John Glenn

John Herschel Glenn Jr. was born on July 18, 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio.  After graduating from New Concord High School in 1939, Glenn studied engineering at Muskingum College.  He earned a private pilot license to receive credit in a physics course in 1941.  He didn’t complete his senior year of residence or take a proficiency exam, both required by the school for its Bachelor of Science degree. Muskingum awarded John his degree in 1962, after he completed the Mercury space flight.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and brought the United States into World War II, Glenn quit college to join the Army Air Corps.  He was never called to duty, so he joined the U.S. Navy as an aviation cadet in March 1942.  Glenn attended the University of Iowa for pre-flight training and continued at Naval Air Station Olathe in Kansas, where he made his first solo flight in a military aircraft.  During advanced training at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, he accepted an offer to transfer to the Marine Corps.

Glenn flew 57 combat missions in World War II, earning two Distinguished Flying Crosses and ten Air Medals.  He volunteered for service during the occupation in North China.  During the Korean War he flew 63 combat missions and was nicknamed “Magnet Ass” because of his ability to attract enemy flak (an occupational hazard of low-level close air support missions); he returned twice to base with over 250 holes in his plane.  He flew with Ted Williams as his wingman.  Before going to Korea, Glenn applied for an inter-service exchange position with the Air Force to fly the F-86 Sabre jet, in June 1953 he reported for duty with the 25th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, and flew 27 combat missions in the F-86 Sabre; shooting down three MiG-15s.  For his service in Korea he received two more Distinguished Flying Crosses and eight more Air Medals.

After Korea, Glenn reported to the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at NAS Patuxent River.  He tested the FJ-3 Fury, which almost killed him when the cockpit depressurized and the oxygen system failed.  He also tested the Vought F7U Cutlass and F8U Crusader.  On July 16, 1957, he made the first supersonic transcontinental flight.  At that time, the transcontinental speed record was held by an Air Force Republic F-84 Thunderjet, at 3 hours 45 minutes.  Glenn calculated that the F8U Crusader could do it faster; he flew 2,445 miles from Los Alamitos, California to Floyd Bennett Field in New York City.  His flight time was 3 hours, 23 minutes and 8.3 seconds, averaging supersonic speed despite three in-flight refuelings when speeds dropped below 300 miles per hour.  The on-board camera took the first continuous, transcontinental panoramic photograph of the United States.  Glenn received his fifth Distinguished Flying Cross for this mission, and he was promoted to lieutenant colonel on April 1, 1959.

While he was on duty at Patuxent and in Washington, Glenn began reading everything he could about space, as part of research by the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  In 1958, NASA began a recruiting for astronauts.  Glenn barely met the requirements; he was near the age cutoff of 40 and lacked a science-based degree at the time, but he was on a list of 110 test pilots who met the minimum requirements.  In 1959 Glenn selected and assigned to the NASA Space Task Group at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.  The task force moved to Houston in 1962, and became part of the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center.

On February 20, 1962 the Friendship 7 flight launched, the 40 year old, Glenn into space, making him the first American to orbit the Earth; the third American in space, and the fifth human in space, making him a national hero and iconic figure in history.  On February 23, 1962, President Kennedy awarded Glenn with the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.   After meeting with the President, his fame and political potential were noted and he remained a close friend to the Kennedy family.

With talks of advancing plans to lunar landings, in the future.  Glenn realized that he was the oldest member of the astronaut corps and would be close to 50 years of age by the time the lunar landings took place, it was unlikely that he would be selected for Project Apollo missions, he resigned from NASA on January 16, 1964, and announced his Democratic Party candidacy for the U.S. Senate from his home state of Ohio the following day.  On February 26 he received a concussion from hitting his head on a bathtub, and withdrew his candidacy.  He went on convalescent leave with the Marine Corps until a full recovery, which was required for his retirement.  He retired as a colonel on January 1, 1965, and became an executive with Royal Crown Cola.  In 1974, Glenn ran again for an Ohio Senate seat and defeated Howard Metzenbaum with a 54 to 46 percent win, launching a Senate career that would continue until December 1998.

