⭐️ Huck Funn

John Herschel Glenn Jr. (July 18, 1921 – December 8, 2016)

John Herschel Glenn Jr. was an American Marine Corps aviator, engineer, astronaut, businessman and politician. He was the third American to fly in space and the first American to orbit the Earth; circling it three times in 1962. Following his retirement from NASA, he served from 1974 to 1999 as a U.S. Senator from Ohio. In 1998, he flew into space once again at the age of 77.

Glenn was one of the Mercury Seven program, military test pilots selected in 1959 by NASA as the nation’s first astronauts. On February 20, 1962, Glenn flew the Friendship 7 mission, becoming the first American to orbit the Earth, the third American and fifth person in history to be in space. He received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 1962, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978, was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1990 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

John Herschel Glenn Jr. was born on July 18, 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio, the son of John Herschel Glenn Sr. (1895–1966), who worked for a plumbing firm and Clara Teresa Glenn (née Sproat; 1897–1971), an elementary school teacher. His parents married shortly before John Sr., a member of the American Expeditionary Force, left for the Western Front during World War I. The family moved to New Concord, Ohio soon after John’s birth; where his father started his own business, the Glenn Plumbing Company. Glenn Jr. was only a toddler when he met Anna Margaret (Annie) Castor, whom he would later marry.

Glenn married Annie in a Presbyterian ceremony at College Drive Church in New Concord, Ohio, on April 6, 1943. Glenn and Annie had two children together—John David and Carolyn Ann—and two grandchildren. They remained married for 73 years until his death. The two were unable to recall a time when they did not know each other. 

Glenn first flew in an airplane with his father when he was eight years old. He became fascinated by flight and built model airplanes from balsa wood kits. Along with his adopted sister Jean, he attended New Concord Elementary School. He washed cars and sold rhubarb to earn money to buy a bicycle, after which he took a delivery job for The Columbus Dispatch newspaper. He was also a member of the Ohio Rangers, a youth organization similar to the Cub Scouts.

Glenn attended New Concord High School, where he played on the varsity football team as a center and linebacker. He also made the varsity basketball & tennis teams and was involved with Hi-Y, a junior branch of the YMCA. After graduating high school in 1939, Glenn entered Muskingum College (now Muskingum University), where he studied chemistry, joined the Stag Club fraternity and played on the football team. Annie majored in music with minors in secretarial studies and physical education and competed on the swimming and volleyball teams, graduating in 1942. Glenn earned his private pilot license and a physics course credit for free through the Civilian Pilot Training Program in 1941.

When the United States entered World War II, Glenn quit college to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He was not called to duty by the Army, and enlisted as a U.S. Navy aviation cadet in March 1942. Glenn attended the University of Iowa in Iowa City for pre-flight training and made his first solo flight in a military aircraft at Naval Air Station Olathe in Kansas, where he went for primary training.

During advanced training at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in Texas, he accepted an offer to transfer to the U.S. Marine Corps. Having completed his flight training in March 1943, Glenn was commissioned as a second lieutenant. After advanced training at Camp Kearny, California, he was assigned to Marine Squadron VMJ-353, which flew R4D transport planes from there.

The fighter squadron VMO-155 was also at Camp Kearny flying the Grumman F4F Wildcat. Glenn approached the squadron’s commander, Major J. P. Haines, who suggested that he could put in for a transfer. This was approved and Glenn was posted to VMO-155 on July 2, 1943, two days before the squadron moved to the Marine Corps Air Station El Centro in California

He was promoted to first lieutenant in October 1943, and shipped out to Hawaii in January 1944. VMO-155 became part of the garrison on Midway Atoll on February 21, then moved to the Marshall Islands in June 1944. Glenn flew 57 combat missions in the area. He received two Distinguished Flying Crosses and ten Air Medals.

At the end of his one-year tour of duty in February 1945, Glenn was assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina, then to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. After his promotion to captain in July 1945, he was ordered back to Cherry Point.

