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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  May 6, 2012 6:00pm-6:45pm EDT

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one of those who is in agreement with cleaver's comment that it would be a good if you follow some money toward persistent poverty regions and so he is very much in lockstep with this but he cleaver on that. postcode this is a good, "don't ask what good we do." robert draper is the author. free press is the publisher. thank you for been on the program. >> guest: my pleasure. ..
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>> so we're going to get started. >> ok. >> thanks all for coming out. my name is neal thompson. i'm the author of "the life of times of alan shepherd" which is the first biography of the first american in space. i wanted to say thanks to the u.s. naval academy for having me here, particularly the folks in the bookstore and the visitor center. danielle vaughn and donna player and thanks to the public affairs office here at the naval academy. diane and pat burrows, debbie good and commander gibbons. the naval academy here is where alan shepherd got his start. he was a little boy of the lindbergh generation who grew up who wanted nothing more than to fly airplanes. that was his life's mission. he came from a family of army officers in southern new hampshire is where he was born.
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and decided at an early age that he didn't want to join the army. he wanted to become a navy officer and learn to fly navy airplanes, which is why he ended up here at the naval academy. a little background on shepherd because a lot of people have discovered don't remember who he was or why he was important, including my son sean and leo who early on in the process of writing this would ask me how my book on john glenn was going. shepherd on may 5, 1961 became the first american into space and he went up in this little can right here. 10 years after that, he became the fifth man on the moon and he was the guy who hit the golf balls there. but it was -- it was that first flight, the freedom 7 flight that he went up on on may 5, 1961, that defined shepherd.
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he had been in an intense competition with the other man who wanted to become the first man in space, and he was the guy they picked to be number one. and that was always sort of the highlight of his career, and his life. now, here we are 35 years almost exactly since man first landed on the moon, but really first step in that direction toward the moon happened in that space capsule right there. a little side story about that morning, may 5, 1961. it was probably the biggest day in alan shepherd's life. it was one of the bigger days in president kennedy's young administration which hit a bunch of rough patches up to that point. the bay of pig, the cold war was surging all around us. we were in this space race with the russians. this race to become first into space. and it was a big deal. so that morning was an historic
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day not only for shepherd, but the entire country. it was also one of the bigger moments up till that point in televised history. but for shepherd who was stuck inside that thing for going on 3 1/2 hours, the biggest day of his life and all he could really think about how badly he had to go to the bathroom. he had been up since 2:00 in the morning, 1:30 in the morning an had had a cup of coffee with john glenn that morning. he had a glass of orange juice with john glenn and the flight was supposed to last only 15 minutes, but he was stuck in there, as delay led to another delay and finally he just couldn't hold it any longer. you have to let me out of this thing, i've got to go. the nasa engineers said no way. they had pulled back all the apparatus that surrounded the spacecraft and this little thing was standing on top of an
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83-foot rocket all along and here is shepherd saying, come get me out, i have to go to the bathroom. so it set off this huge flurry of phone calls and conversations among all the engineers, and the chief of the rocket program, warner von brawn, former nazi who came to the united states after world war ii said, no, the astronaut shawl stay in the nose cone. and so he was stuck there for a little while longer and finally shepherd said, sorry, i'm going go in my suit, which set off another flurry of concern among the engineers. shepherd had all the censors attached to his body and they were afraid he was going to electrocute himself, but finally shepherd convinced them to shut off the power. he did what he had to do, they waited for a few minutes until it was absorbed by the suit and gingerly turned the power back
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on. when shepherd wasn't electrocuted, they were allowed to go ahead with the program. it was one last delay after that and shepherd who is known for his impatience and impetuousness finally barked through his headset, i'm cooler than you are why don't you fix your little problem and light this candle. so that's how we got the title of the book, that sums up who shepherd is, very driven, competitive. impetuous and sort of a smart alecky kind of guy. i wanted to read a page here and there and then talk more about the book and then about shepherd and then open it up for questions after this. the first couple of pages summarizes a little bit of how i got involved in this book which started a few years ago when shepherd passed away. he died in 1998. it refers to may 5, 1961 when he went up into space.
