Mr. Glenn was reluctant to talk about himself as a hero. “I figure I’m the same person who grew up in New Concord, Ohio, and went off through the years to participate in a lot of events of importance,” he said in an interview years later. “What got a lot of attention, I think, was the tenuous times we thought we were living in back in the Cold War. I don’t think it was about me. All this would have happened to anyone who happened to be selected for that flight.”
Mr. Glenn did not return to space for a long time. [President]Kennedy thought him too valuable as a hero to risk losing in an accident. So Mr. Glenn resigned from the astronaut corps in 1964, became an executive in private industry and entered politics, serving four full terms as a Democratic senator from Ohio and in 1984 running unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination.Mr. Glenn began his journey to fame in World War II. In 1939, he enrolled at Muskingum College in his hometown to study chemistry, but he took flying lessons on the side. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, he signed up for the Naval Aviation cadet program and after pilot training opted to join the Marines. As a fighter pilot, he flew 59 combat missions in the Pacific, earning two Distinguished Flying Crosses and other decorations.