Tag Archives: Naval Aviator

23 June 1951

Grumman F9F-5 Panther Bu. No. 125228 explodes after striking the flight deck of USS Midway (CVB-41), 23 June 1951. (U.S. Navy)

23 June 1951: Operating in the Atlantic Ocean off the Virginia Capes, the United States Navy aircraft carrier USS Midway (CVB-41) was conducting suitability trials of the Grumman F9F-5 Panther. Commander George Chamberlain Duncan, commanding Fighter Squadron 51 (VF-51) was in the cockpit of Bu. No. 125228. Having made a successful landing aboard Midway, Duncan took off to make another approach and landing.

Just short of the flight deck, the Panther dropped below the correct approach. Duncan tried to pull up, but the fighter struck the ramp and broke in half. The aircraft exploded in flames. The forward section slid down the deck. Duncan, though burned, was quickly rescued.

The nose section of Grumman F9F-5 Panther Bu. No. 125228 slides down the flight deck of USS Midway (CVB-41), 23 June 1951. Commander Duncan is still in the cockpit. (U.S. Navy)
Flight deck crew members try to contain the fire after the crash of F9F-5 Panther Bu. No. 125228, while others rescue Commander Duncan from the forward fuselage, aboard USS Midway (CVB-41), 23 June 1951. (U.S. Navy)
The forward fuselage of Grumman F9F-5 Panther Bu. No. 125228 following the crash aboard USS Midway (CVB-41), 23 June 1951. (U.S. Navy)

The Grumman F9F-5 Panther was a single-seat, single-engine turbojet powered fighter designed for operation from the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers. It was 38 feet, 10½ inches (11.849 meters) long, with a wingspan of 38 feet, 0 inches (11.528 meters)— not including wing tanks. Its overall height was 12 feet, 4 inches (3.759 meters). The wings could be hydraulically folded to reduce the span for storage aboard ship. The F9F-5 weighed 10,147 pounds (4,603 kilograms) empty, and had a gross weight of 17,766 pounds (8,059 kilograms). The maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) was 18,721 pounds (8,492 kilograms).

The F9F-5 was powered by a Pratt & Whitney JT7 (J48-P-6 or -6A) engine, a license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Tay. It was a single-shaft turbojet with a single-stage centrifugal-flow compressor, 9 combustion chambers and a single-stage axial-flow turbine. The J48-P-6 was rated at 6,250 pounds of thrust (27.80 kilonewtons), and 7,000 pounds (31.14 kilonewtons) with water injection.

The  F9F-5 Panther had a cruise speed 481 miles per hour (774 kilometers per hour). Its maximum speed was 604 miles per hour (972 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. Its service ceiling was 42,800 feet (13,045 meters), and the range was 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers).

The Panther was armed with four M3 20 mm autocannon placed in the nose. It could carry up to 3,465 pounds (1,361 kilograms) of bombs or eight 5-inch (12.7 centimeters) rockets on four hardpoints under each wing.

The XF9F-2 prototype first flew 21 November 1947. 1,382 F9F Panthers were produced and they remained in service with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps until 1958. 619 of these were the F9F-5 variant. A swept wing version, the F9F-6 through F9F-9J Cougar, was also produced.

Captain George Chamberlain Duncan, United States Navy

George Chamberlain Duncan was born at Tacoma, Washington, 11 Feb 1917. He was the first of three children of of George W. Duncan, a mining camp supplier, and Frances Delarsh Chamberlain Duncan. Duncan attended Stadium High School in Tacoma. He played on the football and swim teams. He was also a member of the glee club, and during his senior year, portrayed “Oliver le Dain” in the comic opera, “The Vagabond King.” He was a member of the school’s glider and architecture clubs. Duncan graduated in 1934.

Midshipman George C. Duncan, U.S. Navy

George Duncan entered the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, as a midshipman, 18 July 1935. He graduated 1 June 1939 and was commissioned an Ensign, United States Navy. Ensign Duncan served aboard the Colorado-class battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) from June 1939 to August 1941.

Ensign Duncan married Miss Agnes Wirt Tawresey at Washington, D.C., 30 August 1941. They would have four children, three sons, George, Jr., Richmond, Alfred, and a daughter, Agnes.

Ensign Duncan was next assigned to the Northampton-class heavy cruiser USS Louisville (CA-28), serving aboard in 1942 and 1943.