In March 1946, he was assigned to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in southern California. He volunteered for service with the occupation in North China, believing it would be a short tour. He joined VMF-218 (another Corsair squadron), which was based at Nanyuan Field near Beijing,

In December 1948, Glenn was re-posted to NAS Corpus Christi as a student at the Naval School of All-Weather Flight before becoming a flight instructor. In July 1951, he traveled to the Amphibious Warfare School at Marine Corps Base Quantico in northern Virginia for a six-month course. He then joined the staff of the commandant of the Marine Corps Schools. He maintained his proficiency (and flight pay) by flying on weekends and was only allowed four hours of flying time per month. He was promoted to major in July 1952. For his efforts and service, Glenn received the World War II Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with one star), Navy Occupation Service Medal (with Asia clasp) and the China Service Medal.

Glenn was ordered to South Korea in October 1952, late in the Korean War. Glenn reported to K-3, an airbase in South Korea, on February 3, 1953. Glenn’s first mission was a reconnaissance flight on February 26. He would go on to fly 63 combat missions in Korea with VMF-311 and was nicknamed “Magnet Ass” because of the number of flak hits he took on low-level close air support missions; twice, he returned to base with more than 250 holes in his plane.

Glenn later wrote, “Since the days of the Lafayette Escadrille during World War I, pilots have viewed air-to-air combat as the ultimate test not only of their machines but of their own personal determination and flying skills. I was no exception.”

Glenn’s USAF squadron mates painted “MiG Mad Marine” on his aircraft when he complained about there not being any MIGs to shoot at. He shot down his first MiG in a dogfight on July 12, 1953, downed a second one on July 19 and a third on July 22.

For his service in Korea, Glenn received two more Distinguished Flying Crosses and eight more Air Medals. Glenn also received the Korean Service Medal (with two campaign stars), United Nations Korea MedalMarine Corps Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Service Medal (with one star) and the Korean War Service Medal.

With combat experience as a fighter pilot, Glenn applied for training as a test pilot while still in Korea. He reported to the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at NAS Patuxent River in Maryland in January 1954, and graduated in July. Glenn’s first flight test assignment, testing the FJ-3 Fury, nearly killed him when its cockpit depressurized and its oxygen system failed.

On July 16, 1957, he made the first supersonic transcontinental flight. He flew an F8U Crusader 2,445 miles from Los Alamitos, California to Floyd Bennett Field in New York City in 3 hours, 23 minutes and 8.3 seconds averaging supersonic speed despite three in-flight refuelings when his speeds dropped below 300 miles per hour. His on-board camera took the first continuous, transcontinental panoramic photograph of the United States. He received his fifth Distinguished Flying Cross for this mission and was promoted to lieutenant colonel on April 1, 1959. Glenn now had nearly 9,000 hours of flying time, including about 3,000 hours in jets,

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite. In response, President Dwight D. Eisenhower launched the Space Race. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was established on October 1, 1958, as a civilian agency to develop space technology. One of its first initiatives was announced on December 17, 1958. This was Project Mercury, which aimed to launch a man into Earth orbit, return him safely to the Earth, and evaluate his capabilities in space.

Eisenhower directed NASA to recruit its first astronauts from military test pilots. Of 508 graduates of test pilot schools, 110 matched the minimum standards. Marine Corps pilots were mistakenly omitted at first; two were quickly found, including Glenn. The candidates had to be younger than 40, possess a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, and be 5 feet 11 inches (1.80 m) or less. He was among the 32 of the first 69 candidates that passed the first step of the evaluation and were interested in continuing, sufficient for the astronaut corps NASA wanted.

In The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe wrote that Glenn “came out of it as tops among seven very fair-haired boys. He had the hottest record as a pilot, he was the most quotable, the most photogenic, and the lone Marine.”

Glenn was the backup pilot for Shepard and Grissom on the first two crewed Project Mercury flights, the sub-orbital missions Mercury-Redstone 3 and Mercury-Redstone 4. Glenn was selected for Mercury-Atlas 6, NASA’s first crewed orbital flight, with Carpenter as his backup. Putting a man in orbit would achieve one of Project Mercury’s most important goals.