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shepherd was 37, the day be he became first american into space. 37 years later i was working as a reporter at the baltimore sun and received a call from an editor telling me that alan shepherd had died and asking me to contribute a few paragraphs to his obituary. a quick internet search told me that accept for a thin, young adult book, no biography existed on the first astronaut. when edecided to make up for that omission, i quickly discovered why no one had ventured to write about shephe shepherd. he felt no compunction to explain who he was or where he had been. he horded his privacy. in death, those loyal to him continued to protect that privacy. sure there were things he was hiding. women, broken friendship, marital strife, things he knew might tarnish his he reese image. but by venturing into shepherd's past, i found a more human, complex and complete man than
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the kor vert-driving stud i had been awed by in tom wolf's "the right stuff." this began as a series of questions. how does a man reach the front lines of the cold war? where does an edgy, competitive explorer go after he has gone where few have? how does he survive after's gone to the moon? by picking through the scattered clues shepherd left behind, by enlisting the help of scores of friends and colleagues, by gaining access to some of his military records and f.b.i. file what emerges in response to those questions is a large, energetic and aggressive life. a life that before and after space pulsed with mystery, romance and adventure. shepherd was the military version of what elvis was to music, which james dean was to hollywood, and today's man was once a boy who wanted to be alan shepherd. but until now his true story has never been fully told. it's the story of a life fully live and intwined somewhat surprisingly for a man so famous
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for philandering is a love story. his beautiful life louise might have told that story, but after 53 years of marriage, she filed him into oblivion, dying mysteriously five weeks after he did on an airplane 40,000 feet above earth. this book began as i mentioned in that passage when i was a reporter here in annapolis covering the naval academy for "the baltimore sun." at the time, just before his death, 1998, the smithsonian air and space museum was scheduled to bring this capsule over here and put it on display and shepherd was going to visit here and sort of do a ribbon-cutting and commemorate it. he was sick. they had to delay it. he was diagnosed with leukemia, and he passed away before they ever had a chance to do that. so i helped write his obituary for "the baltimore sun" and a few months later they finally
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did bring the space capsule here and unveiled it. they brought shepherd's daughters here to talk about their father and some of his navy colleagues here to talk about their colleague. and just before they put the plexiglass on here, i was able to stick my head in there and touch a couple of things and sort of get a feel for what it was like to be shepherd to be crammed inside this thing with the world watching, not knowing if the rocket was going to blow up or what was going to happen. and it was shortly after that that i began wondering why no one had ever written a biography of the guy, why he had never written his own. and started spending more and more time -- my free time looking through the story and digging through archives and trying to find out what made him tick. how did he get to be the guy he was and why did he never tell his full story to everybody? so hopefully the result is the full and true story of this american hero. one of the reviews for the book
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called it one of the finest books ever written on the space race, which was flattering and great to hear. but ideally it's not a book about space. it's a book about this one guy, a guy who decided early on that he was going to do all the things and achieve all the things that he ever wanted to achieve, the things he dreamed about as a boy and he wasn't going to let anything get in his way. and -- but it wasn't easy. along the way, shepherd developed a reputation for being not only intensely competitive to the point of being cut throat, but also strangely and occasionally self-indulgent and self-destructive. he was full of paradoxes. he was a smart kid, who was bumped ahead a few grades as a child in elementary school, but then he came here to the naval academy and became close to flunking out a couple of times. he was early on in his navy career was a talented and brilliant pilot, had what they
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call spatial awareness. always kind knew what was going on around him. and yet, he had this occasional self-destructive tendency to fly low and in this maneuver called flat hatting where he'd swoop down. so he occasionally got himself in trouble as came close to getting flunked out of the naval academy, flunking out of the u.s. navy before he finally buckled down and sort of flew a little straighter and was ultimately selected to become the first american to go up in a space capsule. an example of one of the self-destructive episodes i wanted to read real quickly too. this was when he was a carrier pilot -- no, i take it back, he had been a carrier pilot for a number of years after getting his wings after world war ii. he serve for a year aboard destroyer in world war ii. he was selected at very young age to become a test pilot, down the road here from annapolis.