In 1998 Glenn helped found the John Glenn Institute for Public Service and Public Policy at Ohio State University to encourage public service.  In February 2015, it was announced that the school would become the John Glenn College of Public Affairs.

Glenn was in good health for most of his life and retained a private pilot’s license well into his 80s, until it was too difficult to get into the cockpit due to knee problems.  In June 2014, Glenn underwent successful heart valve replacement surgery at the Cleveland Clinic.  In early December 2016, he was hospitalized at James Cancer Hospital of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.  Glenn died on December 8, 2016, at the OSU Wexner Medical Center; he was 95 years old.  No cause of death was disclosed.  There was a memorial service at Mershon Auditorium at Ohio State University.  His body was interred at Arlington National Cemetery on April 6, 2017

Glenn’s military decorations include six Distinguished Flying Crosses; eighteen Air Medals; Presidential Unit Citation; Navy Unit CommendationPresidential Medal of Freedom; Congressional Space Medal of Honor; NASA Distinguished Service Medal; NASA Space Flight Medal; Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal; China Service Medal; American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; WWII Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Korean Service MedalRepublic of Korea Presidential Unit CitationUnited Nations Korea MedalKorean War Service Medal.

 

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Ichabod Crane

Ichabod B. Crane, was born on July 18, 1787, in Elizabethtown, New Jersey (now Elizabeth, NJ).  He is the second son of Army Brigadier General William H. Crane and brother to Commodore William M. Crane.
Ichabod was a career military officer for 48 years, first joining the United States Marine Corps in 1809, at the age of 22, he was commissioned a second lieutenant, assigned to the USS United States, a 44-gun frigate commanded by Commodore Stephen Decatur.  Crane served aboard the United States for two years and then resigned from the Marines in April 1812, to accept a commission in the United States Army as a captain in command of Company B, 3rd Artillery; the unit designation would later be Battery B, 1st Artillery (today’s 2nd Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery).

During the War of 1812, Crane served on the Niagara Frontier.  He was assigned command of an artillery battery at Fort Pike, which he helped construct, in Sackets Harbor, New York, and was involved with the capture on April 27, 1813, of Fort York, and at the end of May 1813 the capture of Fort George in Canada.  While capturing Fort George, a joint British-Canadian force attacked the American positions at Sackets Harbor in the Second Battle of Sacket’s Harbor.

Crane continued to serve in the Northern Department after the war.  In 1820 his company was transferred to Fort Wolcott in Newport, Rhode Island where Crane served as the fort’s commander.

In 1825 he was brevetted to major in the 4th Artillery and was transferred to Fort Monroe, Virginia.  In 1832 Crane led five companies of troops in the Black Hawk War and received a promotion to lieutenant colonel in the 2nd Artillery in November 1832, and was then transferred to the Buffalo Barracks in Buffalo, New York.  Crane commanded the 2nd Artillery unit in the Second Seminole War (1835–1842) and acted as Commander of the U.S. Army District of Northeast Florida.  Fort Crane, built in January 1837, south of Rochelle, Florida, in Alachua County, was named after Crane.  After service in Florida, he and his unit were transferred back to the Buffalo Barracks.

During the “Patriot War” in 1838, an insurrection against British rule in Canada, Crane was tasked with preventing U.S. involvement of smuggling arms across the border.

In mid-1843 he received his final promotion to colonel and was given command of the 1st Artillery.  Company L and Company M, of the 1st Artillery,  were assigned to Fort Umpqua in southwest Oregon.  During a visit there Crane employed a young Umpqua Indian named Juan as a personal valet.  Juan died on December 27, 1856, in Staten Island, and is buried with Crane and his wife.

Crane was stationed in Washington D.C. in 1851 and was given an additional assignment as acting governor of the Military Asylum at Washington, D.C., a position he held until November 1853.  He also served a post commander of Governors Island, an island in New York Harbor approximately one-half mile south of lower Manhattan.

Crane and his wife Charlotte (May 25, 1798 – September 25, 1878) had a house built in the New Springville, a section of Staten Island, New York in 1853, while he was still on active duty.  Crane died four years later, in October 1857 at the age of 70; he was still on active duty.  He is buried in Asbury Methodist Cemetery, in New Springville Staten Island.

