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New Left Review I/16, July-August 1962

Marvin Gettleman

John Glenn: The Hero and America 1962

Spring came early in a special way to America when Marine Lieutenant Colonel John H. Glenn stepped aboard the destroyer Noa, remarked of his just-vacated capsule, “it was hot in there,” and began sipping a glass of iced tea. It seemed that the frenetic search for a national purpose was over; we had rediscovered our natural virtue, and an orgy of national celebration was launched. “We have felt humbled by John Glenn’s trial,” confessed Max Ascoli in The Reporter, “close to each other, proud of our free institutions and of John Glenn. It has been a very good feeling.” To the sober New York Times columnist, James Reston, Glenn’s flight disproved “the sceptics and doubters, the witch-smellers and head-shrinkers, the debunkers and scoffers (who) had confused and frustrated the country.” Another big city newspaperman concluded that “some great turning point has been reached by our country in these past few days.” Glenn’s achievement was “a catalyst that almost instantly changed the temper of the entire nation. In the few dramatic hours of the space ride, we chucked our plodding, chronic despair and exchanged it for an optimism and bouyancy that we had almost forgotten. . . The long, cold winter is drawing to a close, and a warm and sunny spring is almost upon us. . . Suddenly it’s fun again to be an American.”

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Marvin Gettleman, ‘John Glenn: The Hero and America 1962’, NLR I/16: £3

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