John Glenn

John Herschel Glenn, Jr.

United States Senator from Ohio

In office December 24, 1974 – January 6, 1999

Preceded by

Howard Metzenbaum

Succeeded by

George Voinovich



July 18, 1921 (1921-07-18) (age 87) Cambridge, Ohio



Political party



Annie Glenn





From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Herschel Glenn Jr. (born July 18, 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio) is a former astronaut who became the third person and first American to orbit the Earth, and later, United States Senator. Glenn began his career as a Marine Corps fighter pilot before joining NASA’s Mercury program, NASA’s original astronaut group. He orbited the Earth aboard Friendship 7 in 1962. After retiring from NASA, he ran as a Democrat and represented the state of Ohio in the United States Senate from 1974 to 1999.

He was honored with a Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978 and was inducted into the Astronauts Hall of Fame in 1990. In 1998 he became the oldest person to fly in space and the only person to fly on both the first and the most recent US space program (Mercury and Shuttle programs) when, at the age of 77, he flew aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-95). Glenn and M. Scott Carpenter are the last surviving members of the Mercury Seven as of February 2009.

Early life and military career

John Herschel Glenn, Jr

Born July 18, 1921


Magnet Ass


United States of America


United States Marine Corps




VMF-155 “Silver Eagles”, VMF-218 “Ready Teddy”, VMF-311 “Tomcats”


World War II, Korean War


Distinguished Flying Cross

Glenn was born in Cambridge, Ohio and raised in New Concord, Ohio. He studied chemistry at Muskingum College. Glenn received his private pilot’s license as physics course credit at Muskingum in 1941. After the Attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. When the Army did not call him up, he enlisted as a United States Navy aviation cadet in March 1942 and was trained at Naval Air Station Olathe where he made his first solo flight in a military aircraft. During advanced training at the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi he was reassigned to the United States Marine Corps in 1943. During World War II he was originally assigned to VMJ-353 flying R4D transport planes but eventually managed a transfer to VMF-155 as an F4U Corsair pilot and flew in 59 combat missions. He saw action over the Marshall Islands, specifically Maloelap, where he attacked anti-aircraft gunnery and dropped bombs. In 1945, Glenn was transferred to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland where he was promoted to captain by the war’s end.

Following the war, as a member of VMF-218, Glenn flew patrol missions in North China, until his unit was moved to Guam. In 1948 he became a flight instructor at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas. Following that he attended amphibious warfare school and was given a staff assignment.

Glenn was finally assigned to VMF-311 flying the F9F Panther and eventually took part in 63 combat missions with the Marines during the Korean War. It was during this time that Glenn earned the nickname "Magnet Ass", for his ability to attract flak. On two occasions he brought his jet back to base with over 250 holes in it. During his time in Korea, Glenn also served for a time alongside Ted Williams, a future hall of fame baseball player for the Boston Red Sox. On his second tour he flew with the United States Air Force on an interservice exchange. Flying 27 missions in the F-86 Sabre, he shot down three MiG-15s near the Yalu River in the last nine days of the war.

He returned to NAS Pax River, with an appointment to the Test Pilot School (class 12). As a test pilot, he served as armament officer, flying planes to high altitude and testing their cannon/machine guns. On July 16, 1957, Glenn completed the first supersonic transcontinental flight in a Vought F8U-1 Crusader. The flight from NAS Los Alamitos, California to Floyd Bennett Field, New York took 3 hours, 23 minutes and 8.4 seconds. As Glenn passed over his hometown, a child in the neighborhood reportedly ran to the Glenn house shouting "Johnny dropped a bomb! Johnny dropped a bomb! Johnny dropped a bomb!" as the sonic boom shook the town. Project Bullet, as the mission was called, provided both the first transcontinental flight to average supersonic speed (despite three in-flight refuelings during which speeds dropped below 300 mph), and the first continuous transcontinental panoramic photograph of the United States. Glenn was awarded his fifth Distinguished Flying Cross for the mission


In April 1959, Glenn was assigned to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as one of the original group of Mercury astronauts for the Mercury Project. During this time, he remained an officer in the Marine Corps. He became the third American in space and the first to orbit the Earth, aboard Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962, on the "Mercury Atlas 6" mission, circling the globe three times during a flight lasting 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds. During the mission there was concern that his heat shield had failed and that his craft would burn up on re-entry but he made his splash down safely. Glenn was celebrated as a national hero, and received a ticker-tape parade reminiscent of Lindbergh. His fame and political attributes were noted by the Kennedys, and he became a personal friend of the Kennedy family.

Glenn resigned from NASA six weeks after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to run for office in his home state of Ohio. In 1965, Glenn retired as a Colonel from the USMC and entered the business world as an executive for Royal Crown Cola. He reentered politics later on. Some accounts of Glenn’s years at NASA suggest that Glenn was prevented from flying in Gemini or Apollo missions, either by President Kennedy, himself, or by NASA management, on the grounds that the subsequent loss of a national hero of such stature would seriously harm or even end the manned space program. Yet Glenn resigned from the astronaut corps on January 30, 1964, well before even the first Gemini crew was assigned.

