He’s the most famous Eagle Scout astronaut in our nation’s history.
But there’s still a lot that people don’t know about Neil Armstrong.
We’ll learn more about his lunar journey in First Man, the feature film out this weekend that’s getting rave reviews and Oscar buzz.
Armstrong’s Scouting journey, though, began well before he took that “one small step” on the moon.
In the spirit of exploration, let’s count down these 10 Scouting facts you might not have known about Neil Armstrong.
10. He was an inaugural member of his troop in Ohio.
Upper Sandusky, Ohio, had no Scout troop when the Armstrongs moved there in 1941, the year Armstrong turned 11.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of that year, the BSA made a public declaration that it would support the government’s war effort with its full resources.
Troop 25 was formed out of that patriotic fervor.
According to First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen (the book on which the film is based), Troop 25 met in the Commercial Bank building in downtown Upper Sandusky. Armstrong was among the 32 young people who joined right away.
9. He was sorted into a patrol in an unusual way.
These days, most troops divide their members into patrol by age.
But Armstrong’s Troop 25 organized its members by height.
At the first meeting, their Scoutmaster, the Rev. J. R. Koenig, lined the boys up from tallest to shortest. Then, according to the First Man book, he then counted them off — one, two, three, four — to sort them into four patrols.
8. He picked an excellent patrol name.
Now that they represented an even distribution of heights, Armstrong and the seven other members of his patrol needed to come up with a name.
They called themselves the Wolf Patrol, according to Scouting magazine.
Armstrong was elected to be his patrol’s scribe and took diligent minutes in a “beat-up three-ring binder,” First Man writes.
7. His troop started a monthly newspaper.
The Pup Tent News, first released on June 14, 1943, included stories, news items and “a few dumb jokes,” according to First Man.
Like this one: “You serve crabs here?” “We serve anyone, sit down.”
Armstrong’s dad, Steve, typed the Scouts’ stories at his office, but he let a few errors slip by. For example, one issue listed the features editor as “Niel Armstrong,” First Man writes.
6. He was incredibly smart and quick-witted.
One of my favorite anecdotes in First Man involves the members of the Wolf Patrol engaging in what the book calls a bit of “good-natured rivalry.”
Armstrong’s friend Kotcho Solacoff presented Armstrong with some white powder and said, “Here, Neil, try some C12H22O11.”
To Solacoff’s surprise and horror, “Neil grabbed a pinch full and put it in his mouth.”
Solacoff, continuing the prank, yelled, “Spit it out! It’s poison!”
Calmly, Armstrong said, “C12H22O11 is sugar.”
“I said, ‘I know, but I didn’t think you did,’” Solacoff says in the book. “That was the last time I took for granted that I knew something that he didn’t.”
5. He changed troops when his family moved.
When he was 14 and had spent about three years in Troop 25, Armstrong and his family moved about an hour southwest to the town of Wapakoneta, Ohio.
Armstrong looked for a new troop and quickly found Troop 14.
It’s as a member of Troop 14 that, in 1947, Armstrong became an Eagle Scout.
4. The Hiking merit badge almost made him late for work.
While hiking 20 miles for the Hiking merit badge, Armstrong checked his watch and panicked.
The hike was taking longer than planned. If he didn’t hurry, he would be late for his job at the bakery — unacceptable behavior in this young Scout’s mind.
Armstrong kept pushing his troopmates to go faster even though “fatigue was setting in,” Solacoff says in First Man.
Eventually, Armstrong began what Solacoff called “Boy Scout pace.”
Armstrong started walking and then running to make it home as quickly as possible.
“By the time we got home, we were not only exhausted, but we had painful cramps in our legs,” Solacoff says.
3. His first and second merit badges had nothing to do with space.
Considering his love of planes as a boy and his later accomplishments as a test pilot, you might think Armstrong would’ve started with the Aviation merit badge.
Think again. The first merit badge Armstrong earned was Art. The second: Reading.
2. He earned more merit badges than required.
Like many of today’s Scouts, Neil Armstrong kept earning merit badges beyond the 21 required for Eagle.
He finished with 26 merit badges in all. According to Scouting magazine’s March-April 1970 issue, that list included the Scholarship, Hiking and Aviation merit badges.
Based on Eagle Scout requirements at the time, we know he also earned First Aid, Lifesaving, Swimming, Personal Health, Public Health, Cooking, Camping, Civics, Bird Study, Pathfinding, Safety, Pioneering, and either Athletics or Physical Development.
1. But he never earned the Space Exploration merit badge.
The most famous Eagle Scout astronaut in history didn’t earn the merit badge dedicated to exploring space.
But there’s a simple explanation. The Space Exploration merit badge was created in 1965 — the year Armstrong turned 35. Even though he didn’t earn the merit badge, he’s a big part of it today.
Scouts working on the Space Exploration MB must design a collector’s card about their favorite space pioneer.
I’m guessing a bunch of them select the ultimate space pioneer. The First Man. The first Eagle Scout on the moon.
Will Scouting be referenced in the First Man film?
Scouting plays a big part in the First Man book because it was such a big element of Armstrong’s childhood. I’m excited to see whether it’s featured in the movie version as well.
More on Armstrong’s Scouting connection
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