John O'Grady was born on August 31, 1929, in Brooklyn, New York. He entered the U.S. Naval Academy in June 1948, and was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Air Force on June 3, 1952. Lt O'Grady served as a Production Procurement Officer with Headquarters San Antonio Air Material Area at Kelly AFB, Texas, from June to October 1952, and then attended pilot training and was awarded his pilot wings at Foster AFB, Texas, in November 1953. He next attended Advanced Pilot Training in the F-84 Thunderjet from November 1953 to February 1954, followed by service as a Ferry Pilot with the 1737th Ferry Squadron at Dover AFB, Delaware, from March 1954 to December 1956. Capt O'Grady received an Air Force Institute of Technology assignment to complete the Aircraft Structural Design Course from December 1956 to October 1957, and then served as an Aeronautical Engineer with Headquarters Mobile Air Material Area at Brookley AFB, Alabama, from October 1957 to May 1960. His next assignment was as a Project Engineer and Project Chief on the PGM-19 Jupiter Medium-Range Ballistic Missile Office at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, from May 1960 to June 1962, followed by another Air Force Institute of Technology assignment to complete his Master's degree in Engineering Management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, from June 1962 to July 1963. Maj O'Grady served as a Research and Development Officer, Management Analysis Officer, and Aerospace Programs Officer with Headquarters Air Force Systems Command at Andrews AFB, Maryland, from July 1963 to July 1966, and he then attended F-105 Thunderchief Combat Crew Training from July to December 1966. He deployed to Southeast Asia in January 1967, where he served as an F-105 pilot with the 357th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Takhli Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from January 1967 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam on April 10, 1967. It is believed that Maj O'Grady was immediately captured and then died the same day he was shot down, but he was officially listed as Missing in Action, being promoted through the ranks to Colonel, before he was declared dead on March 15, 1977. His remains have never been returned to the United States.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.