His grave marker bears the inscription: “He served his country for 48 years and was much beloved and respected by all who knew him.”

It’s believed that the character featured in Washington Irving‘s short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow“, was named after Colonel Crane.  Irving met Crane in 1814 at Fort Pike located on Lake Ontario in Sackets Harbor, New York.  Irving was an aide-de-camp to New York Gov. Daniel D. Tompkins, who was inspecting defenses in the Sackets Harbor area.  Crane’s unusual and memorable first name Ichabod comes from the biblical name of the grandson of Eli the High Priest and son of Phinehas.
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Leon Spinks

Leon Spinks is an Olympic gold medalist, World Heavy Weight Boxing Champion, and U.S. Marine.  He was born on July 11, 1953, in St. Louis, Missouri.  He dropped out of high school, making it to the 10th grade before joining the Marine Corps, in 1973.  The undisciplined 20-year-old didn’t adjust well to military structure and frequently fought with his drill instructors.   His boot camp experience lasted six months, because he was recycled during training.

Eventually, Spinks made peace with his new life, graduated boot camp and joined the All-Marine boxing team.  Within seconds of Spinks stepping into the ring for the first time as a Marine Corps boxer in the Area II gym aboard Camp Lejeune, coach J.C. Davis knew he had a rising star.

At the 1974 World Games in Cuba, Spinks captured the bronze medal as a light heavyweight.  He collected the silver the following year at the Pan-American Games, then won the light heavyweight gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada.

By 1976, he was arguably the best amateur boxer in the world, wining all but seven of his fights and registering 133 knockouts over a three-year period.

Corporal Spinks was discharged from the Marine Corps and made his professional boxing debut on January 15, 1977, in Las Vegas, knocking out Bob Smith in the fifth round for the victory.  He was 6-0-1 as a pro and had boxed just 31 rounds when he got the call to fight his boyhood idol, Muhammad Ali.

Ranked as one of the greatest upsets in boxing history, Spinks won the undisputed world heavyweight championship from Ali with a 15-round split decision on February 15, 1978.

Just two months later, Spinks was stripped of the World Boxing Council title for refusing to defend his belt against the No. 1 contender, Ken Norton.  Spinks, who still retained his World Boxing Association crown, chose to fight Ali again for a bigger payday, but the rematch didn’t go like the earlier fight; Ali showed up in top shape and beat Spinks in a 15-round unanimous decision.

For Spinks, there were other losses that came outside the ring, the former champion clouded his training with drugs and alcohol, which led to him losing an estimated $5 million in winnings.

Spinks initially retired in 1988 and took a job as greeter at National Football League coach Mike Ditka‘s restaurant in Chicago.  Financial problems forced his return to the ring in 1991.  Finally, in 1995, a weathered and beaten Spinks hung up his gloves for good with a professional record of 26 wins, 17 losses and three draws.

Spinks’s monetary troubles continued after his final retirement.  For a period, the former champ was homeless and living in a shelter.  He later found work as a weekend custodian at the YMCA in Columbus, Nebraska, while battling the onset of dementia and suffering from a traumatic brain injury because of his years in the ring causing him to slur his words.

During the 1990s, Spinks worked for Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling, winning its world title in 1992, making him the only man to hold titles in both boxing and wrestling.  In the late 1990s, Spinks was a headliner on a year long touring autograph show.

In 2009 Spinks was featured as part of the 2009 documentary Facing Ali, in which notable former opponents of Ali speak about how fighting Ali changed their lives.

As of 2012, Spinks lives in Columbus, Nebraska, with his wife, Brenda, and his service dog, a black lab named “Sammy.”

In April 2016, Spinks was inducted in the Marine Corps Boxing Hall of Fame, at a ceremony held at Goettge Memorial Field House on Camp Lejeune.

Three of Spinks’s sons have followed him into the ring, including his youngest, Cory, who was born just days after his father’s upset of Ali and went on to become a light-middleweight and welterweight champion.

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