Whether you believe Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry’s baffling moon take or not, Neil Armstrong is known as the first man to walk on the moon, where he uttered the famous phrase, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
When Apollo 11 landed in the Sea of Tranquility on July 20, 1969, history was made with Armstrong’s famous words, but the legendary moment in time was almost totally different. Had it been Auburn University graduate Clifton C. Williams landing on the moon in the lunar module named The Eagle, the famous first words millions around the world would know today would have been ‘War Eagle!’
The War Eagle Reader wrote a piece on Clifton C. Williams back in 2012, 43 years to the day after the first moon landing. The 1954 Auburn graduate was in line to be on the now-historic Apollo 11 mission, and if Williams had gotten the nod from the NASA space program, he would have embraced his college heritage upon landing by exclaiming the Auburn war cry.
In a story published by the Plainsman in its July 25, 1969 issue, Williams, who was on the backup crews for the Gemini 10 and Apollo 9 missions, as well as on the list of candidates to pilot the first moon mission, would have pissed off a lot of Alabama Crimson Tide fans had he walked on the moon first.
This never came to be, however, as Williams passed away piloting a T-38 jet trainer two years before the Apollo 11 mission, while he was traveling from Cape Canaveral to his hometown in Mobile. Williams’ spot as the backup pilot for the Apollo 9 mission was later taken by Alan Bean. That crew later become the flight team for the Apollo 12 mission, which was the second lunar module to land on the moon.
Williams never reached the lunar surface before his death.
For Auburn University fans everywhere, the ‘War Eagle!’ chant means everything to their Alabama community. For the rest of us, it almost meant the first words we’d ever heard transmitted from 238,900 miles away back to the Kennedy Space Center here on Earth.