the lunar surface. Canadian actor Ryan Gosling, who portrays Armstrong, explained that the scene was cut out on purpose because the Moon landing “transcended countries and borders” and that the notably humble Armstrong did not consider himself “an American hero.”
“That’s not the Neil Armstrong I knew,” countered his friend and aviation legend Chuck Yeager, adding that the film was “more Hollywood make-believe.” Second Man on the Moon Aldrin tweeted out a picture of the flag, captioned "proud to be an American."
The flag-raising was an important part of the lunar mission. Planting the American flag on the Moon marked the culmination of a determined national effort. The United States had gotten off to a slow start in the space race with the Soviet Union, but in 1962 President John F. Kennedy made reaching the Moon a priority, with explicitly nationalistic goals.
“No nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space,” Kennedy said at Rice University. “This generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it--we mean to lead it.” He said that the “vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first” and to “become the world's leading space-faring nation.” Putting a flag on the lunar surface fulfilled the late President’s promise to reach the Moon within a decade.
Read James S. Robbins' new book Erasing America: Losing Our Future by Destroying Our Past, the definitive guide to the war on America's history and heritage.
But NASA almost missed the moment. In April 1969, NASA administrator Thomas O. Paine testified to Congress that no decision had been made what flag or symbol would be erected on the Moon once we got there. Some had suggested a United Nations flag would be more appropriate. But House Republicans voiced a strong objection to any flag other than the Stars and Stripes being placed on the moon, and language was added to a NASA appropriation bill stipulating “the flag of the United States and no other flag shall be implanted on the surface of the Moon.” Sen. Wallace F. Bennett (R-UT) suggested two flags be used, banners that flew over the Capitol and Independence Hall on July 4. How’s that for patriotism?
Ultimately the astronauts took a three-by-five foot nylon flag made by Annin in New Jersey and a collapsible 8 foot aluminum pole, carried strapped to one of the legs of the lunar module.
But everyone involved also knew that it was an important moment for humanity. When the lunar module landed Armstrong said they were representing “not only the United States but men of peace of all nations.” President Nixon said to the astronauts, as they stood next tot he flag, “for one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all of the people on this earth are truly one.” And Armstrong and Aldrin left a plaque saying the landing was in the name of “peace for all mankind.”
So yes, all mankind shared in that moving moment. But it was brought to the world courtesy of the USA.
One more thing worth noting: this is another self-inflicted wound from liberal elitists who either don’t understand their audience, or don’t care about them. The core group of people going to a movie like “First Man” are probably not progressives. Even back in 1969 the left wingers were complaining that NASA’s budget would better be spent on Great Society-type social programs and handouts. No, the people who might have wanted to see a dramatization of the Apollo 11 landing are most likely closer to the typical Trump supporter.
But these are also people who are pushing back against the constant barrage of slights from leftists who think that it is perfectly fine to shoehorn their political messages into what should be entertainment. This tendency is killing NFL football for example. And it has been a staple of the movie industry for years. But how many patriotic moviegoers, knowing that the flag planting was intentionally omitted from the movie, will rush out to see this selectively edited history? Especially when you can watch the real thing right here.
James S. Robbins is the author of Erasing America: Losing Our Future by Destroying Our Past (Regnery, 2018).