Duncan was promoted to the rank of lieutenant (junior grade), 1 June 1942. Two weeks later, 15 June 1942, he was promoted to lieutenant (temporary).

Lieutenant Duncan underwent flight training at NAS Pensacola. Following graduation he was assigned to Fighting Squadron Fifteen (VF-15) aboard USS Essex (CV-9). Duncan was promoted to lieutenant commander (temporary) 15 March 1944.

On 13 September 1944, Lieutenant Commander Duncan was engaged in aerial combat over the central Philippine Islands. He was credited with destroying an enemy medium bomber and two fighters, shared credit for a second bomber shot down, and damaged a third fighter. He followed this by strafing an airfield and destroying three aircraft on the ground. For these actions, Duncan was awarded the Silver Star.

During the Battle off Cape Engaño on the morning of 25 October 1944, Lieutenant Commander Duncan led VF-15 in an attack against Imperial Japanese Navy warships in the Sibuyan Sea. He scored a direct hit with a bomb on the light carrier IJN Chitose, which, along with a number of other hits, resulted in its sinking at 0937 hours. Duncan was awarded the Navy Cross.

Japanese aircraft carriers IJN Zuikaku (left) and IJN Zuiho under attack by U.S. Navy aircraft during the Battle off Cape Engaño, 25 October 1944. (U.S. Navy)

Duncan is officially credited with 13½ enemy aircraft destroyed.

In March 1945, Lieutenant Commander Duncan was assigned to the Naval Postgraduate School at Annapolis, Maryland. In 1949, he graduated from the 48-week Test Pilot Division course at NATC Patuxent River. On 1 June 1949, his rank of lieutenant commander became permanent. On the same day, Duncan was promoted to commander. This was also a permanent rank.

Commander Duncan served as the commander of VF-51 aboard the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Valley Forge (CVA-45) during the Korean War. He later commanded  VF-101, and was Commander Air Group (“CAG”), Carrier Air Group 5 (CVG-5). He was next assigned as the Head, Fighter Design Branch, Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAir), then, Assistant Director, Aircraft Division, Bureau of Weapons (BuWeps). Returning to sea, Commander Duncan was executive officer of the “supercarrier” USS Forrestal (CV-59). Duncan was promoted to the rank of captain, 1 April 1958.

For a Naval Aviator to be given command of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, they generally have to have had command of a “deep-draft” ship. Captain Duncan was given command of the 13,900-ton aircraft stores ship USS Jupiter (AVS-8) from July 1961 to 24 March 1962. Jupiter had a draft of 25 feet, 10 inches (7.874 meters). During this time, Jupiter operated with the 7th Fleet, and was homeported at Yokosuka, Japan.

Captain Duncan assumed command of the Forrestal-class aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-61), 7 May 1962, and remained in that assignment until 20 May 1963.

USS Ranger (CVA-61), 1963. United States Navy)

Captain Duncan retired from the United States Navy in December 1967. During his naval career, he had been awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross with one silver star and one gold star (seven awards), and the Bronze Star with Combat “V.”

Following his retirement, Duncan attended George Washington University, Washington, D.C., where he earned a degree in law. He was a practicing attorney in Alexandria, Virginia.

Agnes Duncan died in 1972. In 1974, Captain Duncan married Margaret Handy. She died in 1980.

Captain Duncan suffered a fatal heart attack while in a restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia, 15 December 1995, at the age of 77 years. He is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, alongside his first wife.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 April 1942

(Left to right) Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Admiral Ernest J. King, U.S. Navy, Mrs. O'Hare, Lt. (j.g.) Edward H. O'Hare, U.S. Navy.
(Left to right) Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Admiral Ernest J. King, U.S. Navy, Mrs. O’Hare, Lt. (j.g.) Edward H. O’Hare, U.S. Navy.

21 April 1942: Lieutenant (junior grade) Edward Henry (“Butch”) O’Hare, United States Navy, was presented the Medal of Honor by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a ceremony at the White House. Also present were Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Ernest J. King, and Mrs. O’Hare.