▶️ 6 Minutes 12 Seconds

After a long series of delays, Friendship 7 lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on February 20, 1962. During the countdown, there were eleven delays due to equipment malfunctions and improvements and the weather.

Friendship 7 safely splashed down 800 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral after Glenn’s 4-hour, 55-minute flight. He carried a note on the flight which read, “I am a stranger. I come in peace. Take me to your leader and there will be a massive reward for you in eternity” in several languages, in case he landed near southern Pacific Ocean islands.

During the flight, Glenn endured up to 7.8 g of acceleration and traveled 75,679 miles at about 17,500 miles per hour. The flight took Glenn to a maximum altitude (apogee) of about 162 miles and a minimum altitude of 100 miles (perigee).

The flight made Glenn the first American to orbit the Earth, the third American in space and the fifth human in space. Glenn called the mission the “best day of his life.”

As the first American in orbit, Glenn became a national hero, met with President John F. Kennedy at The White House and received a ticker-tape parade in New York reminiscent of those honoring Charles Lindbergh and other heroes.

On February 23, 1962, President Kennedy awarded him the NASA Distinguished Service Medal for his Friendship 7 flight. Upon receiving the award, Glenn said, “I would like to consider I was a figurehead for this whole big, tremendous effort, and I am very proud of the medal I have on my lapel.” Glenn also received his sixth Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts.

At 42, Glenn was the oldest member of the astronaut corps and would likely be close to 50 by the time the lunar landings took place. During Glenn’s training, NASA psychologists determined that he was the astronaut best suited for public life. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy suggested to Glenn and his wife in December 1962 that he run for the 1964 United States Senate election in Ohio.

As it seemed unlikely that he would be selected for any Project Apollo missions, he resigned from NASA on January 16, 1964, and announced his Democrat Party candidacy for the U.S. Senate from his home state of Ohio the following day, becoming the first astronaut-politician.

In 1973, he and a friend bought a Holiday Inn near Disney World.The success of Disney World expanded to their business, and the pair built three more hotels.

After Jimmy Carter became the presumptive Democrat nominee for president in the 1976 election, Glenn was reported to be in consideration to be Carter’s running mate because he was a senator in a pivotal state and for his fame and straightforwardness. However, some thought he was too much like Carter, partially because they both had military backgrounds, and that he did not have enough experience to become president.

Barbara Jordan was the first keynote speaker at the Democrat National Convention. Her speech electrified the crowd, and was filled with applause and standing ovations. Glenn’s keynote address immediately followed Jordan’s, and he failed to impress the delegates. Walter Cronkite described it as “dull,” and other delegates complained that he was hard to hear. Carter called Glenn to inform him the nomination was going to another candidate, and later nominated the veteran politician Walter Mondale. It was also reported that Carter’s wife thought Annie Glenn, who had a stutter, would hurt the campaign.

In his first Senate reelection campaign, Glenn ran opposed in the primary for the 1980 Senate election. Glenn won the primary by a landslide, with 934,230 of the 1.09 million votes.

Glenn was unhappy with how divided the country was, and thought labels like conservative and liberal increased the divide. He considered himself a centrist. Glenn thought a more centrist president would help unite the country. Glenn announced his candidacy for president on April 21, 1983, in the John Glenn High School gymnasium. He started out the campaign out-raising the front-runner, Mondale. He also polled the highest of any Democrat against Reagan.

Glenn’s campaign decided to forgo the traditional campaigning in early caucuses and primaries, and focus on building campaign offices across the country. He opened offices in 43 states by January 1984. Glenn’s campaign spent a significant amount of money on television advertising in Iowa, and Glenn chose not to attend an Iowan debate on farm issues. He finished fifth in the Iowa caucus, and went on to lose New Hampshire. Glenn’s campaign continued into Super Tuesday, and he lost there as well. He announced his withdrawal from the race on March 16, 1984.