Three decades later, after serving 24 years in the Senate, Glenn lifted off for a second space flight on October 29, 1998, on Space Shuttle Discovery’s STS-95, in order to study the effects of space flight on the elderly. At age 77, Glenn became the oldest person ever to go into space. Glenn’s participation in the nine-day mission was criticized by some in the space community as a junket for a politician. Others noted that Glenn’s flight offered valuable research on weightlessness and other aspects of space flight on the same person at two points in life thirty-six years apart — by far the longest interval between space flights by the same person. Upon the safe return of the STS-95 crew, Glenn (and his crewmates) received another ticker-tape parade, making him the ninth (and, as of 2007, latest) person to have ever received multiple ticker-tape parades in his lifetime (as opposed to that of a sports team).

Medical debriefing aboard USS Randolph (CVS-15). The debriefing team for Maj. Glenn (center) was led by Cmdr. Seldon C. “Smokey” Dunn, USN MC (far right w/EKG in hands).

Glenn vehemently opposed the sending of Dennis Tito, the world’s first space tourist, to the International Space Station on the grounds that Tito’s trip served no scientific purpose

The NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in Cleveland, Ohio is named after him. Also, Senator John Glenn Highway runs along a stretch of I-480 (Ohio) across from the NASA Glenn Research Center. Colonel Glenn Highway, which runs by Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Wright State University near Dayton, Ohio, and John Glenn High School in his hometown of New Concord, Ohio were named for him as well.

John Herschel Glenn Jr.

NASA Astronaut


July 18, 1921

Other occupation

Test pilot


Colonel, USMC

Time in space

9d 02h 39 m


1959 NASA Group


Mercury-Atlas 6, STS-95

Mission insignia

Life in politics

In 1964, John Glenn announced that he was resigning from the space program to run against incumbent Senator Stephen M. Young in the Democratic primary, but he was forced to withdraw when he hit his head on a bathtub. He sustained a concussion and injured his inner ear. Recovery left him unable to campaign at that time.

Glenn remained close to the Kennedy family and was with Sen. Robert F. Kennedy when Kennedy was assassinated.

In 1970, Glenn contested for the Democratic nomination for U. S. Senate; Glenn was defeated in the primary by fellow Democrat Howard Metzenbaum, who went on to lose the general election race to Robert Taft Jr. In the bitterly-fought 1974 Democratic primary rematch, Glenn defeated Metzenbaum, who had earlier been appointed by Ohio governor John J. Gilligan to fill out the Senate term of William B. Saxbe, who had resigned to become U. S. attorney general. Metzenbaum was running to retain the seat to which he had been appointed. In the 1974 general election, Glenn defeated Republican Mayor of Cleveland, Ralph Perk, beginning a Senate career that would continue until 1999. In 1980, Glenn won re-election to the seat, defeating Republican challenger Jim Betts. In 1986, Glenn defeated challenger U.S. Representative Tom Kindness.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Glenn and Metzenbaum (who was elected to the Senate in 1976) had strained relations, even though they were both from the same party and the same state. There was a thaw in 1983 when Metzenbaum endorsed Glenn for president, and in 1988, in response to a charge by Metzenbaum’s opponent George Voinovich that Metzenbaum was soft on child pornography, Glenn appeared in a television ad in support of Metzenbaum.

In 1990, Glenn was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Glenn was one of the five U. S. Senators caught up with Lincoln Savings and the Keating Five Scandal after accepting a $200,000 contribution from Charles Keating. Glenn and Republican Senator John McCain were the only Senators exonerated. The Senate Commission found that Glenn had exercised "poor judgment." The association of his name with the scandal gave Republicans hope that he would be vulnerable in the 1992 campaign. Instead, Glenn handily defeated Lieutenant Governor R. Michael DeWine to keep his seat. This 1992 re-election victory was the last time a Democrat won a statewide race in Ohio until 2006; DeWine later won Metzenbaum’s seat upon his retirement.

In 1998, Glenn declined to run for re-election. The Democratic party chose Mary Boyle to replace him, but she was defeated by then-Ohio Gov. George Voinovich.

Glenn made a bid to run as Vice President with Jimmy Carter in 1976, but Carter selected Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale at the 1976 Democratic National Convention. Glenn also mounted a bid to be the 1984 Democratic Presidential candidate. Early on, Glenn polled well, coming in a strong second to Mondale. It was also surmised that he would be aided by the almost-simultaneous release of The Right Stuff, a film about the original seven Mercury astronauts in which it was generally agreed that Glenn’s character was portrayed in an appealing manner. However, Glenn thought it would be bad form to capitalize on this kind of publicity, and didn’t make much of these achievements in the period leading up to the Iowa caucuses. Media attention turned to Mondale, Gary Hart, and Jesse Jackson, and by the time his campaign started playing up The Right Stuff for the New Hampshire primary, it was already too late. His failed 1984 presidential bid left Glenn with over $3 million in campaign debt that took over 20 years to pay off.