Lieutenant O’Hare received the Medal for his actions of 20 February 1942, the single-handed defense of his aircraft carrier, USS Lexington, in shooting down five of nine attacking Japanese G4M “Betty” bombers with his Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat and damaging a sixth. He was the first Naval Aviator to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, early 1942. This fighter is the same type flown by Lieutenant (j.g.) O'Hare, 20 February 1942.(U.S. Navy)
Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, early 1942. This fighter is the same type flown by Lieutenant (j.g.) O’Hare, 20 February 1942.(U.S. Navy)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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19 April 2006

Albert Scott Crossfield, Jr., with the Victor Black Edition Continental engine overhauled by Victor Aviation of Palo Alto, California.
Albert Scott Crossfield, Jr., with the Victor Black Edition Continental IO-470-E engine installed in his Cessna 210A, N6579X. The engine was overhauled by Victor Aviation of Palo Alto, California. (Victor Aviation)

19 April 2006: Former experimental test pilot Albert Scott Crossfield, Jr., was enroute from Prattville, Alabama, to Manassas, Virginia. Scott Crossfield¹ was flying his personal Cessna 210A, N6579X. The Cessna was cruising at 11,000 feet (3,353 meters) under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), under the control of the Atlanta Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC).

During the flight, he encountered a Level 6 thunderstorm.

Scott Crossfield requested to deviate from his planned course to avoid the severe turbulence. Atlanta Center authorized his request and he began to turn. Approximately 30 seconds later, at 11:10 a.m., radar contact was lost near Ludville, Georgia. The last indication was that the Cessna was descending through 5,500 feet (1,676 meters).

The wreckage of N6579X was located the following day by a Civil Air Patrol search team, 3.3 nautical miles (6.1 kilometers) northwest of Ludville at an elevation of 1,269 feet (386.8 meters) above Sea Level. [N. 34° 30.767′, W. 84° 39.492′] The airplane had descended through the forest canopy nearly vertically and created a crater approximately 4½ feet (1.4 meters) deep and 6 feet (1.8 meters) across. Albert Scott Crossfield’s body was inside.

Scott Crossfield’s 1962 Cessna 210A Centurion, photographed at Santa Monica Airport, California, 26 September 1999. (AirNikon Collection, Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona via airliners.net)

N6579X was a Cessna Model 210A, serial number 21057579, built in 1960 by the Cessna Aircraft Company, Inc., of Wichita Kansas. It was a six-place, single-engine, high-wing monoplane with external struts to brace the wings, and retractable, tricycle landing gear. The airplane was certified for instrument flight by a single pilot. At the time of the crash, N6579X had been flown 4,987.4 hours, total time since new (TTSN).

The Cessna 210A was 28 feet, 2 inches (8.585 meters) long with a wingspan of 36 feet, 6 inches (11.125 meters) and overall height of 9 feet, 7 inches (2.921 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 1,839 pounds (834.2 kilograms) and maximum gross weight of 2,900 pounds (1,315.4 kilograms). It had a fuel capacity of 65 gallons (246 liters), with 10 gallons (37.9 liters) unusable, and 12 quarts of engine oil (11.4 liters).

N6579X was powered by an air-cooled, fuel-injected, 471.239-cubic-inch-displacement (7.722 liters) Teledyne Continental IO-470-E horizontally-opposed six-cylinder direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 8.6:1. The engine was rated at 260 horsepower at 2,625 r.p.m. for takeoff, using 100LL aviation gasoline. It weighed 429 pounds (195 kilograms). This engine, serial number 77583-0-E, was original to the airplane and accumulated 4,987.4 hours, total time since new (TTSN). It had been overhauled by Victor Aviation, Palo Alto, California, 1,259.8 hours prior to the accident (TSO). A three-bladed McCauley constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 6 feet, 10 inches (2.083 meters) was installed in 2005.

The Cessna Model 210A has a maximum structural cruise speed of 175 miles per hour (282 kilometers), and maximum speed (Vne) of 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour). Maneuvering speed, which should be used in turbulent conditions, is 130 miles per hour (209 kilometers per hour). The 210A has a maximum rate of climb of 1,300 feet per minutes (6.6  meters per second) and service ceiling of 20,700 feet (6,309 meters). Its maximum range is 1,284 miles (2,066 kilometers).

Albert Scott Crossfield, Jr., aeronautical engineer and test pilot, 1921-2006. (Jet Pilot Overseas)

Albert Scott Crossfield, Jr., was born 2 October 1921 at Berkeley, California. He was the second of three children of Albert Scott Crossfield, a chemist who was employed as the superintendant of the Union Oil Company refinery in Wilmington, California, and Lucia M. Dwyer Crossfield.

