STARFALL by Betty & Henry Still Grissom


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Virgil (Gus) Grissom was one of three astronauts who perished when a fire swept the Apollo Spacecraft 012 during routine testing operations. It was a tragic accident and probably an unnecessary one since the inquiry which followed established the dereliction of North American Aviation, suppliers of electrical and mechanical gear. This much said, it's a pity to have to go on to the book which begins with Gus and Betty's courtship in high school, goes on to Purdue and an engineering degree for Gus, then a commission in the Air Force and combat in Korea while Betty stays in Indiana, keeps the home fires burning, and waits for his return. Gus always wanted to fly and the uncomplaining, acquiescent Betty suited him fine. Her part of the book consists of a few insets talking about the kids, Scottie and Mark, about her own reluctance to mix with other officers' wives, and -- somewhat pathetically -- about the phone calls. (""That's mostly what I had of him, the phone calls."") We assume she is not responsible for such embarrassments as: ""Love of the sky sometimes transcends, but is perhaps rooted within, that gonadal force which drives a man to love a woman."" Anyway, Gus Grissom loved the space program and fast cars and boats. His career went from success to success with Apollo's predecessors Mercury and Gemini; he got the inevitably congratulatory phone call from LBJ following his flight in the capsule he named The Unsinkable Molly Brown and he suspected that Spacecraft 012 was ""a lemon"" right from the start. Undoubtedly, Grissom was one of ""the excellent specimens distilled from the wealth of American manhood."" This however, is not an excellent specimen distilled from the wealth of American biography.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1974
Publisher: T.Y. Crowell