Frank Wendzel originally hails from Kleenburn, Wyoming. In 1941, he left to join the Army Air Forces to fly B-17s.
From 1941-1946, Wendzel served at a variety of locations throughout the U.S. These included San Diego, California; Fort Monmouth, New Jersey; Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, Robins Field, Georgia; Wright Field, Ohio, Fort Sheridan, Illinois; and Clovis, New Mexico.
While serving overseas, Wendzel flew in Enewetak and Kwajalein Atolls. He was a part of Operation Crossroads, a pair of nuclear weapons tests in Bikini Atoll in 1946. Wendzel took part in the Baker test July 25. According to the Department of Energy, the Baker test yielded explosions equivalent to 21,000 tons of TNT, detonating 90 feet underwater and wreaking havoc on a 74-vessel fleet of empty ships.
During his service, Wendzel received an American Campaign Medal, a European-African-Middle East Campaign Medal, a World War II Victory Medal and Overseas Service Bars.
He left the Army Air Forces in 1946 as a captain. Following his military service, he worked on Project Mercury, NASA’s first man-in-space program. The program made six manned flights from 1961 to 1963 with specific objectives:
- Orbiting a manned spacecraft around Earth
- Investigating man’s ability to function in space
- Recovering both man and spacecraft safely
Wendzel now lives in Freedom Village Retirement Community in Lake Forest, California. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he has only seen family through glass. Wendzel celebrates his 100th birthday June 14.
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