When he was five years old, young “Scotty” contracted pneumonia. He was comatose for a while and was not expected to survive, but after several weeks he began to recover. A year later, he again became seriously ill, this time with rheumatic fever. He was confined to total bed rest for four months, and continued to require extensive bed rest until he was about ten years old. It was during this time that he became interested in aviation.

Scott Crossfield attended Boistfort Consolidated School, southwest of Chehalis, Washington, graduating in 1939, and then studied engineering at the University of Washington until taking a job at Boeing in late 1941. During this time, Scotty learned to fly in the Civilian Aviation Training Program.

The week following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II, Scott Crossfield enlisted as an aviation cadet in the United States Army Air Corps. After numerous delays, he joined the United States Navy on 21 February 1942, and resigned from the Air Corps. He began aviation cadet training at NAS Sand Point, near Seattle, and then was sent to NAS Corpus Christi, Texas. In December 1942, he graduated, received his gold Naval Aviator wings and was commissioned as an Ensign, United States Naval Reserve.

Ensign Crossfield was assigned to NAS Kingsville as an advanced bombing and gunnery instructor. He was promoted to Lieutenant (junior grade), 1 March 1944. He continued as a gunnery instructor for two years before being transferred to Air Group 51 in the Hawaiian Islands, which was preparing for the invasion of Japan. He was promoted to Lieutenant, 1 August 1945, while serving aboard the Independence-class light aircraft carrier USS Langley (CVL-27). With the end of World War II, though, the Navy was cutting back. Lieutenant Crossfield was released from active duty 31 December 1945.

In April 1943 at Corpus Christi, Texas, Ensign A. Scott Crossfield married Miss Alice Virginia Knoph of Seattle. They would have five children.

Following the War, Scotty returned to the University of Washington to complete his degree. He took a part time job operating the University’s wind tunnel. At the same time, he remained in the Naval Reserve, assigned to VF-74, a fighter squadron which flew both the Grumman F6F Hellcat and Chance Vought F4U Corsair out of NAS Sand Point, back where his naval career began.

Chance Vought F4U-4 Corsair, Bu. No. 82034, assigned to Fighter Squadron 74 (VF-74). (United States Navy)

Crossfield graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering in June 1949, and a master’s degree in 1950.

In 1950 Crossfield joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) as a research test pilot at the High-Speed Flight Station, Edwards Air Force Base, California. He flew the Republic YF-84, F-84F Thunderstreak, and North American Aviation F-86 Sabre. Crossfield made 25 flights in the delta-winged Convair XF-92A, which he described as “the worst flying airplane built in modern times.” He also flew the Northrop X-4 and Bell X-5. He made 17 flights conducting stability tests in the Douglas D-558-1 Skystreak. Scotty made 65 flights in the North American Aviation F-100A Super Sabre, including a test series which discovered a fatal flaw which led to the death of North American’s chief test pilot, George S. Welch.

NACA Research Test Pilot Albert Scott Crossfield in the cockpit of the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket after exceeding Mach 2, 20 November 1953. (NASA)

Crossfield is known as a rocketplane pilot. He made 10 flights in the Bell X-1, and 89 in the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket. He became the first pilot to exceed Mach 2 when he flew the Skyrocket to Mach 2.005, 20 November 1953.

Scott Crossfield discusses the X-15 with North American Aviation engineers Edmond R. Cokeley and Charles H. Feltz. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

Crossfield flew for NACA for approximately five years. During that time, approximately 500 flights were made at Edwards by NACA test pilots. Scott Crossfield flew 181 of them.

Scott Crossfield left NACA in 1956 to join North American Aviation, Inc., as chief engineering test pilot for the X-15 project. Between 8 June 1959 and 6 December 1960, he made fourteen flights in the X-15. He reached a maximum speed of Mach 2.97 and altitude of 88,116 feet (26,858 meters). Once the contractor’s flight tests were completed and the rocketplane turned over to the U.S. Air Force and NACA, the customers’ test pilots, Joe Walker and Major Robert M. White, took over.

Albert Scott Crossfield made 114 flights in rocket-powered aircraft, more than any other pilot.

