“My Proudest Moment”: Buzz Aldrin Rebukes Movie About Neil Armstrong That Downplays US Flag on the Moon

Col. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin (USAF Ret.), 88, posted a tweet late Sunday night in response to the controversy over the new Neil Armstrong biopic First Man that plays down Armstrong as an American hero to the point that the American flag is not shown being planted on the moon. Aldrin flew to the moon with Armstrong and Michael Collins on Apollo 11 and followed Armstrong to be the second man to walk on the moon, on July 20, 1969, while Collins circled the moon overhead.

Aldrin posted two photos, one of him and Armstrong with the flag and the other of Aldrin saluting the flag. The hashtags posted with the photos by Aldrin appear to be a rebuke to the movie: “#proudtobeanAmerican #freedom #honor #onenation #Apollo11 #July1969 #roadtoApollo50”

As if to emphasize the point, Aldrin followed with a retweet of a photo of himself saluting the flag while standing in front of a photo of himself saluting the flag on the moon. Aldrin was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with an image of a man holding a US flag on the moon.

Video of Armstrong and Aldrin setting up and planting Old Glory on the moon.

A research paper on the concept, debate and construction of the flag, authored by Anne M. Platoff, was published in 1992, that included a quote from Aldrin on the flag raising on the moon:


“Even though the event took only 10 minutes of the 2 1/2 hour EVA, for many people around the world the flag-raising was one of the most memorable parts of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. There were no formal protests from other nations that the flag-raising constituted an illegal attempt to claim the moon. Buzz Aldrin, in an article written for Life magazine, stated that as he looked at the flag he sensed an “almost mystical unification of all people in the world at that moment.”…

On Flag Day in 2016 Aldrin tweeted about saluting the flag on the moon, saying, “Happy #FlagDay! My salute to the American flag on the moon was my proudest moment. #Apollo11”

The Hill reported on star Ryan Gosling’s comments made to the Telegraph that started the controversy:

An upcoming movie depicting Neil Armstrong walking on the moon will not include the astronaut planting the American flag there.

Star Ryan Gosling, who plays Armstrong in the movie “First Man,” told The Telegraph this week that it’s because the first person to walk on the moon didn’t see himself “as an American hero.”

“I think this was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement [and] that’s how we chose to view it,” Gosling said. “I don’t think that Neil viewed himself as an American hero. From my interviews with his family and people that knew him, it was quite the opposite. And we wanted the film to reflect Neil.”

The Hollywood Reporter published an article Friday with press releases from Armstrong’s sons and from the movie’s director, Damien Chazelle, defending the film.

In his own Aug. 31 statement, Chazelle explained his portrayal of the moon landing in the drama. “In First Man I show the American flag standing on the lunar surface, but the flag being physically planted into the surface is one of several moments of the Apollo 11 lunar EVA that I chose not to focus upon,” the director stated.

Chazelle added: “To address the question of whether this was a political statement, the answer is no. My goal with this movie was to share with audiences the unseen, unknown aspects of America’s mission to the moon — particularly Neil Armstrong’s personal saga and what he may have been thinking and feeling during those famous few hours. I wanted the primary focus in that scene to be on Neil’s solitary moments on the moon — his point of view as he first exited the LEM, his time spent at Little West Crater, the memories that may have crossed his mind during his lunar EVA. This was a feat beyond imagination; it was truly a giant leap for mankind. This film is about one of the most extraordinary accomplishments not only in American history, but in human history. My hope is that by digging under the surface and humanizing the icon, we can better understand just how difficult, audacious and heroic this moment really was.”

An excerpt from the statement attributed to Armstrong’s sons Rick and Mark, and First Man author James R. Hansen:

…Although Neil didn’t see himself that way, he was an American hero. He was also an engineer and a pilot, a father and a friend, a man who suffered privately through great tragedies with incredible grace. This is why, though there are numerous shots of the American flag on the moon, the filmmakers chose to focus on Neil looking back at the earth, his walk to Little West Crater, his unique, personal experience of completing this journey, a journey that has seen so many incredible highs and devastating lows.

In short, we do not feel this movie is anti-American in the slightest. Quite the opposite. But don’t take our word for it. We’d encourage everyone to go see this remarkable film and see for themselves.”

Earlier, on Wednesday last week, the Hollywood Reporter opened an article on the movie like this:

The American flag barely makes an appearance in Damien Chazelle’s First Man, the biopic about astronaut Neil Armstrong that opens the 75th Venice International Film Festival on Wednesday night. And Chazelle’s portrait of the first man on the moon, starring Ryan Gosling as Armstrong and Claire Foy as his wife, Janet, is more of an intimate character study than patriotic tub-thumper. That, says Gosling, was deliberate.”

Before the movie controversy kicked into high gear, Aldrin replied on Twitter to the question, “Buzz Alrdin what kind of books do you read on the moon”?, with a one book answer, “The Bible.”

On August 8, Aldrin tweeted about the flag, “The first thing I do every morning is put the American flag up on my balcony; and every night I take it down, and properly fold and store it. It’s saddens me how few people do this anymore. #proudtoserve #mycountry #ourfreedom #usa #ifyoustandfornothingyoullfallforeverything”

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