Joined the Navy shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and earned his Naval Aviator wings in 1948
Flew in over 90 combat missions during the Korean War.
Participated in the development of the Sidewinder missile, an anti-aircraft missile that had an infrared sensor which enabled it to seek out the engine of an enemy plane and then fly up its tailpipe and explode.
Selected as Commander of NASA’s Mercury program with the goal to orbit a one-man spacecraft and measure its pilot’s reactions and abilities during flight.
Launched on the third U.S. Orbital flight on October 3, 1962 in the Mercury-Atlas 8 spacecraft named “Sigma 7” and demonstrated the feasibility of long-range space flights.
Awarded the Collier Trophy in 1962 with his team for their work on manned spaceflight.
Worked on the two-man Gemini program and participated in the first rendezvous between two manned spacecraft on Gemini 6-A.
Participated in the Apollo 7 mission with Don Eisele and Walter Cunningham (enshrined 2018). The mission was extremely successful due to the use of a camera that permitted daily transmissions from the spacecraft.
Received the U.S. Distinguished Service Medal, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Air Medals, and the Harmon Trophy.