After completing his work on the X-15, Crossfield followed Harrison (“Stormy”) Storms, who had been the Chief Engineer of North American’s Los Angeles Division (where the X-15 was built) to the Space and Information Systems Division in Downey, California, where he worked in quality assurance, reliability engineering and systems testing for the Apollo Command and Service Modules and the Saturn S-II second stage.

Crossfield left North American at the end of 1966, becoming Vice President for Technological Development for Eastern Air Lines. In this position, he flew acceptance tests for new Boeing 720 and 727 airliners at Boeing in Seattle.

In The X-15 Rocket Plane, author Michelle Evans quoted Crossfield as to why he had not entered NASA’s space program as an astronaut:

     One question that pressed was, with his love of flight and the early responsibility of going into space with the X-15, why would Scott not apply to the NASA astronaut office? He explained, “[Dr.] Randy Lovelace and General [Donald] Flickinger were on the selection board. They took me to supper one night and asked me not to put in for astronaut. I asked them, ‘Why  not?’ and they said, ‘Well, we’re friends of yours. We don’t want to have to turn you down.’ I asked, ‘Why would you have to turn me down?’ and they said, ‘You’re too independent.’ “

The X-15 Rocket Plane: Flying the First Wings into Space, by Michelle, Evans, University of Nebraska Press, 2013, Chapter 1 at Page 33.

The remains of Albert Scott Crossfield are interred at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Scott Crossfield is in the cockpit of X-15 56-6670, under the right wing of NB-52A 52-003. (NASA)

¹ “Scott Crossfield” is the family name, going back for several generations.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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22 February 1974

ALLEN, Barbara Ann, LTJG, USN, by Martin Blahove, 1974
Lieutenant (j.g.) Barbara Ann Allen, U.S. Navy, oil on canvas, by Marcus Blahove, 1974. (National Naval Aviation Museum, LI2004.001.001)

22 February 1974: At Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Barbara Ann Allen, United States Navy, received her Wings of Gold and designation as a Naval Aviator. She was the first woman to be so designated.

Barbara Ann Allen was born 20 August 1948 at Bethesda Naval Hospital, the daughter of a naval officer. She attended Long Beach City College and then graduated from Whittier College, Whittier, California. She was accepted to the U.S. Navy Officer Candidate School. Barbara Allen was commissioned as an Ensign, United States Navy, 18 December 1970. After assignments at the Amphibious Warfare Base, Little Creek, Virginia, and staff assignments at Atlantic Fleet headquarters, Norfolk, Virginia, she was accepted for pilot training at NAS Pensacola in February 1973.

Pensacola, Florida: The first four women chosen to undergo flight training. From left, LTJG. Barbara Allen of Chula Vista, California; ENS. Jane M. Skiles of Des Moines, Iowa; LTJG. Judith A. Neuffer of Wooster, Ohio; and ENS. Kathleen L. McNary of Plainfield, Illinois.
These are the first four women chosen to undergo Naval flight training. Left to right: Lieutenant (j.g.) Barbara Ann Allen, Ensign Jane M. Skiles, Lieutenant (j.g.) Judith A. Neuffer and Ensign Kathleen L. McNary. (U.S. Navy)

After receiving her pilot’s wings, Lieutenant Allen served with FLEET LOGISTICS SUPPORT SQUADRON THIRTY (VR-30) at NAS Alameda, California, flying the Grumman C-1A Trader, a twin-engine Carrier On-Board Delivery (“COD”) transport. She also became the first woman in the Navy to qualify in a jet-powered aircraft, the North American Aviation T-39 Sabreliner.

A Grumman C-1A Trader, Bu. No. 146053, circa 1974. (U.S. Navy)
A Grumman C-1A Trader, Bu. No. 146053, circa 1974. (U.S. Navy)

Barbara Ann Allen married Lieutenant Commander John C. Rainey, U.S. Navy, whom she had met during flight training. They have two daughters, Cynthia and Katherine.

In 1977, Lieutenant Allen (now, Rainey) transferred to a Naval Air Reserve squadron, Fleet Logistics Support Squadron FIFTY-THREE (VR-53) at Dallas, Texas, where she flew the four-engine Douglas C-118B Liftmaster.

A U.S. Navy Douglas C-118B Liftmaster, Bu. No. 131600, of VR-53, 1978. (Unattributed)
A U.S. Navy Douglas C-118B Liftmaster, Bu. No. 131600, of VR-53, 1978. (Unattributed)

In 1981, Lieutenant Commander Barbara Ann Allen Rainey was recalled to active duty and assigned as a flight instructor with Training Squadron THREE (VT-3) at NAS Whiting Field, Florida.

