John Hershel Glenn Jr. was born July 18, 1921 in Cambridge, Ohio and was in all ways what we commonly think of as a hero. In his long life he was a Marine Corp. Fighter pilot, one of the original seven NASA astronauts, a corporate executive and the Senator from Ohio.
John Glenn grew up in Cambridge and New Concord, Ohio. He attended Muskingham College where he studied chemistry. In 1942 he enrolled in the Naval Aviation Cadet Program and was commissioned in the United States Marine corps in 1943. He was a fighter pilot and flew an F4U Corsair in 59 combat missions in World War II over the Marshall Islands. In 1945 he was transferred to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland and earned a promotion to the rank of Captain.
After the war ended he flew patrol missions over North China and then Guam. He was assigned as a Flight Instructor at Naval Air Station Corpus Christie, Texas in 1948. He then attended amphibious warfare school and was given a staff position. What he really wanted was combat in Korea and he was finally assigned there flying the F9F Panther. During that period he flew another 63 combat missions. He flew with the Air Force during his second tour of duty in Korea. He was on an interservice exchange and flying an F-86 Sabre. He racked up another 27 missions and shot down three MiG-15s. The war ended and it was back to NAX Pax River and Test Pilot school and service as an armaments officer. He piloted a Vought F8U Crusader on the first supersonic transcontinental flight from California to New York. The flight lasted 3 hours, 23 minutes and 8 seconds.
Glenn was assigned to NASA in April of 1959 as an astronaut for the Mercury Project. Of February 20, 1962 he became the first American to orbit the earth. This was his only spaceflight as a member of NASA. He was given a ticker tape-parade and came to the attention of the Kennedys and they became friends. When President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, Jackie Kennedy asked Glenn to tell the children of the death of their father. Six weeks later John Glenn retired from NASA.
Glenn immediately tried his hand at politics but had to withdraw from his bid to be the U.S. Senator from Ohio due to a personal injury. Ironically, given his career up this point, he hit his head on a bathtub and sustained a concussion and injured his inner ear.
In 1965 he retired from the Marine Corps as a colonel and went to work in the private sector as an executive for Royal Crown Cola.
He had maintained his connection with the Kennedy family and was with Senator Robert F. Kennedy on the day he was assassinated.
John Glenn had not given up on his hope to become a member of the Senate. He tried again in 1970 and was defeated in the primary. On his third attempt in 1974 he did win the primary and went on to win the general election. He served as the Senator from Ohio from 1974 until he retired in 1999.
John Glenn became the oldest man in space when he rode the Shuttle Columbia on October 29, 1998. Some said it was just a publicity stunt and he should not have been allowed to go but others disagreed. They felt the medical data from a man in space with a 35 years gap could have been valuable. In either case, I believe he earned it. This was a man who served his country in war, in peace and in space for most of his life. He earned that second trip even if, as some claimed, it was just a publicity stunt. If so... it was a damn good publicity stunt.
John Glenn is still married to his college sweetheart, Anna Margaret Castor and they had two children, David and Carolyn.
You may recall that in the beginning of this article I called John Glenn a hero, the following list of medals and awards will be self-explanatory. If there is a (6) after a medal, that is how many times he was awarded that particular medal or service award:
Military Distinguished Flying Cross (6), Air Medal (19), Navy Unit Commendation, Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, China Service Medal, National Defence Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Korean Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Astronaut Wings, Naval Aviator Badge, Marine Corps Astronaut Medal. Civilian NASA Distinguished Service Medal, Congressional Space Medal of Honor