Glenn chaired the Committee on Governmental Affairs from 1987 to 1995. It was in this role that he discovered safety and environmental problems with the nation’s nuclear weapons facilities. Glenn was made aware of the problem at the Fernald Feed Materials Production Center near Cincinnati, and soon found that it affected sites across the nation. Glenn requested investigations from the General Accounting Office of Congress and held several hearings on the issue. He also released a report on the potential costs of hazardous waste cleanup at former nuclear weapons manufacturing facilities, known as the Glenn Report. He spent the remainder of his Senate career acquiring funding to clean up the nuclear waste left at the facilities.

Glenn also focused on reducing government waste. He created legislation to mandate CFOs for large governmental agencies.Glenn wrote a bill to add the office of the inspector general to federal agencies, to help find waste and fraud. He also created legislation intended to prevent the federal government from imposing regulations on local governments without funding. Glenn founded the Great Lakes Task Force, which helped protect the environment of the Great Lakes.

Glenn’s father spent his retirement money battling cancer, and would have lost his house if Glenn had not intervened. His father-in-law also had expensive treatments for Parkinson’s disease. These health and financial issues motivated him to request a seat on the Special Committee on Aging.

Glenn became chairman of the Manpower Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee in 1987. He introduced legislation such as increasing pay and benefits for American troops in the Persian Gulf during the Gulf War. He served as chairman until 1993, becoming chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Readiness and Defense Infrastructure.

Glenn was one of the original Keating Five—the U.S. Senators who were involved in the savings and loan crisis—after he accepted a $200,000 campaign contribution from Lincoln Savings and Loan Association head Charles Keating. During the crisis, the senators were accused of delaying the seizure of Keating’s S&L, which cost taxpayers an additional $2 billion. The combination of perceived political pressure and Keating’s monetary contributions to the senators led to an investigation.

The Democrats did not want to exclude McCain, as he was the only Republican being investigated, which means they could not excuse Glenn from the investigation either. McCain and Glenn were reprimanded the least of the five, as the Senate commission found that they had exercised “poor judgment.”

On February 20, 1997, which was the 35th anniversary of his Friendship 7 flight, Glenn announced that his retirement from the Senate would occur at the end of his term in January 1999. Glenn retired because of his age, saying “… There is still no cure for the common birthday”.

On January 16, 1998, NASA Administrator Dan Goldin announced that Glenn would be part of the STS-95 crew. This made him, at age 77, the oldest person to fly in space at that time.

NASA and the National Institute of Aging (NIA) planned to use Glenn as a test subject for research, with biometrics taken before, during and after his flight.

Glenn returned to space on the Space Shuttle on October 29, 1998, as a payload specialist on Space Shuttle Discovery. On November 6, President Bill Clinton sent a congratulatory email to Glenn aboard the Discovery. This is often cited as the first email sent by a sitting U.S. president, but records exist of emails being sent by President Clinton several years earlier.

Freemason, Glenn was a member of Concord Lodge No. 688 in New Concord, Ohio. He received all his degrees in full in a Mason at Sight ceremony from the Grand Master of Ohio in 1978, 14 years after petitioning his lodge. In 1999, Glenn became a 33rd-degree Scottish Rite Mason in the Valley of Cincinnati (NMJ).

Glenn was also an ordained elder of the Presbyterian Church. His religious faith began before he became an astronaut, and was reinforced after he traveled in space. “To look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible,” said Glenn after his second (and final) space voyage..

Glenn was in good health for most of his life. He retained a private pilot’s license until 2011 when he was 90. In June 2014, Glenn underwent successful heart valve replacement surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. In early December 2016, he was hospitalized at the James Cancer Hospital of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. According to a family source, Glenn had been in declining health, and his condition was grave; his wife and their children and grandchildren were at the hospital.

Glenn died on December 8, 2016, at the OSU Wexner Medical Center; he was 95 years old. No cause of death was disclosed. After his death, his body lay in state at the Ohio Statehouse. There was a memorial service held at Mershon Auditorium at Ohio State University. Another memorial service was performed at Kennedy Space Center near the Heroes and Legends building. His body was interred at Arlington National Cemetery on April 6, 2017. At the time of his death, Glenn was the last surviving member of the original Mercury Seven team.

Glenn was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame in 1968, National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1976, the International Space Hall of Fame in 1977 and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1990.✪