Cover of Last American Hero

Last American Hero

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Chicago Review Press

2020

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978-1-64160-214-3

1-64160-214-7

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On February 20, 1962, John Glenn became a national star. That morning at Cape Canaveral, a small-town boy from Ohio took his place atop a rocket and soared into orbit to score a victory in the heavily contested Cold War. The television images were blurry black-and-white phantoms. The cameras shook as the rocket moved, but by the end of the day, one thing was clear: a new hero rode that rocket and became the center of the world's attention for the four hours and fifty-five minutes of his flight. He became celebrated in all corners of the world as not just the first American to orbit the Earth, but as the first space traveler to take the human race with him. From that day forward, Glenn restively wore the hero label. Wherever he went, people knew his name and what he had done. Refusing to let that dramatic day define his life, he went on to become a four-term US senator-and returned to space at the age of seventy-seven. The Last American Hero examines the many layers that formed the man and unravels the reasons for his singular role. He was a creation of the media, in some ways, but he was also a product of the Cold War. Not even Glenn himself seemed to fully understand his celebrity. He was a war hero, a two-time astronaut, a veteran senator, a devoted husband, a father, and much more. At a time when increasingly cynical Americans need heroes, his aura burns brightly in American memory.

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