The Formative Years
John Hershel Glenn was born in Cambridge, Ohio on July 18th 1921. Soon after his arrival, his family relocated to the small town of New Concord, Ohio where he received his primary and secondary education. It was then off to Muskingum College (also in Ohio) where he pursued a degree in Engineering. While he was at Muskingum he also discovered his love for flying and began taking flight lessons. He received his pilots license at the age of 20 and with the onset of World War II, left college and enlisted in the Naval Aviation Cadet Program. Two years later, he was commissioned in the United States Marine Corp. (Later in his career he would receive nine honorary degree from various institutions of higher learning, including Muskingum College.)
Military Experience – The Wild Blue Yonder
During WWII, he flew a total of 59 combat missions. After the war he was assigned to Marine Fighter Squadron 218 and stationed on Guam. The Squadron was responsible for patrolling the North China Sea. In the middle of 1948 he became a flight instructor in Corpus Christi, Texas. He was then reassigned and attended Amphibious Warfare School in Quantico, Virginia. With the onset of the Korean War, Glenn took to the skies once again and flew 63 missions with Marine Fighter Squadron 311. He flew an additional 27 missions as an exchange pilot with the Air Force. In the last days of combat, he was responsible for downing 3 MIGS>
Following the Korean War, he attended Test Pilot School at the Naval Air Test Center located in Patuxent River, Maryland. After graduating, he was assigned project officer status on many aircraft. He took advantage of his technical and engineering skills and was assigned to the Fighter Design Branch of the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics.
It was also during his stint as project officer that Glenn strapped himself into a F8U Crusader and set a transcontinental spedrecord from Los Angeles to New York]. This was the first transcontinental flight to average supersonic speed and crossed the country in only 3 hours and 23 minute.
When one does the numbers, Glenn has logged nearly 9000 hours (that’s over a year folks) of flying time with about 3000 of those hours spent in jet aircrafts.
How’s this for some fruit salad?
Distinguished Flying Cross (six different occasions)
Air Medal with 18 clusters
Navy Unit Commendation
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
American Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
China Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Korean Service Medal
United Nations Service Medal
Korean Presidential Unit Citation
Navy Astronaut Medal
Marine Corp Astronaut Medal
NASA Distinguished Service Medal
Congressional Space Medal of Honor
For those of you who might not have a military background – the term “fruit salad” refers to the medals and ribbons worn by military personnel
NASA Experience – I Wanna Take You Higher
In 1959, he was selected to be one of seven NASA Mercury astronauts from an original pool of 508. On February 20th, 1962 Glenn made history by manning the first America space mission to orbit the earth. The Mercury Atlas or “Friendship 7” completed three orbits at a maximum altitude of 162 miles and a speed of about 17,500 miles per hour. The mission, from launch to impact lasted 4 hours, 55 minutes and 23 seconds. Prior to his record breaking flight, he served as back up for fellow astronauts Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom. He was also given the task to help design and develop the parts of the spacecraft. He specialized in cockpit layout and control functioning. Many of his ideas/designs/recommendations/ were incorporated in the Apollo Project.
He wasn’t through though. At the age of 77, Glenn returned to space from October 29th to November 7th, 1998, as a member of NASA's Shuttle STS-95 Discovery mission. The mission was charged with researching payloads including deployment of the Spartan solar-observing spacecraft, the Hubble Space Telescope Orbital Systems Test Platform, and investigations on space flight and the aging . The mission was accomplished in 134 Earth orbits, traveling 3.6 million miles in 213 hours and 44 minutes.
John Glenn retired from the Marine Corp in 1965 having attained the rank of colonel. He entered the business world as an executive for Royal Crown Cola but soon became interested in politics. In 1974, he ran as a Democrat (successfully) for a seat in the United Sates Senate in his home state of Ohio. He carried all 88 counties in the state. In 1980 he was reelected by the largest margin of victory in the states history. He made history by winning again in 1986 and 1992, being the first popularly elected senator from Ohio to win four consecutive terms. He retired from the Senate in 1998 after 24 years of service.
Editors Note: John Glenn died on December 8, 2016, at the OSU Wexner Medical Center; no cause of death was disclosed. He was 95 years old.