Gathering of Eagles Foundation

Eagle Biography

Charles E. Yeager

Brigadier General Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager the first man to capture "the demon" of the sound barrier, is one of America's best known pioneer aviators and airpower heroes. He enlisted in the US Army Air Corps in 1941, and received his wings as a "flying sergeant" in 1943. While flying P-51 Mustangs with the Eighth Air Force in England, Yeager achieved 13 aerial victories--five in one mission--and also downed one of the first German Me-262 jet fighters. In early 1944, he was shot down over German-occupied France but escaped capture when elements of the French underground helped him reach the Spanish border. He became an experimental test pilot following World War II and was a member of the initial cadre selected to fly the Bell X-1, the nation's first research rocket aircraft.

On 14 October 1947, 24-year-old Captain Yeager achieved a speed of 760.5 miles per hour and became the first man in the world to fly through the " sound barrier." He eventually flew the X-1 on more than 40 flights and reached speeds exceeding 1,000 miles per hour and an altitude of 70,000 feet. For his achievements in supersonic flight, he received the MacKay Trophy and the Collier Trophy. After nine years as a test pilot, Yeager returned to operational Air Force units in 1954 and commanded several fighter squadrons in Europe and the United States before becoming Commandant of the Aerospace Research Pilot School in 1962. He returned to combat in 1966 and flew 127 combat missions over South Vietnam in the B-57, F-100, F-102 and F-4. In the early 1970s, he was Director of Aerospace Safety at Norton Air Force Base.

Throughout his extraordinary military career, "Chuck" Yeager accumulated more than 11,000 flying hours in 183 different types of aircraft. In addition to his many awards and commendations, he was the first military member on active duty to enter the prestigious Aerospace Hall of Fame at Dayton, Ohio. General Yeager retired from active duty in 1975 and currently serves as an aviation consultant with the aircraft industry. He recently was a technical consultant on the production of the film, "The Right Stuff."

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In December 1953, Major "Chuck" Yeager flew the Bell X-1A on its fourth flight and established a world speed record of 1,650 miles per hour (MACH 2.42). He received the Harmon International Trophy for this flight, which Yeager admits to be his "most hair-raising experience." After he set the speed record, the X-1A became uncontrollable. It rolled at 580 degrees per second, while pulling nine Gs positive, two Gs sideforce, and two negative Gs during each 360-degree revolution. Yeager's recovery from this unnerving situation is but one reason why he is considered by many to be the world's greatest test pilot. In recognition of his overall extraordinary achievement and heroism in advancing aviation technology, the US Congress presented him with a special Medal of Honor in 1976.

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