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so let me read a bit of that by that time, shepherd had a strong sense he could roll a plane a little better than the next guy as he put it. but as his luck held out and the superiors trusted him, he became to believe more deeply that he might -- might be a little better than the rest. he knew deep down he didn't have more raw talent than some of the others, though he would have never admitted such a thing. he did however believe he worked harder and paid closer attention to the details of flying perfect tests. he began to push himself harder and the goal was always perfection to show the bosses and the peers that he in his own words could fly the best test flight that what anybody had ever flown. but as soon as he learned to fly perfectly, it seemed to super charge his ego and he began to experiment with flying recklessly. as a glitz-free mission were now beneath him, if he couldn't help but indulge the dark side. when construction workers
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completed the first span of the chesapeake bay bridge which connected maryland's mainland to the eastern shore across a narrow stretch of bay, shepherd couldn't resist. a couple of his colleagues had already flown under the half-built bridge. shepherd looped the span. he flew his banshee, a navy jet, under it, over the top and then back under again. john highland, head of the tactical test division got wind of the stunt and called shepherd into his office. having admired his skill, but he couldn't condone such flights or every yahoo would try to it. he gave him a lecture about flat hatting. a few weeks later, shepherd was returning from a test flight out over the chesapeake and decided to take a detour up to ocean city. the bustling beach town on the eastern shore. her screamed across the beach, flowing the bikini tops off a number of sunbathing women. he was moving too fast, but a photographer from a philadelphia
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newspaper happened to be taking pictures and caught the stunt on film. shepherd was summoned before rear admiral alfred m. pride, the no-nonsense commander who chewed shepherd's butt, then issued a letter of sen sur, a black mark that would follow him the rest of his career. but apparently pride's sen sur wasn't -- censure wasn't severe enough. shepherd was among a select group of navy pilots trained to fly even higher, and in 1952 he was assigned to an elite group performing at today tests. one day, after he had flat hatted ocean city, a project manager at the test ordnance center asked the me tux et river for a test pilot. shepherd was set to help. the mission was to fly above 50,000 feet and release a missile to determine the high altitude effects of missile launches.
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shepherd flew from pax river, performed the mission perfectly, landed back at chincoteague for a debriefing, and then had lunch with his friends george and academy classmate and betty whistlerment he returned by mid afternoon, refuel and prepared for takeoff. it was a relatively quiet saturday afternoon and a quarter of a mile down range from the airfield, about 300 enlisted sailors and 50 officers including shep eersd friend george had gathered in rows on the tennis courts for the weekly inspection. as shepherd took off, he radioed the air traffic control tower seeking permission to make a low pass. his intent was to boast of the successful mission, an aerial chest thumping by putting his jet into a wing over wing victory roll. the tower gave him the ok. when al made a low pass, it was really low, who was standing at attention as shepherd took off, u-turn and then pushed the banshee to full bore and swooshed down. shepherd ripped the air just 150
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feet above the ground. passing over the tennis court, it scared the breath out of hundreds of uniformed men standing at attention below. thinking a jet was about to crash on to their head, they dove to the ground and hundreds of white hats were swept into the air by the wake of shep eersd jet. the commanding officer jumped to his feet and screamed, get that pilot's name, i want him grounded. george knew instantly it was his friend, but kept his mouth shut. when shepherd landed 20 minutes later, he taxied to a stop and saw admiral pride waiting for him. he thought, i must have done a great job if the admiral is coming out the greet me. but pride's face was locked in a scowl. pride was one of the pioneers of naval aviation, having flown off the navy's first carrier in the 1920's. he was also a serious, strict and proper new englander, who was much feared by his men. a test pilot once thought his career was over after he bailed
