After much contemplation and introspection, John Glenn, with the help of distinguished author Nick Taylor, decided to organize his letters, records, and photographs into a memoir. Using simple, unpretentious language, the good character of Glenn is well illustrated in his various roles as an astronaut, a war hero, a public figure, and a devoted family man. Leading one of the most interesting lives of anyone in the twentieth century, Glenn clearly affirms the virtues of hard work, religion, service to others, and patriotism. He credits his parents with instilling in him his deep- rooted religious faith and the accompanying philosophy that everyone is given certain talents and has a duty to develop and use them to the fullest extent. The book reaches its greatest heights when Glenn recounts his wife’s struggles, humor, self- sacrifice, and courage in dealing with her stuttering, and when he recounts his two historical space flights. Some of the most exciting moments in the book are contained in Glenn’s description of his military engagements during World War II and the Korean War and during the liftoffs, orbits, and landings in his two momentous space journeys.
Reared in New Concord, Ohio, Glenn describes the respect and love he acquired from his parents. His parents had two other children die in infancy, and they later adopted his sister Jean. His mother, an elementary school teacher, taught John to love reading and learning. Both his mother and father taught him that he had unlimited possibilities—through hard work, he could achieve whatever goals he set for himself.
Glenn recounts many special moments with his father. He recalls learning to play the trumpet and how proud he was to play taps with his dad during a Memorial Day ceremony in New Concord. When he was eight years old, he accompanied his father on a plumbing job to Cambridge, Ohio. During the trip, his dad arranged for Glenn’s first flight on a plane. After that, Glenn was hooked on flying. Model airplanes became his number one hobby, and he dreamed of someday becoming a pilot.
To make it through the Depression, his father built up his own plumbing supplies company. Glenn took on any jobs he could find—working at the railroad station, selling rhubarb, washing cars, and delivering newspapers. Relying on their own garden for most of their food, Glenn’s mother was always willing to share and help others in need. Family closeness developed as each evening each family member reported on the day’s activities.
In high school, Glenn participated in football, basketball, and tennis, played the trumpet in the orchestra, and served as a school newspaper reporter and student body officer. After high school, John enrolled in Muskingum College to study chemical engineering. During this time, he entered a civilian pilot training program and earned his flying license in 1941. He and his lifetime sweetheart, Annie Castor, discussed marriage, but after Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II, Glenn decided it was his patriotic duty to enlist in naval aviation training. Upon graduation, Glenn received a commission in the Marine Corps Reserve. By March, 1943, he had earned his wings and was promoted to Marine Second Lieutenant. While on leave, he married Annie on April 6, 1943.
Assigned to Marine Fighter Squadron 155, Glenn spent a year flying F4U Corsair fighters on a variety of bombing and reconnaissance missions against Japanese garrisons in the Marshall Islands. He flew fifty-nine combat missions and learned the value of the Marine Corps’ motto, Never let a buddy down. During his missions, he was hit by enemy fire five different times. One of his most memorable came after a successful attack on Jaluit Atoll when his left wing was hit. Although he did not typically pray while flying, he did then, and after several frightening moments, he made it safely back to base. After returning to the United States, his principal duties were as a flight instructor; he was promoted to Captain in July, 1945. Glenn recalls his state of euphoria when his son John David was born on December 13, 1945.
In December, 1946, Glenn was assigned to Marine Fighter Squadron 218 to patrol North China in support of General George C. Marshall’s World War II peace terms. In his absence, daughter Carolyn Ann was born in March, 1947. Glenn recounts his homesickness for Annie and the children and his narrow escape from China. From June, 1948, until December, 1950, John was an instructor in advanced flight training in Corpus Christi, Texas.
During the Korean War, Glenn flew jets in ground support missions for the Marines and in air-to-air combat as an exchange pilot in the new Air Force F-86 Sabrejets, completing a total of ninety missions between February and September, 1953. Glenn re-...
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