Virgil Grissom

Virgil Ivan Grissom (1926 - 1967)

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Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom
Born in Mitchell, Lawrence, Indiana, USAmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married 6 Jul 1945 [location unknown]
[children unknown]
Died in Cape Kennedy, Florida, USAmap
Profile last modified 18 Sep 2019 | Created 11 Nov 2015
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Virgil Grissom is Notable.



Lt. Col. Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom (April 3, 1926 – January 27, 1967), was one of the original NASA Project Mercury astronauts. He was the second American to fly in space, and the first member of the NASA Astronaut Corps to fly in space twice. He was killed along with fellow astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee while performing a pre-launch test before what would have been his third trip into space.

Virgil Ivan Griffin, son of Dennis D Grissom and Cecile King, was born 3 April 1926, in Mitchell, Indiana. [1]

"Gus" grew up in Mitchell, Indiana, a midwestern town of a little over 3,000 people, with his parents and younger silblings, Wilma, Norman and Lowell. His father was a railroad employee. They lived at 715 Baker Street and Gus attended and graduated from Mitchell High School.[2][3][4][5]

Grissom enlisted 9 Aug 1944, at Ft. Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, in the Army Air Corps for the "duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law."[6]

He met Betty Moore in high school and they married 6 July 1945.[7] They had two children Scott and Mark. Gus believed in the principle of "home is home and work is work," and although he spent long hours away from home, when he was there his family was his main focus.[8]

Grissom was tragically killed, 27 Jan 1967, along with fellow astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee, while performing a pre-launch test before what would have been his third trip into space.[9] He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.[10]

Career Highlights

  • Enlisted as an aviation cadet in high school.
  • Reported for duty August 1944 following his high school graduation, with the thought that he would get flight training, but WWII ended.
  • Discharged Nov 1945.
  • Worked for Carpenter's Bus Body Works installing doors on buses.
  • Graduated from Purdue University in 1950 with a BS in mechanical engineering.
  • Re-enlisted in the Air Force, finished air cadet training and won his wings.
  • Did service in Korea, completed 100 combat missions with the 334th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. Earned the Air Medal with cluster and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
  • Received additional instruction at the Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson AFB, and attended test pilot school at Edwards AFB.
  • Received his test pilot credentials in 1957 and was transferred back to Wright-Patterson, where he specialized in testing new jet fighters.
  • One of 110 military test pilots invited to find out more about the space program and Project Mercury.
  • April 13, 1959: After extensive testing seven men were chosen as Project Mercury astronauts. The other six were:
    • Lieutenant Malcolm Scott Carpenter, U.S. Navy
    • Captain LeRoy Gordon Cooper, Jr., U.S. Air Force
    • Lieutenant Colonel John Herschel Glenn, Jr., U.S. Marine Corps
    • Lieutenant Commander Walter Marty Schirra, Jr., U.S. Navy
    • Lieutenant Commander Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., U.S. Navy
    • Captain Donald Kent Slayton, U.S. Air Force[11]
  • July 21, 1961: Virgil Grissom, inside his MR-4 capsule, Liberty Bell 7, was the second American to go into space, making a flight of approximately 15 minutes. The flight went smoothly, although the landing didn’t go as planned and the capsule sank instead of being recovered. Grissom had bailed out and was taken aboard a helicopter.
  • Awarded NASA's Distinguished Service Medal for his flight on Liberty Bell 7.[12]
  • NASA planned an intermediate program, Gemini, and Grissom used his mechanical engineering and his flight skills to help design the flight controls for Gemini.
  • Although Alan Shepard was chosen as commander of the first Gemini mission, he was diagnosed with Meniere’s Syndrome and was grounded, putting Grissom into the Command position.
  • March 23, 1965: The Gemini-Titan 3, Molly Brown, successfully lifted off from Pad 19 with Grissom and Lieutenant John W. Young. The five hour flight was to test major operating systems and determine if controlled maneuvering of the spacecraft was possible. Molly Brown splashed down at 2:15 PM after flying 80,000 miles and completing three successful orbits around the earth. Both men were awarded NASA's Distinguished Service Medal.[12]
  • March 1966: NASA announced that Grissom had been assigned as commander for the first Apollo Earth-orbit mission. Ed White would serve as Senior Pilot and Roger Chaffee was named Pilot.[8]

Awards and Honors

Flying Cross
Space Medal
of Honor
Service (2)

Research Notes

  • There was another Virgil Grissom b. 1925 d. 2001 who lived in Illinois.