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out after damaged jet during a night flight, swam to shore and rang the doorbell of the nearest house where the naked aviator was greeted by pride's flustered wife. were you just over chincoteague, pride asked shepherd? well, yes, sir. did you make a low pass? i guess i did. pride dismissed shepherd and then summoned his immediate supervisors. shepherd should be court-martial i want to straighten this kid out. we can't have this sort of thing. while shepherd's supervisors pleaded with pride not to court-martial him, he was grown and put in hack for 10 days that meant to pack a bag, move out of his house, leaving louise and the girls behind and live in the batch bachelor's quarters. he wasn't allowed near an airplane during that time. he was seen drinking alone that night. when shepherd told him the story davidson was surprised that he
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was so upbeat after sabotaging his own career. he said what a waste of a good career. when he heard the rest of the story a few weeks later, davidson was shocked to learn he hadn't been shipped off to the supply corps. a lot of us would have lost our wings. once again, shenered had a couple of guardian angels looking out for him. so shepherd wasn't court-martialed or kicked out of the navy and managed to go on to fly this mission successfully. another little-known side story of his career was shortly after this first mission in freedom 7, he was training to become the first -- the commander of the first gemini mission which is the capsule that went up with two astronauts. and so where along -- some where along the way he experienced severe dizzy spells. he would get sick, he would not know up from down as if -- as if gravity had quit on him. he would end up on a heap in the
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floor. he initially tried to keep the episodes quiet because he knew what it would do to his career. but then one day he was given a lecture and was standing at a podium and one of these episodes hit and he almost fell on his face. he had to be helped off the stage and had to finally admit to the navy, i'm sick. it has been going on for a while and it's getting worse instead of better, what's wrong with me? so they figured out what's wrong. it was this inner ear disorder called menear's disease. nobody knew the cause of it. it was at the time it was incurable, so it looked like his career was over. so he had a decision to make, do i stick with the navy or with nasa? do i retire and go back to the navy? or try and cure this thing? at the time, he was already learning another talent which was making lots and lots of money, usually in his spare time and in the business world in houston. so he decided to stick it out and try to cure his disease and
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had experimental surgery in 1967 or '68 maybe. proved to nasa that he was completely cured an they put him back in the flight rotation and that's how he was assigned to apollo 14 which made him the fifth man on the moon and that's where he made a concerted effort to distinguish himself by hitting a couple of golf balls up there. now, let's see. there was one other very brief passage i wanted to read. i mentioned that shepherd almost defied his father go to the naval academy and join the navy where he came from a family of army officers. but after apollo 14, he had this scene with his father. this would have been 1971. when all the accolades and public appearance had settled down, the appearance with bob hope before troops in vietnam, the invitations to prizefight, broadway play, the drunken night in new york with lauren bacall and the overtures with politics
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trying to lure him into politics they traveled for a much-needed respite. he hosted a 50th wedding anniversary for his parents at a nearby country club. one night during their stay in new hampshire, louise and the girls worked in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner while alan and his father, the admiral and the colonel sat in the living room sipping snifters of brandy. in the corner stood the pipe organ. a reminder of the saturday afternoons so long ago when alan trundled along with his father to the church and helped to tune the 600 pipes of the huge church organ. over the years, he had continued to run the small-town insurance agency, lunching at the same restaurant day after day, year after year. his son meanwhile sailed aboard navy jets to all corners of the world and drove corvette, rocketed to space and golfed on
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the moon, arguably one of the most eloquently traveled men alive. and yet alan had developed an admiring respect for his father's home spun and simplified lifestyle. my father's example was he led a good life. that evening after dinner father and son talked about shepherd's promotion to admiral, about his plans for the future and about the moon. at one point, bart turned to his son and said do you remember when you first told us back in 1959 that you were going to become an astronaut? yes, sir, alan said. do you remember what i said? yes, sir, i certainly do, alan said. in fact, alan would never be able to forget bart's admonitions against veering off husband navy career path. and how he felt as though he was tearing the family apart with his risky enrollment in nasa. you were not in favor of it he said. well, bart said, his voice a little shaky as he raised his glass of brandy in a toast, i was wrong. 15 months later, the colonel died at the age of 82.
