Former World War II Air Force pilot, General, and test pilot Charles “Chuck” Yeager died December 7 at the age of 97.
Yeager is best known for his breaking the sound barrier by flying faster than the speed of sound (approx. 760 mph – depending on atmospheric conditions) at the age of 24 (1947) flying Bell X-1 rocket plane. He flew for over 60 years including flying an F-15 at Mach one at the age of 79.
At the age of 87, he commemorated the 65th anniversary of breaking the sound barrier by riding second seat in an F-15 Eagle as it broke the barrier 30,000 feet above the sesert.
He named his planes “Glamorous Glennis” after his first wife who died in 1990.
It was Yeager who inspired the book and film “The Right Stuff”.
He was born Charles Elwood Yeager on February 13, 1923 in the tiny West Virginia town of Myra, but grew up in Hamlin.
Enlisting in the Army Air Corps right out of high school in 1941 prevented Yeager from becoming an astronaut since he did not have a college education…something he later regretted. Before taking to the skies, Yeager started his career as an airplane mechanic.
Despite having an issue with air sickness, Yeager flew 64 missions during World War II, shooting down 13 German planes including five on a single mission. He himself was also shot down over France but later escaped with help from the French.
After returning to the United States after the war, he became a test pilot.
When war broke out once again in Vietnam, Yeager was again flying sorties over the skies of South Vietnam.
Also an Air Force Squadron commander, Yeager once said, “it might sound funny, but I’ve never owned an airplane in my life. If you’re willing to bleed, Uncle Sam will give you all the planes you want.” He noted that over the course of his career he has flown over 18,000 hours in 341 different types of aircraft.
Yeager’s accolades include the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, the Air Medal, the Purple Heart, Collier air trophy, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Predeceased by his first wife Glennis, Yeager is survived by his second wife Victoria and children Donald, Michael, Sharon and Susan.
feature photo credit: By U.S. Air Force photo – Air Force Link, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1611611