  1. "United States Social Security Death Index," database, (Family Search database link : 20 May 2014), Virgil Grissom, Jan 1967; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).TEXT: Virgil Grissom, born 03 Apr 1926, Social Security card issued in Indiana; died Jan 1967.
  2. 1930 US Census
  3. 1940 US Census
  4. Wikipedia Article Mitchell High School Sept 2, 2016
  5. Wikipedia Article Mitchell, Indiana Sept 2, 2016
  6. "United States World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946," database, FamilySearch ( : 5 December 2014), Virgil I Grissom, enlisted 09 Aug 1944, Ft Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, United States; citing "Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, ca. 1938-1946," database, The National Archives: Access to Archival Databases (AAD) ( : National Archives and Records Administration, 2002); NARA NAID 126323, National Archives at College Park, Maryland.
  7. "Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 21 January 2016), Virgil I Grissom and Betty Lavonne Moore, 06 Jul 1945; citing Lawrence, Indiana, United States, various county clerk offices, Indiana; FHL microfilm 1,426,381. INFORMATION: Spouse's Name Betty Lavonne (?Lavanne) Moore Residence Place R#2 Mitchell, Indiana, 1st marriage; occupation Reliance; Spouse's Birth 08 Aug 1927 in Mitchell, , Indiana; Spouse's Father's Name Claude Moore, machinist, same residence; Spouse's Mother's Name Pauline Sutherlin, housewife; All four parents were born in Indiana. License Date 03 Jul 1945. Officiator's Name R L Sinclair
  8. 8.0 8.1 TimeLine Source: White, Mary C. Detailed Biographies of Apollo I Crew - Gus Grissom NASA History.
  9. Wikipedia: Gus Grissom
  10. Photo of gravestone Findagrave 422. LTC Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom. Arlington Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington, Virginia, USA.
  11. Wikipedia List of Astronauts, by Year
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Agency Awards Historical Recipient List
Dennis Grissom Head M 25 Indiana, parents b. Indiana, owned home valued at $1300, railroad signal helper, not a veteran
Cecil Grissom Wife F 28 Indiana, parents b. Indiana
Virgil Grissom Son M 4 Indiana
Wilman Grissom Daughter F 2 Indiana
Norman Grissom Son M 0 Indiana
Ruth King Sister-in-law F 20 Indiana
  • "United States Census, 1940," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 30 August 2016), Mitchell, Marion Township, Lawrence, Indiana, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 47-6, sheet 8B, family 222, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 1071. Note: Family resided in the same place in 1935.
Dennis Grissom Head M 37 Indiana, signal helper, steam railroad, paid $1000 in 1939.
Cecil Grissom Wife F 38 Indiana,
Virgil Grissom Son M 14 Indiana
Wilma Grissom Daughter F 12 Indiana
Norman Grissom Son M 10 Indiana
Lowell Grissom Son M 6 Indiana

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Comments: 2

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Should it also be mentioned somewhere here, that in 1968 Bunker Hill Air Force Base in Indiana was renamed in honor of Colonel Grissom?
I am confused. This is the profile of the week, so it should be an example how to do it. But in the upper section I read: private wife, children unkown. Then in the biography section I read: his wife Betty Moore, his children Scott and Mark. Is this the way how it should be done?
posted by Michael Gutschmidt

Virgil is 18 degrees from Donald Howard, 20 degrees from Julia Howe and 18 degrees from Henry VIII of England on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.