The Veteran of Foreign Wars National Space Award to E. White USAF
The Veteran of Foreign Wars National Space Award to Lt. Col. E. White II USAF - 10 K Gold, weighing 100.6 grams, marked "10K" (Gold) and maker marked "MEDALLIC ART CO. N.Y." on the edge, illustrating a helmeted astronaut, a rocket fronting a planet to the left, another smaller planet to the right, the two joined by an elliptical path, designer marked "ABRAM BELSKIE Sc." (British-born sculptor), surrounded by the inscription "VETERANS of FOREIGN WARS of THE UNITED STATES", with the Veterans of Foreign Wars insignia below, 51.5 mm, on a full length neck ribbon with snap closure, extremely fine. Accompanied by its Award Document with White's citation, inscribed: "Veterans of Foreign Wars National Space Award Gold Medal and Citation presented to Edward H. White, II / Lieutenant Colonel, USAF / In recognition of his surpassing skill and courage which took him and all mankind beyond the frontiers of human knowledge about outer space and blazed a trail into a new frontier that will challenge all future generations. / In Witness Whereof we have hereunto set our hands and the official seal of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, this twentieth day of August, nineteen hundred and sixty-seven. Approved by the National Council of Administration, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States." signed by both the Commander in Chief and the Adjutant General of the VFW, artist marked "ZILLER" at the bottom, with the National Encampment of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States dual-ribboned gold seal in the lower left corner, in a wooden frame, 307 mm x 435 mm, wire on the reverse for wall hanging, citation document also extremely fine. Footnote: Edward Higgins "Ed" White, II was born on November 14, 1930 in San Antonio, Texas, where he attended school and became a member of the Boy Scouts of America, earning the rank of Second Class Scout. His father, Edward H. White, Sr. was a Major General in the United States Air Force. Upon graduation from high school, he was accepted to the United States Military Academy at West Point, where in 1952, he earned his Bachelor of Science degree and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force. White then chose a commission with the Air Force and attended flight School, a course that took just over a year. Following graduation from flight school, White was assigned to the 22nd Fighter Day Squadron at Bitburg Air Base, West Germany, where he was stationed for three and a half years, flying in F-86 Sabre and F-100 Super Sabre squadrons in the defense of NATO. After graduating from West Point, White competed for a spot on the United States Olympic team in the 400 meter hurdles race but missed making the team by a mere 1/10 of a second. His hobbies included squash, handball, swimming, golf and photography. In 1958, he enrolled in the University of Michigan under Air Force sponsorship, to study Aeronautical Engineering, where he earned his Master of Science degree in 1959. Upon graduation from UM, White was selected to attend the United States Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, then assigned as a test pilot at the Aeronautical Systems Division at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. During his career, he would log more than 3,000 flight hours with the Air Force, including about 2,200 hours in jets, and would ultimately attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In 1953, White was a devout Methodist and in 1952, married Patricia Finegan, whom he met while at West Point and they would later have two children together, a son, Edward White III (born September 16, 1953) and a daughter, Bonnie Lynn White (born May 15, 1956). White was one of nine men chosen as part of the second group of astronauts in 1962. Already within an elite group, White was considered to be a high-flier by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He was chosen as a Pilot of Gemini 4, with Command Pilot James McDivitt and became the first American to make a walk in space, on June 3, 1965. He found the experience so exhilarating, that he was reluctant to terminate the EVA at the allotted time, and had to be ordered back into the spacecraft. While he was outside, a spare thermal glove floated away through the open hatch of the spacecraft, becoming an early piece of space debris in low-earth orbit, until it burned up upon re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. There was a mechanical problem with the hatch mechanism, which made it difficult to open and re-latch, which added to the time constraint of the spacewalk, and could have threatened the lives of both men, if McDivitt had been unable to get the hatch latched, as they could not re-enter the atmosphere with an unsealed hatch. White's next assignment after Gemini 4 was as the back-up for Gemini 7 Command Pilot Frank Borman. He was also named the astronaut specialist for the flight control systems of the Apollo Command/Service Module. By the usual procedure of crew rotation in the Gemini program, White would have been in line for a second flight as the Command Pilot of Gemini 10 in July 1966, which would have made him the first of his group to fly twice. In March 1966, he was selected as Senior Pilot (second seat) for the first manned Apollo flight, designated AS-204, along with Command Pilot Virgil "Gus" Grissom, who had flown in space on the Mercury 4 "Liberty Bell 7" mission and as commander of the Gemini 3 "Molly Brown" mission, and Pilot Roger Chaffee, who had yet to fly into space. The mission, which the men named Apollo 1 in June, was originally planned for late 1966 (perhaps concurrent with the last Gemini mission), but delays in the spacecraft development pushed the launch into 1967. Launch of Apollo 1 was planned for February 21, 1967, when the crew entered the spacecraft onJanuary 27th, mounted atop its Saturn IB booster on Launch Pad 34 at Cape Kennedy, for a "plugs-out" test of the spacecraft, which included a rehearsal of the launch countdown procedure. Mid-way through the test, a fire broke out in the pure oxygen-filled cabin, killing all three men. White's job was to open the hatch cover in an emergency, which he apparently tried to do. His body was found in his center seat, with his arms reaching over his head toward the hatch. Removing the cover to open the hatch proved impossible, because the plug door design required venting normally slightly greater-than-atmospheric and pulling the cover into the cabin. Grissom was unable to reach the cabin vent control to his left, where the fire's source was located. The intense heat raised the cabin pressure even more, to the point where the cabin walls ruptured. the astronauts were killed by asphyxiation and smoke inhalation. The fire's ignition source was never determined, but their deaths were attributed to a wide range of lethal hazards in the early Apollo Command Module design and workmanship, and conditions of the test, including: the highly pressurized 100% oxygen pre-launch atmosphere; many wiring and plumbing flaws; flammable materials used in the cockpit and the astronaut's flight suits; and the hatch which could not be opened quickly in an emergency. After the incident, these problems were fixed, and the Apollo program carried on successfully, to reach its objective of landing men on the Moon. White died at the age of 36 and was buried with full military honors at West Point Cemetery, while Grissom and Chaffe were both buried in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. White was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal for his flight in Gemini 4 and was posthumously awarded the Veteran of Foreign Wars National Space Award, Gold Medal and Citation Document on August 20, 1967 (as presented here). In 1997, White was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, inducted into the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1993 and into the National Aviation Hall on July 18, 2009. He was a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and an associate member of the Institute of Aerospace Sciences. He also was a member of two fraternities: Tau Delta Phi (Engineering Honorary) and Sigma Delta Phi (Athletic Honorary). His wife, Patricia, later re-married and continued to reside in Houston but committed suicide on September 7, 1983, after having surgery earlier in the year to remove a tumor.