Glenn’s autographed EKG trace. Best regards and many thanks for all the help, “Smokey” — John H. Glenn Jr Mercury Astronaut a good date — 20 Feb 62

During his time in the Senate, he was chief author of the 1978 Nonproliferation Act, served as chairman of the Committee on Governmental Affairs from 1987 until 1995, sat on the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees and the Special Committee on Aging. Once Republicans regained control of the Senate, Glenn also served as the ranking minority member on a special Senate investigative committee chaired by Tennessee senator Fred Dalton Thompson that looked into alleged illegal donations by China to U.S. political campaigns for the 1996 election. There was considerable acrimony between the two very high-profile senators during the life of this committee, which reached a level of public disagreement between the five leaders of a Congressional committee seldom seen in recent years.

In 2004 John Glenn was awarded the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars of the Smithsonian Institute at a presentation in Columbus.

Public affairs institute

Glenn helped found the John Glenn Institute for Public Service and Public Policy at the Ohio State University to encourage public service in 1998. On July 1, 2006 the institute merged with OSU’s School of Public Policy and Management to become the John Glenn School of Public Affairs. Today he holds an adjunct professorship at both the Glenn School and Ohio State’s Department of Political Science.

Personal life

Quincy Jones presents platinum copies of “Fly Me to the Moon” (from It Might as Well Be Swing) to Senator John Glenn and Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong

Raised in Cambridge as well as New Concord, Ohio, Glenn married his childhood sweetheart, Anna Margaret Castor, whom he met in New Concord and with whom he played in the band; they are the parents of two children, David and Carolyn. Both Glenn and his then-future wife, Annie, attended Muskingum College in New Concord.

Glenn is part of the Glenn-Macintosh clan of Scotland. In 1963, Glenn received a letter from a young girl from Sheffield, England named Anne Glenn. The letter, congratulating him on his orbit around the Earth, enclosed a family tree showing that Anne’s father, George Arthur Thomas Glenn, and John Glenn were cousins.

Glenn is an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church.

Glenn’s former New Concord home has been made into an education center, teaching American history beginning in 1944.

On August 4, 2006, Glenn and his wife were injured in an automobile accident on I-270 near Columbus, Ohio and were subsequently hospitalized. They were released on August 6, after being treated for their injuries. Glenn suffered a fractured sternum and a “very sore chest”, as remarked by Glenn. Mrs. Glenn was treated for minor injuries, and the driver of the other car was not injured. Glenn was cited for failure to yield the right-of-way.

Medals and decorations

John Glenn in 1998.


  • Distinguished Flying Cross ×6,
  • Air Medal ×19
  • Navy Unit Commendation
  • Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal
  • Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal


  • The Woodrow Wilson Award
  • NASA Distinguished Service Medal

Popular Culture

  • Quote attributed to John Glenn: “As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind: Every part of this capsule was supplied by the lowest bidder.”
  • Glenn guest starred on Frasier as himself in the episode “Docu. Drama” which revolves around a space documentary for radio.
  • He’s mentioned in Billy Joel’s history themed song “We Didn’t Start the Fire”.
  • Ian Brown’s Unfinished Monkey Business features a track called My Star where the words “God speed, John Glenn” are sampled.
  • Glenn was against a plan to allow live television coverage in the Senate, fearing it would reduce their debates to soundbites. On the first day cameras were allowed in, he ridiculed the decision by applying makeup to his balding head during comments on the floor. Ironically, it became the most frequently broadcast portion of the debate.
  • He was portrayed by actor Ed Harris in the motion picture The Right Stuff”.
  • He is a Master Mason and a member of Concord Lodge 688 in New Concord, Ohio.
  • He was parodied several times on the show X-Play.
  • The character John Tracy from Thunderbirds was named after him.


  • Fenno, Richard F., Jr. The Presidential Odyssey of John Glenn. CQ Press, 1990. 302 pp.
  • Mersky, Peter B. (1983). U.S. Marine Corps Aviation — 1912 to the present. Annapolis, Maryland: The Nautical and Aviation Publishing Company of America. ISBN 0-933852-39-8. 
  • Shettle Jr., M. L. (2001). United States Marine Corps Air Stations of World War II. Bowersville, Georgia: Schaertel Publishing Co.. ISBN 0-964-33882-3. 
  • Glenn, John H.; Taylor, Nick (2000). John Glenn: A Memoir. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-58157-0. 
  1. Ohio State University Biography
  2. Shettle USMC Air Station of WWII, p. 167
  3. Mersky USMC Aviation, p.183
  4. Glenn, John; Taylor, Nick (1998-11-02]]). John Glenn: A Memoir. Bantam. pp. 169. ISBN 978-0553110746. 
  5. “Glenn Orbits the Earth”. NASA. Retrieved on 2008-06-10. 
  7. Well of donors dries up for Clinton Edward Luce and Stephanie Kirchgaessner Washington May 9 2008
  8. For Clinton, Millions in Debt and Few Options Michael Luo The New York Times June 10 2008
  9. Fred Thompson’s Big Flop Matthew Cooper Washington October 15 2007
  10. John Glenn and wife released from hospital Danna Avsec Colombus 2006

External links