A Site History Project for The Texas A&M University System's RELLIS Campus

Remembering Gus Grissom

Virgil Grissom enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II with dreams of becoming a pilot. But, with the war nearing an end, he came no closer to the flight line than a desk job at bases in Texas and Florida.

His abbreviated military service still qualified him for college tuition assistance under the G.I. Bill. He attended Purdue University in his home state of Indiana. There, he earned a mechanical engineering degree and a new nickname: Gus.

After graduation, Grissom re-enlisted in the new U.S. Air Force and earned his wings. He was deployed to the Korean war zone and during his time there flew 100 combat missions. Despite his desire to continue flying in Korean, he was re-assigned to become a flight instructor at Bryan Air Force Base. 

Shortly after his return to Texas, Grissom was honored for his service in Korea, receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross in ceremonies at Bryan Air Force Base. 

A year later, his second son, Mark, was born at the Bryan Air Force Base hospital.

Gus and his wife, Betty, and their sons Scott and Mark, remained in Bryan until early 1954.

Five years later, Gus Grissom was chosen as one of America's first astronauts. He flew missions in both the one-man Mercury and two-man Gemini programs and was assigned as the commander of the first three-man Apollo mission.

Grissom, along with fellow astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee, died in a pre-launch test at Cape Kennedy, Florida, on January 27, 1967.

After a trip to visit his mother, Betty, who still lives in the Houston area, Mark Grissom returned to College Station on June 6, 2018, the 75th anniversary of the dedication of Bryan Army Air Field.

 

Mark Grissom is the youngest son of Gus Grissom and was born at the Bryan Air Force Base hospital on December 30, 1953. A graduate of Clear Creek High School in the suburban Houston area, Mark was offered an ROTC scholarship to attend Texas A&M, but instead chose Purdue University, his father's alma mater.  For a time after graduation, Mark flew professionally, but eventually he became an air-traffic controller at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. Mark and his wife, Kay, still live in the Oklahoma City area where Mark continues to do air-traffic control work on a consulting basis. Like his father, Mark is an avid auto racing fan, and as a teenager, competed in an autocross event on the runways of today's RELLIS Campus.