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as i mentioned earlier, ideally this is not just a book about a space, but a book about this large -- largely overlooked life. this guy who just lived life on his terms. who was determined to live bigger and better than the rest. a smart, compassionate, charismatic, but wildly complicated, competitive, bold and very iconic american life. and as it turns out a life full of paradoxes such as huge achievements followed his strangely self-destructive behavior. and here we are now 35 years after man first landed on the moon, and we've got rovers up on mars, president bush is talking about sending man back to the moon one of these days. the space shuttle in the aftermath of the columbia disaster is getting set in the next few months to return to
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space. i guess i'm hoping that some of these events might remind people of what those days were like when guys like alan shepherd were climbing into cans like this. and maybe pique people's interest again and get them curious about not only space, but one of america's space pioneer, alan shepherd. so i was hoping to open this up to a couple of questions, if anybody has any questions about shepherd, the space program. the book. >> you said people tried to lure him into politics, but it sounds like he never went. why was that? >> he was incredibly -- the question was about shepherd being lured into politics and why he never went that direction. which is the direction john glenn of course went. all of those early astronaut were wooed in a lot of direction
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from business people, from politics -- from politicians, and shepherd was very much in demand. but through his entire life he had been wildly private and kept to himself. and just didn't want to live in the public eye too much longer. it was really difficult for him when the astronauts were unveiled to the world in 1959 for him to give up the privacy he had always enjoyed as part of the navy fraternity. the navy, you know, you travel in your own circle, you're part of your own world. the whole navy set of housing rule, discipline. it was his world and he was very comfortable in it and very good at it. but when he became an astronaut and suddenly became a public figure, he was not entirely comfortable with that and fought very hard to maintain some level of privacy in his life while still doing what he had to do as an astronaut and be a public figure. so politics for him, it was
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never part of the equation. business on the other hand, he could go into quietly an not really share his name with anybody and he threw himself head long into the business world and became a multimillionaire. so he was very successful at that. but the question about politics makes me think too of this rivalry that existed between he and john glenn, who are the two frontrunners at the time to become the first into space. and that rivalry plays a big part in my book, because they were -- they were the -- sort of the two premiere astronauts, the two apparent frontrunners to be the first into space, but wildly different guys. shepherd was sort of the bad boy and john glenn was the good boy. yes? >> my question is about heroes. i was just wondering when i was a kid the glenns and the shepherds and the armstrongs were heroic figures, and i suspect that today some of the
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people in this country are equally heroic. but we just don't hear about them. why do you think that is? >> it's a great question. the question is about heroes and why we don't hear now about who the heroes are who are doing some of the things, in some cases in the military that the astronauts did. or the space shuttle astronauts are continuing to do today, putting their life on the line. it was a different era back then. you know? space was brand new. also, as you know, the cold war set the framework for the space race. i'm not so sure if we hadn't been in this race with the russians on a lot of levels, but also to become first in space i'm not so sure the space program would have received the funding that it did at the time, nor the attention it that it received at that time. so because it was all brand new, and in dangerous and it was exploring also, you know, the
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new frontiers that we had never come close to exploring before, all of that made it more important and exciting to people. and now we have been to the moon people watched the space shuttle go up and it doesn't do anything that really grabs them. they pay a little bit of attention and praise the heroes when something tragic happens, but other than that, i don't know who the heroes of today are. you know, we are so saturated by sports heroes and celebry thes and -- by celebrities, and that's where the people's values are. people are still training to go up into space as we speak and those are some heroic people. they're still training to fly jets and those aviators are now serving over in iraq. but you're right, you don't hear about them and it's sad. in a lot of ways. i want to get this little guy in
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the back. >> how long did you take to write? >> how long did it take to write the book? it took me four years. when i started, i was working here in annapolis as i mentioned for "the baltimore sun." i worked two years on it part-time, getting up early in the morning, working late into the night and then finally took a leave from my job at "the baltimore sun" and spent another two years on it. altogether, four year, doing research and interviews and the writing. yes? >> in your career as a journalist, you interviewed many people. all of them have stories. i'm curious why for your first book you chose alan shepherd. >> the question was with my career as a journalist i probably run into many people who have a great story to tell, why did i choose alan shepherd? i chose him, as i mentioned after he died, we wrote his obituary for "the baltimore sun"
