You’ve probably heard of Neil Armstrong as Apollo 11 commander who became the first man to step foot on the moon back in 1969. Before walking on the moon, Armstrong was also an aerospace engineer, naval aviator, and test pilot, but was he in the military?
Neil Armstrong was in the military. He served in the navy from 1949 to 1952 and served as a pilot at Edwards Air Force from 1955 to 1962.
Read more below about Armstrong’s lengthy career in the military before becoming the first man to walk on the moon.
In total, Armstrong served for a decade in the military. Three years in the navy, and seven years in the air force. Let’s take a look at his career in the military.
Armstrong’s service in the Navy started on January 26, 1949, and it required him to report to Naval Air Station Pensacola for flight training at age 18. For 18 months, Armstrong completed training, during which he qualified for carrier landing aboard the USS Cabot and USS Wright. On August 16, 1950, Armstrong was informed by letter that he was a fully qualified Naval Aviator.
His first assignment was to Fleet Aircraft Service Squadron 7 at NAS San Diego (now known as NAS North Island). Shortly following his first assignment was another where Armstrong was assigned to Fighter Squadron 51 (VF-51) and made his first flight in a jet, an F9F-2B Panther, on January 5, 1951.
Armstrong first saw action in the Korean War on August 29, 1951, as an escort for a photo reconnaissance plane over Songjin. In total, Armstrong flew 78 combat missions over Korea.
After finishing his service in the Navy, Armstrong returned to college at the University of Southern California where he eventually graduated with a Master’s degree in aeronautical engineering.
Following his graduation, Armstrong returned to the military as a test pilot. By July 1955, Armstrong had begun working with Edwards Air Force after a short stint with Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory.
On his first day at Edwards, Armstrong was tasked with his first assignments, which were to pilot chase planes during releases of experimental aircraft from modified bombers. Armstrong’s first flight in a rocket plane was on August 15, 1957, in the Bell X-1B.
Milt Thompson once stated that Armstrong was “the most technically capable of the early X-15 pilots,” with Will Dana noting that Armstrong “had a mind that absorbed things like a sponge.” From that, you can deduce that Armstrong was a very competent, fast-learning pilot who had many talents to offer the air force.
Armstrong made seven flights in the X-15 from November 1960 to July 1962. According to NASA, over his career, he flew more than 200 different models of aircraft, including jet and rocket-powered planes, helicopters, and gliders.
Tributes to Armstrong
Back in 2015, President Obama paid tribute to Armstrong following Armstrong’s death in 2012, saying, “Neil was among the greatest of American heroes–not just of his time, but of all time… when Neil stepped foot on the surface of the moon for the first time, he delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten.”
Armstrong’s family described him as an American “hero,” who had served his nation proudly. They said, “We celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.”
Evidently, Armstrong is an admirable man who served America doing us all proud, he achieved remarkable things throughout his life, and he will be forever remembered, especially for his most significant achievement: being the first man to walk the moon.