Paper: The Life and Military Career of U.S. Air Force Pilot, Charles "Chuck" E. Yeager

U.S. Air Force pilot. Born Charles ("Chuck") E. Yeager, on February 13, 1923, in Myra, West Virginia. Yeager was the first person to fly a plane faster than the speed of sound. His father was a driller for natural gas in the West Virginia coal fields. As the United States began mobilizing for World War Il, Yeager enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1941 at the age of 18. In 1943 he became a flight officer, a non-commissioned officer who could pilot aircraft. He went to England where he flew fighter planes over France and Germany during the last two years of the war. In his first eight missions, at the age of 20, Yeager shot down two German fighters. On his ninth mission he was shot down over German-occupied France, suffering flak wounds. He bailed out of the plane and was rescued by members of the French resistance who smuggled him across the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain. In Spain he was jailed briefly but made his way back to England where he flew fighter planes in support of the Allied invasion of Normandy. On October 12, 1944, Yeager took on and shot down five German fighter planes in succession. On November 6, flying a propeller-driven P-51 Mustang, he shot down one of the new jet fighters the Germans had developed, the Messerschmidt-262, and damaged two more. On November 20 he shot down four FW-190s. By the end of the war, at which time he was 22 years old, he was credited with having shot down 13.5 German planes (one was also claimed by another pilot). In 1946 and 1947 Yeager was trained as a test pilot at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. He showed great talent for stunt-team flying and was chosen to go to Muroc Field in California, later to become Edwards Air Force Base, to work on the top-secret XS-1 project. At the end of the war, the U.S. Army had found that the Germans had not only developed the world's first jet fighter but also a rocket plane that had tested at speeds as fast as 596 miles an hour. Just after the war, a British jet, the Gloster Meteor, had raised the official world speed record to 606 miles per hour. The next record to be broken was to attain the speed of sound, Mach 1, which was what the XS-1 project was designed to do. ...