This Beech T-34C Turbo Mentor, Bu. No. 160955, is the sister ship of the airplane in which LCDR Rainey and her student, ENS Knowlton, were killed, 13 July 1982. (Photograph © Andrew J. Muller. Used with permission.)
This Beech T-34C Turbo Mentor, Bu. No. 160953, is the sister ship of the airplane in which LCDR Rainey and her student, ENS Knowlton, were killed, 13 July 1982. (Photograph © Andrew J. Muller. Used with permission.)

At 10:20 a.m., 13 July 1982, while practicing touch-and-go landings at Middleton Field, Alabama, LCDR Barbara Ann Rainey and her student, Ensign Knowlton, were killed in a crash. While in the traffic pattern, their Beechcraft T-34C Turbo Mentor, a single-engine, two-place training airplane, Bu. No. 160955, suddenly banked to the right, lost altitude and crashed. The cause of the accident is unknown. It is attributed to pilot error, but the engine had been operating at reduced power and there may have been a “rollback.”

A product liability lawsuit, Beech Aircraft Corporation v. Rainey, was decided in the plaintiff’s favor by the Supreme Court of the United States. [488 U.S. 153 (1988)]Naval Aviator Wings

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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

John Herschel Glenn, Jr., NASA Project Mercury Astronaut. (Ralph Morse/LIFE Magazine)

John Glenn, one of the original seven astronauts selected by NASA for Project Mercury, was a personal hero of mine. As a young boy growing up in Southern California, less than three miles from Rocketdyne’s engine test stands in Santa Susana, I followed the progress of all the astronauts. I recall having a map pinned to my wall, showing the orbital path of Friendship 7 as Glenn made his historic three orbits of the Earth. All of the astronauts, and the X-15 test pilots at Edwards, were heroes to me, but for some reason, John Glenn was special.

John H. Glenn, Jr., Pilot. (John Glenn Archives, Ohio State University)

John Herschel Glenn, Jr., was born at Cambridge, Ohio, 18 July 1921, the first of four children of John Herschel Glenn, a plumber, and Clara Teresa Sproat Glenn. The Glenn family resided in New Concorde, Ohio. Glenn attended New Concord High School, graduating in 1939, and then enrolled at Muskingum College, also in New Concord, where he majored in engineering. While in college, he learned to fly.

Soon after the United States entered World War II, John Glenn enlisted in the United States Navy as a Naval Aviation Cadet, 28 March 1942. He transferred to the Marine Corps while still in flight training, and after qualifying as a Naval Aviator, was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, 16 March 1943.

On 6 April 1943, Lieutenant Glenn married Miss Anna Margaret Castor, also from New Concorde. They would have two children, Carolyn Ann Glenn and John David Glenn.

In October 1943, Glenn was promoted to First Lieutenant. Initially assigned as a transport pilot flying the Douglas R4D-1 Skytrain with Marine Utility Squadron 315 (VMJ-315) in the Pacific, he was transferred to Marine Fighter Squadron 155 (VMF-155). He flew 59 combat missions with the Chance Vought F4U Corsair in the Marshall Islands.

Lieutenant John H. Glenn, Jr., USMCR, flying a Chance Vought F4U-1 Corsair with VMF-155, 1943. (Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum/John Glenn Archives, The Ohio State University)

In 1945, Glenn was assigned to Marine Fighter Squadron 218 (VMF-218), again flying an F4U-4 Corsair, patrolling China with the 1st Marine Division. Lieutenant Glenn was promoted to the rank of Captain in July 1945.

In 1946, Captain Glenn, was transferred from the USMCR to the regular Marine Corps, retaining his temporary rank. On 7 August 1947, the rank of Captain was made permanent.

Captain Glenn served as an advanced flight instructor at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, from June 1948 to December 1950. With the Korean War, Glenn was assigned to Marine Fighter Squadron 311 (VMF-311), which flew the Grumman F9F-2 Panther.

