In an America that needs heroes John Glenn is still a hero to many who admired him and perhaps wanted to emulate this many splendid achievements. On July 18th this man reaches the age of 80 and has done more in his lifetime than hundreds would achieve in theirs. John Glenn was an original American hero and even at 85 still commands the respect across the generations. He remains staunchly modest and one of his often-quoted remarks concerned his advancing years, “There is still no cure for the common birthday”.
“I don’t know what you could say about a day in which you have seen four beautiful sunsets.”
“We have an infinite amount to learn both from nature and from each other”
Whilst not America’s first man in space, John Herschel Glenn does have the
distinction of being America’s first man in orbit. He was somewhat overwhelmed by the acclaim he received, which he felt overshadowed the success of the preceding sub orbital flights by Alan Shepard, Scott Carpenter, Walter Schirra and Gus Grissom. Glenn being a modest man applauded them in accepting the recognition he also rightly deserved.
Born on July 18th 1921 in Cambridge, Ohio, he attended New Concord High School and upon graduation enrolled at New Concord’s Muskigum College. While at Muskigum he studied for a BS Degree in Engineering.
The shock of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was still keenly felt in 1942 and the military buildup was gaining pace. Glenn saw it as his duty to enlist in the Naval Aviation Cadet program. As part of this program, in March 1942, Glenn learnt how to fly at the New Philadelphia airfield. 1943 saw Glenn enlist in the Marine Corps, it was also the year he married Anna Margaret Costar.
Glenn’s wartime career started when he joined Marine Fighter Squadron 155 and then flew F4U Corsairs in the Marshall Islands. He also spent time in fighter squadron 218 on patrol near North China and also in Guam.
Returning home to the USA, Glenn became an instructor at Corpus Christi in Texas, he taught lessons in advanced flight training between June 1948 and December 1950. This was followed by a period studying amphibious warfare at Quantico in Virginia.
War returned to Glenn’s life when the Korean conflict flared up he requested a return to combat duties in Asia. He was sent to Marine Fighter Squadron 311 and flew 63 combat missions. During an exchange period with the United States Airforce he piloted F-86 Sabrejets on 27 missions over Korea. The last nine days of the Korean conflict were intense for John Glenn especially when he downed three MIG’s over the Yalu river.
Again returning home Glenn trained to be a Test Pilot at Patuxent river. He became involved with fighter design when he was assigned to the Fighter Design Branch of the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics between November 1956 and April 1959. An officer on the Vought F8U Crusader project, he established a new transcontinental speed record from Los Angeles in California to New York of three hours 23 minutes.
Selected as one of the original “Mercury 7” astronauts after extreme selection tests. Glenn had to wait until February 20th 1962 when he made history as the first American to orbit the earth 3 times in a five hour flight. “Friendship 7” landed 41 miles from the planned recovery site. Upon reaching landfall he received a hero’s welcome and New York gave him a tickertape procession through the streets. Indeed wherever he went he received similar civic recognition of his achievement. Such was the high esteem that he was held in by the American people that President John F Kennedy decreed that John Glenn should not be put into danger in the future and his flight status was withdrawn.
He resigned from the Manned Spacecraft Center on January 16th 1964. He became a Colonel in the Marine Corps in 1964 and retired from the Marine Corps on New Years Day 1965. John Glenn began his political career being elected to the Senate in 1974 as representative for the state of Ohio. He held his position for the historic four consecutive terms.
He resigned from the Senate in 1998 to pursue his aim of returning to space aboard Space Shuttle mission STS-95. During this spaceflight he studied the effects on weightlessness on the Geriatric.
During his career John Glenn has received commendations for service in Korea, the Asiastic-Pacific campaign medal, the Navy’s astronaut Wings and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal to name but a few of his commendations.