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Home > Mercury, Redstone, Atlas, Gemini > Biographical Sketch of Virgil Grissom

Biographical Sketch of Virgil Grissom

Virgil I. Grissom, the second U.S. astronaut to ride the Mercury-Redstone, was chosen with the first group of astronauts in 1959.

He was born in 1926 in Mitchell, Indiana, and entered the Air Force in 1944 as an aviation cadet. Following discharge in November 1945, he earned a degree in mechanical engineering at Purdue University. After graduation he returned to aviation cadet training, receiving his wings in March 1951.

He joined the 75th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Presque Isle, Maine, as an F-86 fighter pilot and flew 100 combat missions in Korea with the 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with Cluster.

Grissom left Korea in 1952 and became a jet pilot instructor at Bryan, Texas. In 1955 he went to the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to study aeronautical engineering.

In 1956 he attended the Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and then returned to the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 1957 as a test pilot assigned to the Fighter Branch. He was pilot was Mercury-Redstone 4 (Liberty Bell 7), a suborbital flight, and he was command pilot for Gemini 3, backup command pilot for Gemini 6, and had been selected as commander of the first Apollo flight at the time of his death. He was one of three astronauts to die on January 27, 1967, in the Apollo 204 fire at Cape Kennedy.