Captain John H. Glenn, Jr., USMCR, a fighter pilot of VMF-311, examines some of the 714 holes in his Grumman F9F-2 Panther. (U.S. Air Force)

Captain Glenn few 63 combat missions with VMF-311. He was promoted to the rank of Major, 28 June 1952. He served as an exchange officer with the U.S. Air Force, flying a North American Aviation F-86F Sabre with the 25th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing at K-13, an air base at Suwon, Republic of Korea. In July 1953, Glenn shot down three enemy Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 15 jet fighters.

Major John H. Glenn, Jr., United States Marine Corps, standing with his North American Aviation F-86-30-NA Sabre, 52-4584, “MiG Mad Marine,” at Suwon, Korea, July 1953. (John Glenn Archives, The Ohio State University)

Major Glenn trained at the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School at NATC Patuxent River, Maryland, in 1954, and from 1956 to 1959, was assigned to the Bureau of Aeronautics, Fighter Design Branch.

On 16 July 1957, Major Glenn flew a Chance Vought F8U-1P Crusader from NAS Los Alamitos, on the coast of southern California, to Floyd Bennet Field, Brooklyn, New York, in 3 hours, 23 minutes, 8.4 seconds, averaging 725.25 miles per hour (1,167.18 kilometers per hour). Thomas S. Gates, Jr., Secretary of the Navy, presented Major Glenn the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Major John H. Glenn, Jr., United States Marine Corps, with his Vought F8U-1P Crusader, Bu. No. 144608, after his record-setting flight, 16 July 1957. (U. S. Navy)

Major Glenn was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, 1 April 1959. He was selected as an Astronaut with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Project Mercury and joined the NASA Space Task group at the Langley Research Center. Lieutenant Colonel Glenn was the senior officer and the oldest member of “The Mercury 7.”

The Mercury 7. Front row, left to right, Walter H. Schirra, Donald K. Slayton, John H. Glen, Jr., and Scott Carpenter. Back row: Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Virgil I. Grissom, and L. Gordon Cooper. (NASA)

At 9:47:39 a.m., Eastern Standard Time (14:47:39 UTC), 20 February 1961, Mercury Atlas 6 lifted off from Launch Complex 14, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Cape Canaveral, Florida. This was the third launch of a manned Mercury spacecraft, and the first time that an Atlas rocket had been used.

Aboard the Mercury was John Glenn, making his first space flight. He had named the capsule Friendship 7. Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom had each made a suborbital flight, but Glenn was going into Earth orbit.

Each orbit took 88 minutes, 19 seconds. The spacecraft’s altitude ranged from 100 miles (161 kilometers) to 162.2 miles (261 kilometers).

During the 4 hour, 55 minute, 23 second flight, Friendship 7 orbited the Earth three times, and traveled 75,679 miles (121,794 kilometers). John Glenn was the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth. (Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had orbited the Earth 12 April 1961.)

After re-entry, the capsule parachuted into the Atlantic Ocean, splashing down only six miles from the recovery ship, USS Noa (DD-841).

Launch of Mercury-Atlas 6 from Launch Complex 14, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, 14:47:39 UTC, 20 February 1962. (NASA)

When the Space Task Group was moved to the Manned Spacecraft Center at Houston, Texas, in 1962, John Glenn was involved in the layout and design of spacecraft cockpits and function of controls. On 16 January 1964, John Glenn resigned from NASA. He was promoted to the rank of Colonel in October 1964, then he retired from the Marine Corps 1 January 1965, after 23 years of military service.

Glenn worked in private industry for several years before beginning a career in politics. In 1974, he was elected to the United States Senate, representing his home State of Ohio. He served in the United States Congress from 24 December 1974 to 3 January 1999.

John Glenn wasn’t finished with spaceflight, though. From 29 October to 7 November 1998, Senator Glenn served as a NASA Payload Specialist aboard Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103) during Mission STS-95. At the age of 77 years, John Glenn was the oldest person to fly in space.

During his two space flights, John Glenn orbited the Earth 137 times. His total time in space is 10 days, 49 minutes, 25 seconds (240:49:25).

In late November 2016, Glenn was admitted to Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center at Columbus, Ohio. He died there, 8 December 2016, at the age of 95 years.

John Herschel Glenn, Jr., Naval Aviator, Fighter Pilot, Test Pilot, Record-setter, Astronaut. Colonel, United States Marine Corps. United States Senator. American Hero.

Godspeed, John Glenn.

Senator John H. Glenn, Jr., NASA Payload Specialist, 1998. (NASA)

© 2016 Bryan R. Swopes

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