Colonel John H. Glenn, Jr.



Colonel John H. Glenn, Jr., the first American to orbit the earth, retired from active service in the U.S. Marine Corps, 4 January 1965, following 21 years, 9 months and 4 days as a commissioned Marine officer. He was promoted to the grade of colonel by President Lyndon B. Johnson in a special ceremony at the White House, 27 October 1964.  As a member of NASA's Project Mercury, Col Glenn made his now historic flight on 20 February 1962. In his Friendship Seven Mercury Spacecraft, the astronaut orbited the earth three times in 4 hours, 56 minutes-- spending almost the entire time weightless in space.

John Herschel Glenn, Jr., was born on 18 July 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio. He was graduated from high school in New Concord, Ohio, in 1939, then entered Muskingum College. During his junior year, he enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve, 28 March 1942, for training as a Naval Aviation Cadet. He was assigned to active duty, 28 May 1942, and transferred to the Naval Aviation Pre-Flight School, Iowa City, Iowa, and while there was designated an Aviation Cadet, 4 August 1942. Following pre-flight instruction, he completed primary flight training at the U.S. Naval Reserve Aviation Base, Kansas City, Olathe, Kansas, from 23 August to 17 November 1942. Two days later, he joined the Naval Air Training Center, Corpus Christi, Texas, where, on completing flight training 30 March 1943, his enlistment in the Naval Reserve was terminated in order to accept a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps.

On 31 March 1943, he was commissioned a Marine Reserve second lieutenant and designated a Naval Aviator. He has continued on active duty since that date, and in 1946 was integrated into the regular Marine Corps.

Promoted to first lieutenant in October 1943, he sailed for the Pacific area in February 1944. During World War II, 1stLt Glenn flew 59 missions in the Marshall Islands campaign, earning two Distinguished Flying Crosses and ten Air Medals as a pilot in Marine Fighter Squadron (VMF) 155, Marine Aircraft Group 31, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing. Returning to the United States in February 1945, he was subsequently assigned to the 9th Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, North Carolina, and Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Maryland. He was promoted to captain in July 1945.

Captain Glenn next served at Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, California, from March until December 1946. He then departed the United States for two years duty with Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, and during this time was a member of Marine Fighter Squadron 218 on North China patrol and later with this same squadron was stationed on the island of Guam.

From January 1949 to June 1951, Capt Glenn served as Flight Instructor, Instructors’ Advanced Training Unit, Naval Auxiliary Air Station, Cabaniss Field, Corpus Christi; and as Instrument Flight Instructor, Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi. In July 1951, he was transferred to Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia, where he completed the Junior Course in November 1951, then served as assistant G-2/G-3. He was promoted to major in July 1952.

Major Glenn departed Quantico in November 1952 and completed the Jet Refresher Course at Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point. In February 1953, he arrived in Korea for duty as a jet pilot with Marine Fighter Squadron 311 (VMF-311), Marine Aircraft Group 33. During the Korean Conflict, he flew a total of 90 combat missions.

Flying 63 missions with VMF-311 from February through May 1953, he was awarded a third Distinguished Flying Cross and six Air Medals. As an exchange pilot with the Fifth U.S. Air Force from June to September 1953, he flew 27 missions with the 25th Fighter Squadron, 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing. While serving with the 25th Squadron, he destroyed three MIGs in nine days. For this outstanding performance, the U.S. Air Force awarded him a Distinguished Flying Cross, his fourth such award; and two Air Medals, his 17th and 18th. He remained in Korea through December 1953.

Early in 1954, Maj Glenn entered the Navy Test Pilot Training School at the Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, completing the course in July 1954. After graduation, he was Project Officer on a number of aircraft, including the F8U, F8U-1, and F8U-P, at the Armament Test Division of the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River. In November 1956, he was assigned as Project Officer, Fighter Design Branch, Bureau of aeronautics, Navy Department, in Washington, D.C.

On 16 July 1957, Maj Glenn completed the first non-stop supersonic coast-to-coast flight in an F8U-1 Crusader. This flight, from Los Alamitos Naval Air Station, California, to Floyd Bennett Field, New York, took 3 hours 23 minutes and 8.1 seconds. He was awarded his fifth Distinguished Flying Cross for this feat.

Following his promotion to lieutenant colonel in April 1959, he was named as one of the original seven Project Mercury astronauts on 9 April. The seven, all volunteers, were selected by NASA from an initial group of 110 leading military test pilots. They received their Project Mercury orbital flight training at NASA's Langley Research Center, Langley Field, Hampton, Virginia.

