August 28, 1924 – ‘Pad Leader’ Guenter Wendt was born

Guenter F. Wendt was born in August 28, 1924, in Berlin. He is is a German-American engineer noted for his work in the U.S. manned spaceflight program. An employee of McDonnell Aircraft and later North American, he was in charge of launch pad operations at the spacecraft level from the Mercury through Apollo programs (1959-1975).

From his official web site (excerpts):

Guenter F. Wendt was born and educated in Germany. He came to the United States in 1949 and became an American citizen in 1955. As a mechanical engineer for McDonnell Aircraft, he was given primary responsibility for spacecraft test, checkout, and launch operations for all Mercury and Gemini manned flights.

In 1967, after the Apollo fire, he accepted a position with North American Rockwell at the Kennedy Space Center and was responsible for spacecraft launch preparations for all manned Apollo, Skylab and ASTP flights. He was the last man seen by the flight crews prior to liftoff.


“In the early days of Mercury, everything took place at Cape Canveral. We didn’t have the Kennedy Space Center or any of that [in the early days]. We launched between fifteen and twenty rockets every week, but three out of five would blow up . . . there goes another nose cone! These failure rates would really get to us.”
Guenter Wendt, quoted in Into that Silent Sea, spoken in 2001.

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Recommended reading:

There was a man who worked at Cape Canaveral who managed to impress every astronaut. We came to trust his judgment and placed our safety in his capable hands. He was meticulous and thorough. Although we called him our pad fuehrer, he really was our pad leader. I was so impressed by his work in Mercury and Gemini, I insisted that he, a McDonnell employee, be transferred to North American after the Apollo 1 fire. So it came to pass that when the white room was closed out for Apollo 7 and his smiling face disappeared from the window, Donn Eisele asked, “I vonder vere Guenter vent?” I stole that line and and made it famous. To find out more, I am sure you will enjoy the thrilling story of the great Guenter Wendt, the dictator of the launch pad.

– Wally Schirra, Mercury, Gemini, Apollo Astronaut


~ by tellinghistory on August 28, 2007.

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