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and at that time it was shortly after that he was supposed to come here and unveil his freedom seven capsule. so it became a -- so i was surprised that no one had written a book about him. then when this capsule was unveiled a few months later here at the naval academy, i started digging a little bit more into his life and trying to find out why had nobody written about this guy? surely he had a fascinating life not just as an astronaut, but before he went into space and certainly afterwards. in fact, the book is broken into three section, before space, into space and after space. those are my three primary questions. how did he get to this point, that point? and there was a little bit of a risk involved in choosing him as the subject because he was so private and hadn't really shared with the world his entire story. i was taking a chance that there would be a great story to be found there and i think there was. for example, he never talked
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about world war i. never mentioned the fact that he served in world war i, never talked about his war experience, and i almost glossed over that in the book before i decided to dig a little deeper and try to find some of his shipmates and found out he had served this horrific year aboard a destroyer in the pacific around oak thank you what, getting attacked by cam kaz si, getting fired on. i mean, you know, it doesn't get any more terrifying than that. he never mentioned it. so i was glad when i chose him i found all these fascinating stories that had never been out there before. >> has there been any new information or surprises to come out since the book? >> the question was, has there been any new information or surprises since the book has come out? yes. because, again, i'm repeating myself, but because he was intensely private he had trained
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everybody around him to protect his privacy. not to tell many details to aspiring biographers or journalists. so all of his family and friends knew that he preferred not to have shared his life story. so even when he died, and i started contacting people, they said, you know, i don't think al would have wanted it this way. even his family members who tried to accommodate me said daddy wouldn't be happy that you're doing this story or this book. so i did manage to get people to open up, but i never managed to reach everyone that i wanted to reach. so since the book has come out, i have heard from a number of people who i wish i had talked to beforehand, including a couple of shepherd's girlfriends. he was -- he had a complicated marriage. he was separated from his wife for long periods of time, both during the navy and as an astronaut. and he wasn't entirely faithful and it was sort of this open secret about shepherd, but when i went trying to track a
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girlfriend down just to see if she could lend insight into his story, i was never able to get any of his friends to tell me who they were or where they were. but since the book has come out, a few have contacted me and said you nailed him, it's great to see the book out and somebody finally telling his life story. i think they're grateful. so it was kind of interesting to hear from some of them. yes? >> how much of an influence do you think his time here at the naval academy had on his life? >> the question is about how much influence shep eersd time at the naval academy had on his life. i think it affected him immensely. when he arrived here which was roughly june of 1941, he was just 17 years old, and he was a little bit shorter and smaller than a lot of the other plebes, first year students here. because he had been advanced a couple of grades back in grammar school, he was younger than some
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of the other classmates. and up until that point in his life, he had always coasted. you know, he was the smart kid in class, he was the athlete in high school, the smart and popular guy. he was a little bit mysterious friends told me from high school. he kind of stuck to himself a little bit, but, you know, he was the stud on campus. when he gets here, everybody's a stud. and so he was up against all these young men. it was only men at the time, who also aspired to be charles lindbergh and who also were the studs of their school. so it humbled him a little bit and he couldn't coast. he didn't coast in the classroom and came close to flunking out a couple of times. he was issued a letter -- not of reprimand, but get your act together, buddy or we're going to ship you to the navy. he came that close. also when he tried his hand at
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athletic, he chose the rowing team and most of those guys are tall, long-armed and huge and shepherd was probably 5'9 fth at the time, 155 pounds and everybody said you're crazy for going out for the crew. but he worked hand and he would get up a little earlier than the other guys and work out in the gym a little longer and just willed himself to become a varsity rower and he did it. so i think the lesson you -- he learned here is that he's not going to be able to coast through life. he's not perfect at everything he does. there are times he's going to have to really work at it, and practice and strive for perfection instead of just relying on his considerable talents. considerable enough, but that wasn't enough. i think he learned those lessons here first. and he would refer to it in later years too how he'd
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occasionally look in the mirror and say you didn't do as good a job as you could have. he had this line, complacency. it was a modifier. he had no stomach for complacency, and he used that line a lot. if he saw somebody slacking off, he would nail them for their complacency. during the 1960's when he was grounded with that inner ear disease that i mentioned, he was the head of the astronaut office which was a hard thing for him to do, watching these other guys go up into space. but he became their den mother and would nail them for slacking off, even the slightest. because they knew that up in space, they needed to be perfect and so he pushed them in that direction and i think, again, because he learned some of those lessons right here back in 1941, and 42 and 43 and 44. yes, ma'am?
