© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New book highlights two American heroes who forged lasting friendship despite differences

Adam Lazarus

John Glenn and Ted Williams met during the Korean War and forged a lasting friendship. Their bond is highlighted in author Adam Lazarus’ new book, The Wingmen, The Unlikely, Unusual, Unbreakable Friendship between John Glenn and Ted Williams.

"Both men were great patriots,” says Lazarus. “That's the one thing that they shared in common. Yes, they had very, very different lives.”

In 1953, both the late Democratic U.S. Senator John Glenn, then a U.S. Marine, and baseball legend Ted Williams, a recalled reservist, and staunch right-wing Republican, served their country in South Korea and worked together on flight missions.

“They just happened to be in the same squad, assigned to the same squadron,” says Lazarus. “And after a while they got to know each other, but they also flew a handful of missions together, some of which were very dangerous and troublesome.”

Lazarus explains how the two were similar, despite one working in public service and the other in baseball. Glenn became an astronaut and U.S. Senator from Ohio. Williams was a standout baseball player for the Boston Red Sox. He later became a manager and was a major spokesperson for the Sears catalog.

“John Glenn devoted his life to public service,” says Lazarus. “From the time he was about 20 years old to the day he died. And Ted Williams did (too). (Williams) wasn't happy about it either time that he served his country in World War II and in the Korean War. That's one of the things that I think they had in common also, was their patriotism, in their duty, their service to their country."

Lazarus says both men were also perfectionists in their chosen fields, “really obsessed with details and the smaller details.”

"(Glenn) saved everything,” says Lazarus. “He saved every document, every file, every photograph that he came across because he studied them. And he was, you know, a student of every subject he was interested in. And Ted Williams was exactly the same as a baseball player. He was obsessed with hitting, in all the specifics of how to hit a baseball and where to hit a baseball. He knew all the ballparks."

Glenn invited Williams, who had suffered three strokes, to see him return to space in 1998.

“When John Glenn goes back into space and the Discovery rocket is lifting off the ground, Ted Williams is sort of lifting out of his wheelchair, cheering him on, yelling, that's my friend, that's my friend,” says Lazarus.

Lazarus will talk about his book and hold a book signing at The Ohio State University on Nov. 15.

“I considered Ted Williams to be John Glenn's wingman during the war, but in sort of the later years, if you read the book, you'll see that in some ways, I think John Glenn was Ted Williams’ wingman,” says Lazarus.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.