Hall of Famer: Award caps Gannon’s 37-year Air Force career, 38 years after retirement
FLORENCE, S.C. – U.S. Air Force veteran Rocky Gannon was one of five people inducted this spring into the U.S. Air Force Cyperspace Operations and Support Hall of Fame.
The 94-year-old veteran served 37 years in the Air Force, flying more than 6,000 hours in 34 airplanes during three different wars.
Col. Gerald Gleckel, a longtime friend, nominated Gannon. Gleckel, while he was a captain, met Gannon and shadowed him for a year. The two have kept in touch over the years, Gannon said.
“I retired 38 years ago, so I thought Rocky and Rocky Gannon was in the trash bin never to be heard from again, but all of a sudden be careful of who you step on there,” Gannon said.
Gannon said while he was in the Air Force, from 1943-1980, the word cyberspace wasn’t in the dictionary.
“I spent most of my career doing unusual things, throwing a wire out of my bedroom window talking to the White House, the Pentagon or some place,” Gannon said. “That’s before we had satellites up in the sky.”
Gannon also said he was the cryptology guy who always sent secret messages. He also said he worked on laser guns and new Air Force tactics.
The Air Force allowed Gannon to live his dreams, he said. When Gannon was a child in New Jersey, his father took him to meet Eddie Rickenbacker, Amelia Earheart and Charles Lindbergh. Rickenbaker was starting an airlines 10 miles from his home.
“That was my inspiration,” Gannon said. “When I grew up, I wanted to be like them. I’d lay out in the yard and watch the clouds. I didn’t see many planes.”
Gannon held on to his dreams, and when he was in the 11th grade working at a movie theater after school to help provide for his family, he saw an advertisement from Jimmy Stewart announcing that the four-year college requirement for pilot training had been waived during World War II.
The only requirement was being between 17 and 23 years old, and Gannon was 17 at the time.
Gannon said he hitchhiked 60 miles to Philadelphia multiple times to take the tests and sign up for pilot training after seeing the advertisements.
“To the amazement of all my teachers and my principal, I qualified,” Gannon said.
On May 1, 1943, Gannon raised his right hand, becoming a pre-aviation cadet, and soon after that, he became the pilot of a four-engine bomber. Gannon said he hadn’t even driven a car in his life.
Throughout his career, he’s served in World War II, the Vietnam War and the Korean War. He served as an air traffic controller and worked as an Air Traffic Control and Air Space Management expert.
Gannon said the only reason he received the award was because he had a good wife, who raised their three children while he was serving in the Air Force.
“I’ve just been blessed beyond imagination,” Gannon said.