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>> -- had the ear problems? >> it's a good question. the question was whether any of the other men who went up in space ended up with this ear problem that shepherd had. apparently not. but there was a lot of speculation at the time of shepherd's disease that that might have been the cause of it, because the nasa doctors, that's exactly one of the things they were worried about when they were exploring sending humans into space was whether it would affect the delicate balance of the inner ear or their eyeballs would ooze or pop out. they had no idea what would happen to them when they went up there. so when the ear problem happened to shepherd, they did do a number of tests to find out if it was connected to him going up into space. they decided that it didn't, but made for interest news stories at the time. john glenn after his first flight in 1962, he became first american to orbit the earth, h
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he -- a couple of years later he left nasa to run for his first public office and was getting ready for some campaign appearance and was standing in the bathroom when he reached up to fix a mirror on the wall of the bathroom. and the mirror came down on him and clocked him in the head and he fell and nailed his head on the edge of the shower stall, the metal tracking. and he ended up with exactly the same symptoms as shepherd, and so people at the time were saying, you know, maybe nasa made up the story about the bathroom because really alan shepherd and john glenn both had these symptoms and maybe it was related to space. but it was just a freakish coincidence that glenn had that accident and ended up with the same symptoms as his friend and competitor. yes? >> you didn't have a chance to interview alan shepherd. if you had one question to ask, what would it be? >> hmm. the question was because i did
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not have a chance to interview alan shepherd, if i did have a chance, what would be the one question that i would ask him? never thought about that one. that's a good one. i would probably ask why didn't you tell your story? you know, why did you hold back? because he had plenty of chances and offers to write a book. he did write a book with a number of -- another astronaut deke slaten and two other journalists called "moon shot" that came out in 1994, but there wasn't a lot autobiographical about shepherd. might have to get back to you on that one. that's a good one. but thanks. yeah? >> was he alive when john glenn went up into space later. >> the question was whether -- yeah. he was -- the question was whether alan shepherd was alive when john glenn returned to
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space which was 1998. he died before it happened. but after john glenn was chosen to go back up into space, i think he was 72 at the time. shepherd came out of the wood work a little bit agreed to do some interviews. they were some of the first and longest interviews he had done in a long, long time. i think partly because he knew he was sick. he knew he wasn't going to make it, so he had this one intense interview on cnn where they asked him about glenn going up, and they said, would you want to go back up? he said, no, i think i'm done for. they said, no, there's a chance. he said, no, talk to my doctors and said something about wishing john glenn well. he got choked up at the time too. and the cnn reporter didn't quite know what to make of it, and then a few weeks later is when he passed away. so he died in july of 1998 and glenn went up in i think october. so he didn't get to watch glenn
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go up. but i think he would have liked to have done it himself. yeah. anything else? that's a good question. were john glenn and shepherd in the end friends? a good question. sort of. they learned to really respect each other and appreciate their differences. even though it was really intense, the competition between the two at the time. back in the '60's, they developed this sort of respect for their opposing points of views and their different approaches to life and, yeah, they did become friends. in fact, when shepherd was sick and it looked bad when he was first diagnosed with the leukemia, glenn stepped in and tried to help. he had friends at the national institutes of health and tried to find the best doctors and experts on leukemia at this time and sent shepherd to the mayo clinic and tried to help his friend at the time. you know, it was too late
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though. they did come together at the end just before shepherd died and before glenn went back into space. see how we're doing on time. one or two more questions. yes? >> sounds like you picked up a lot of information about john glenn and probably some other people along the way. are you looking at doing another biography on john glenn or anybody else? >> the question was whether i might consider a biography on john glenn or anybody else since i had done so much research on those guys. no, i think this will be my one and only space book. and i largely picked it because he was the only one who hadn't been written about. all the other mercury 7 astronauts -- no, including gus griss some, they had a book written about them or wrote their own memoirs. gordon cooper and scott carpenter wrote a book. shepherd was the only one who
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didn't allow a book to be written about him, nor did he agree to do his autobiography. i thought he was the one story left untold about the space program. my next book is going to be about moon -- moon shine and the creation of nascar, so it has nothing to do about space. a little bit about crazy guys who are speed freaks, but not about space. two more questions. anyone? >> any chance for a movie? >> one can hope. the question was any chance for a movie. i haven't heard anything yet, but i think it would be a great movie, you know? a lot of -- a lot in here hasn't come out before. even though there have been plenty of movies about the space program. i'd argue that shepherd was the most flamboyant and accomplished and enigmatic and charismatic of them all. we will see. anyone else? well, thank you all very much for coming out here today. thanks again to the naval academy.


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