On 20 February 1962, LtCol Glenn in his Mercury craft was rocketed into space by a modified Atlas missile from Cape Canaveral (later re-named Cape Kennedy), Florida, at 9:47a.m. (EST) and landed in the Atlantic Ocean, 166 miles east of Grand Turk Island in the Bahamas, at 2:43 p.m. During the second and third orbits, he controlled the capsule himself through the autopilot after the automatic controls broke down just at the end of the first orbit. During his 83,000-mile ride through space, he had achieved an orbital speed of 17,530 miles an hour at a high point of 162.5 statute miles and a low point of 98.9 statue miles.

Following re-entry, LtCol Glenn landed with his spacecraft in the Atlantic, five miles from the United States Navy Destroyer Noa. He was picked up still inside his spacecraft and lowered to the deck of the destroyer at 3:04 p.m. Later, he was lifted from the Noa by helicopter and transferred to the carrier Randolph for transport to Grand Turk Island for examination by a team of doctors and technicians, and was pronounced in excellent condition.

President John F. Kennedy presented LtCol Glenn the NASA Distinguished Service Medal at Cape Canaveral on 23 February 1962. On the previous day, Lyndon B. Johnson, then Vice President of the United States, and Chairman of the National Aeronautics and Space Council, had flown to Grand Turk Island to escort LtCol Glenn to Cape Canaveral. On 26 February, he returned to Washington, D.C., with President Kennedy, and after a parade from the White House to Capitol Hill, LtCol Glenn and his fellow astronauts were honored at a joint meeting of Congress. On 1 March, he and his fellow astronauts were honored with a ticker-tape parade in New York City.  In the summer of 1962, LtCol Glenn moved with his fellow astronauts to the newly established Manned Space Craft Center in Houston, Texas.

On 22 January 1964, at his own request, LtCol Glenn was released from his assignment with NASA. At the same time, he requested retirement from the Marine Corps, effective 1 March 1964, in order to enter the Democratic senatorial race in his home state of Ohio. Pending his retirement, he was assigned to the Marine Corps Recruiting Station, Houston, Texas.

However, on 26 February 1964, he suffered an inner ear injury in a fall in his home, and his retirement was postponed. Due to his injury, he subsequently withdrew from the senatorial campaign in April 1964. He later wrote the Commandant of the Marine Corps and asked that the 1964 Colonels' Selection Board not consider him for promotion to full colonel due to his plan to retire when physically fit.

On 29 September 1964, it was announced that he was being nominated for full colonel despite his letter because the Secretary of the Navy and the Commandant desired to recognize "his many accomplishments while in the service of his country." Therefore, on 27 October 1964, he was promoted to full colonel by President Johnson in a special ceremony in the White House Rose Garden. At the ceremony, the President said he had consulted with Congress on the matter and "we were unanimous in believing that we should not be deprived of doing what we think is right."

The recipient of numerous honors and awards following his epochal flight, Col Glenn was awarded a BS degree by Muskingham College in June 1962; the first Alfred A. Cunningham Trophy as Marine Aviator of the Year in November 1962 upon the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Marine Corps Aviation; the Robert Collier Trophy, jointly awarded him and his fellow Project Mercury astronauts, by President Kennedy in a White House ceremony, 10 October 1963--the trophy, awarded annually since 1912, is presented for the greatest American achievement in aeronautics or astronautics; the National Geographical Society's Hubbard Medal in April 1962--its 21st recipient since it was originally presented to Admiral Robert N. Peary in 1906 for his explorations and discovery of the North Pole; and the Freedoms Foundation's highest honor, the George Washington Award, in February 1964; in addition to many others.

A complete list of Col Glenn's medals and decorations includes: the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Gold Stars and two Oak Leaf Clusters in lieu of second through fifth awards; the Air Medal with fifteen Gold Stars and two Oak Leaf Clusters in lieu of second through eighteenth awards; the Presidential Unit Citation; the Navy Unit Commendation (1952-53, Korea); NASA Distinguished Service Medal for first orbital flight; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze star; the China Service Medal; the Navy Occupation Service Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Korean Service Medal with two bronze stars; the United Nations Service Medal; and the Korean Presidential Unit Citation. He was also awarded the Navy Astronaut Wings and the Marine Corps Astronaut Insignia.

Marine Corps University