Glenn Returns to Space
Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar


  Kennedy Invites Colonel
Here for Public Welcome

'We Are Most Proud,' President Tells Glenn

Following is the text of a statement by President Kennedy on the orbital flight of astronaut John H. Glenn, Jr.

I know that I express the great happiness and thanksgiving of all of us that Col. Glenn has completed his trip and I know that this is particularly felt by Mrs. Glenn and his two children.

A few days ago Col. Glenn came to the White House and visited me and he is – as are the other astronauts – the kind of American of whom we are most proud.

Some years ago, as a Marine pilot, he raced the sun across the country – and lost. And today he won.

I also want to say a word to all those who participated with Col. Glenn in Canaveral. They have faced many disappointments and delays – the burdens upon them were great – but they kept their heads and made a judgment and I think their judgment has been vindicated.

We have a long way to go in this space race. We started late. But this is the new ocean, and I believe the United States must sail on it and be in a position second to none.

Some months ago I said that I hoped every American would serve this country. Today Col. Glenn served his, and we all express our thanks to him.

By Edward T. Folliard
Staff Reporter
Wednesday, February 21, 1962; Page A1

President Kennedy yesterday expressed the Nation's pride and thanksgiving after Lt. Col. John H. Glenn voyaged thrice around the earth in space.

He told the Marine Corps Astronaut that he would fly to Cape Canaveral to see him Friday.

He also invited him to come to Washington on Monday or Tuesday for a parade along Pennsylvania Avenue and welcoming ceremonies at the White House and the Capitol.

Watches Telecast

Mr. Kennedy, who with Mrs. Kennedy began watching on television at 7:15 a.m. saw Col. Glenn's takeoff at 9:47 a.m. on a portable set during breakfast in the small dining room of the White House with Democratic leaders of Congress.

The Chief Executive continued to follow the flying Leatherneck's progress until he was out of the spacecraft and aboard the Destroyer Noa. The President then walked out to the South Grounds to salute the astronaut in a gracious little talk before the cameras and microphones.

''We have a long way to go in this space race,'' Mr. Kennedy said. ''We started late. But this is the new ocean, and I believe the United States must sail on it and be in a position second to none.

Calls Astronaut

A little later, Mr. Kennedy talked to the Astronaut by radio telephone. The conversation went like this.

The President: ''Hello?''
Col. Glenn: ''Hello, Sir.''
The President: ''Colonel?''
Col. Glenn: ''This is Colonel Glenn.''
The President: ''Listen, Colonel, we are really proud of you and I must say you did a wonderful job.''
Col. Glenn: ''Thanks, Mr. President.
The President: ''We are glad you got down in very good shape. I have just been watching your father and mother on television and they seemed very happy.''
Col. Glenn: ''It was a wonderful trip — almost unbelievable thinking back on it right now. But it was really tremendous.''
The President: ''Well I am coming down to Canaveral on Friday and hope you will come up to Washington on Monday or Tuesday and we will be looking forward to seeing you there.
Col. Glenn: ''Fine. I will certainly look forward to it.''
White House Press Secretary Pierre Salinger told reporters after this that the President would fly to Palm Beach at 4 p.m. Thursday to see his father, former Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, who is convalescing from a stroke. Salinger said that the President would fly from Palm Beach to Canaveral at 10 a.m. Friday. It is a 30 minute trip.

Salinger said that Col. Glenn on his flight from Grand Turk Island would be accompanied by Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, who is chairman of the National Aeronautics and Space Council. He said that the President would greet the Marine pilot in a public ceremony at Cape Canaveral at 11 a.m.

Presumably Col. Glenn will be awarded the Distinguished Service Medal of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, but Salinger was not prepared to comment on this or on the question of whether the Astronaut would hold a news conference at the Cape or here.

The President in his talk from the White House grounds, said of Colonel Glenn: ''Some years ago as a Marine pilot, he raced the sun across this country and lost. And today he won.''

Mr. Kennedy was referring to a flight Col. Glenn made on July 10, 1957, non-stop, from coast to coast in an F-8-UI Crusader. The flight took 3 hours, 23 minutes, a little slower than the sun moves. The Marine flier was awarded his second Distinguished Flying Cross for this feat.

Yesterday's orbital flight was followed by millions in the United States and around the world. Some prayed, some cried and some yelled ''Go, go.''

House Speaker John. W. McCormack, who was among the legislative leaders who were breakfasting with the President when Col. Glenn took off said that not much business was transacted.

''Our interest was focused on the great historic event,'' he said, adding that all in the dining room were praying for success.

Sen. J.W. Fulbright (D-Ark.) said the President was highly pleased as Col. Glenn whirled around the earth, but was much concerned about his safety.

Described as Tense

Sen. Mike Mansfield of Montana, Democratic leader of the Senate described the President as "tense" for a few minutes after the blastoff.

''We were all tense for that matter,'' he said. ''About all we talked about was the orbit.''

Chief Justice Earl Warren made this statement after the great orbital journey:

''The space flight of Col. Glenn made before the eyes of the entire world is bound to command the admiration of people everywhere. It typifies the courage and stability of young Americans and the orderly processes of our Government. As an American, I am very proud of the accomplishment.''

The Chief Justice and the other justices went on the bench to hear arguments in three cases at 10 a.m. just after the takeoff. They were kept informed of Col. Glenn's progress through notes passed on to them by aides.

The Voice of America announced that it was giving the Glenn flight the most extensive coverage it has ever give to a single event. Radio Free Europe joined in flashing the news to countries behind the Iron Curtain.

In the House of Representatives, debate on an increase in the national debt was interrupted and members broke into cheers when Rep. Leo O'Brien (D-N.Y.) announced that Col. Glenn had landed.

The House unanimously and loudly congratulated Glenn. It shouted through by voice vote and sent to the Senate a resolution extending Congress' congratulations and warm good wishes on behalf of the people of the United States.

Vice President Johnson, chairman of the Space Council, said Glenn's feat was ''a great day for the free world, and therefore, for all of humanity.''

© Copyright 1962 The Washington Post Company

Back to the top

Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar
WP Yellow Pages