Walter Schirra


October 19, 2021

Walter Marty Schirra Jr. (Hackensack, March 12, 1923 – San Diego, May 3, 2007) was an American naval aviator, test pilot, and astronaut, the first human to travel into space on three different occasions. He was born and raised in New Jersey and enlisted in the US Navy after the Pearl Harbor Attack, graduating in 1945 and participating in the final months of World War II. Schirra got his pilot's certificate in 1948 and fought in the Korean War. After that he became a test pilot, which allowed him to gain experience flying in state-of-the-art aircraft. He was selected in 1959 as part of NASA's Astronaut Group 1, working on Project Mercury's life support, space suit, and space capsule projects. It made its first spaceflight in October 1962 in Mercury-Atlas 8, an orbital mission of just over nine hours in duration. Schirra continued training as an astronaut and returned to space in December 1965 on Gemini VI-A, part of Project Gemini. He was then assigned to the Apollo Program, flying for ten days in October 1968 aboard Apollo 7. He retired from NASA and the Navy in July 1969. Schirra thereafter became a space consultant for CBS, covering all Apollo Program landings live as a television commentator alongside Walter Cronkite. He left CBS in 1975 and was president or CEO of several different companies for the next few decades. He also co-wrote five books on his biography, the US space program, and the history of US naval aviation. Schirra died in 2007 of a heart attack while being treated for stomach cancer. His remains were cremated and his ashes scattered in the sea.


Walter Marty Schirra Jr. was born on March 12, 1923 in Hackensack, New Jersey, United States. Her paternal grandparents hail from Bavaria and Switzerland and originally had Italian descent, specifically from the commune of Ghilarza in Sardinia. His father was Walter M. Schirra Sr., who was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but fought in World War I as a bomber and reconnaissance pilot with the Canadian Air Force. After the war he regularly performed as a stunt pilot at local state fairs. Schirra's mother was Florence Shillito Leach, who used to accompany her husband on his presentation trips and perform stunts on her wing. Schirra grew up in Oradell, New Jersey, where she attended Dwight Morrow College and was First Class in the 36th Troop Scouts. He graduated from Dwight Morrow in 1940 and went to study at Newark College of Engineering, where he became involved with the Sigma Pi fraternity and the Reserve Officer Training Corps. Schirra decided to apply to a military academy after the Pearl Harbor Attack in December 1941. His father encouraged him to enter the West Point Military Academy, but he decided to enlist in the US Naval Academy. The academy course had been shortened from four years to three because of World War II, so Schirra graduated in 1945.


Schirra was commissioned a lieutenant in the United States Navy in 1945, shortly after graduating. He served during the final months of World War II aboard the battle cruiser USS Alaska. He returned to the United States after Japan's Surrender and Alaska was decommissioned shortly thereafter. Schirra was transferred to Qingdao, China and assigned to the amphibious command ship USS Estes. Upon returning from China, he began training as a naval aviator at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida. Schirra had started dating Josephine Cook Fraser soon after graduating from the Naval Academy. The two were married on February 23, 1

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