Detailed Biographies of Apollo I Crew - Gus Grissom
by Mary C. White "If we die, we want people to accept it. We're in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life."
-Gus Grissom (John Barbour et al Footprints on the Moon (The Associated Press, 1969), p. 125.) Lieutenant Colonel Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom had been part of the U.S. manned space program since it began in 1959, having been selected as one of NASA's Original Seven Mercury Astronauts. His second space flight on Gemini III earned him the distinction of being the first man to fly in space twice. His hard work, drive, persistence and skills as a top notch test pilot and engineer had landed him the title of commander for the first Apollo flight. Yet for Grissom, Apollo I was to be just the beginning. He had been told privately that if all went well, he would be the first American to walk on the moon. Although Grissom already had stacked up a very impressive list of career accomplishments, being first on the moon would be the ultimate achievement for the man who grew up in a small town during the lean years of the Great Depression. Virgil Ivan Grissom was born on April 3, 1926 in Mitchell, Indiana, a tiny Midwestern community of about three thousand residents tucked away in the southern half of the state. Virgil was the eldest of Dennis and Cecile Grissom's four children, which included two brothers, Norman and Lowell and one sister, Wilma. Dennis Grissom managed to hold on to his job at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in spite of the numerous layoffs which were going on all around him. Although they were far from being wealthy, Mr. Grissom's twenty-four dollar per week salary allowed his family to live comfortably in their white frame house in town.