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Virgil "Gus" Grissom (1926 - 1967)


Born April 3, 1926, Virgil Grissom joined the United States Air Force in 1950 after graduating from Purdue University. He served as a fighter pilot in the 334th Interceptor Squadron during the Korean War, flying over 100 missions and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross. In 1956, he graduated from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Lieutenant Colonel Grissom was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts selected by NASA in 1959. He piloted the "Liberty Bell 7" spacecraft, the second suborbital Mercury test flight, on July 21, 1961. On March 23, 1965 Grissom served as command pilot on the first manned Gemini flight, a 3-orbit mission. He subsequently served as backup command pilot for Gemini 6, and he was chosen to serve as command pilot for the first three-manned Apollo flight, Apollo 1.

Grissom had flown 100 combat missions with the 334th Fighter Interceptor Squadron in Korea and earned both the Air Medal with cluster and the Distinguished Flying Cross. During a countdown simulation in preparation for the scheduled launch of the Apollo 1 mission, a flash fire consumed the spacecraft.

Virgil "Gus" Grissom made the ultimate sacrifice and lost his life in service to the nation and the space program on January 27, 1967 at 40 years of age. He was killed with Roger B. Chaffee and Edward White at Cape Kennedy, Florida, during the testing of the Apollo I rocket. The flight was scheduled for February 21, 1967 and was to have been the beginning of U.S. efforts to put a man on the moon. A fire broke out in the cockpit and before they could be rescued all were killed.