Never Before Published Images of Apollo 13 Recovery

Jim Lovell talks with USS Iwo Jima crew after the Apollo 13 capsule was recovered. Image courtesy of Robert Gillette.


Today marks the 40th anniversary of the successful return and recovery of the Apollo 13 spacecraft and crew, which has been called the the most satisfying splashdown in the history of human spaceflight. The images here of the safe return of the Apollo 13 astronauts have never been published before, and were sent to Universe Today by reporter Robert Gillette.

“Once in a while, we manage to be in the right place at the right time with a camera in hand,” Gillette wrote Universe Today. “I happened to be on the USS Iwo Jima as a young science reporter (for the-then San Francisco Examiner) in April 1970. By the time I made it back to shore to develop the film it no longer had news value. Maybe 40 years later they have historic value, at least for the emotion written in the faces of Lovell, Swigert and Haise. So I dug the old Kodachromes out and had them digitized.”

Regarding the photo above, Gillette said he overheard Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell tell the Admiral of the Iwo Jima, “Thank God for Grumman,” referring to the Grumman-built lunar lander that served as the lifeboat for Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert following the explosion that crippled the Command and Service Module. Gillette has determined the admiral to Lovell’s left is Rear Admiral Donald C. Davis, Commanding Officer of Task Force 130, the Pacific Recovery Force for the Manned Spacecraft Missions.

See more images from Gillette, below.

Rescue helicopter prepares to touch down on deck of USS Iwo Jima with Apollo 13 astronauts aboard, April 17, 1970. Image courtesy Robert Gillette.
Lovell and Swigert emerge from rescue helicopter, April 17, 1970. Image courtesy Robert Gillette.
Jack Swigert and Fred Haise emerge from rescue helicopter,stepping on deck of the Iwo Jima. Image courtesy Robert Gillette.
Haise and Lovell emerge on deck for helicopter ride to American Samoa. Image courtesy Robert Gillette.
Swigert strides on deck moments later for helicopter ride to American Samoa. Image courtesy Robert Gillette.

Our thanks to Robert Gillette for sending us these unique images on this anniversary of the historic return of Apollo 13. For more unique information on Apollo, see our ongoing series, “13 Things That Saved Apollo 13,” our discussion with Apollo engineer Jerry Woodfill which highlights various turning points of the mission.