Gathering of Eagles Foundation

Eagle Biography

Charles E. Yeager

Famous for his many aviation feats, Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager, a World War II fighter ace, shot down an Me-262 jet with a prop-driven P-51 Mustang. Above all, he is known for a quality that all the flyers of the post-war era aimed to achieve--the right stuff. Born in 1923, he enlisted in the Army Air Force in September 1941, and was accepted for pilot training under the Flying Sergeant Program in July 1942. He earned pilot wings and appointment as a flight officer in March 1943. Yeager distinguished himself in aerial combat over France and Germany: 270 combat hours, 64 combat missions, and 13 enemy aircraft destroyed, including 5 on one mission. In March 1944, he was shot down over German-occupied France but escaped capture when the French Maquis helped him to reach the Spanish border.

After his return to England, he became the first "evader " to again fly combat. Captain Yeager returned to the US in February 1945 and, after training, served as an instructor pilot. In July, he went to Wright Field, Ohio, where he soon found himself in experimental flight test work, and for the next 9 years was at the forefront of aviation progress. He was selected to pilot a research rocket aircraft, the Bell X(S)-1, and on 14 October 1947, was the first person to exceed mach 1.0--the speed of sound. He flew Mach 2.5 on 12 December 1953. Returning to operational flying in F-86 Sabres in October 1954, Yeager commanded the 417th Fighter Squadron at Hahn Air Base, Germany and Toul-Rosieres Air Base, France. Reassigned to the States in September 1957, he was sent to the 413th Fighter Wing at George AFB, California, and became Commander of the 1st Fighter Squadron in April 1958.

As squadron commander of the F-100 Super Sabre unit, he pioneered the operational deployment of the Sidewinder missile and led the squadron on the first perfect overseas rotation in Tactical Air Command. After graduating from Air War College in June 1961, Yeager continued his illustrious career through various operational command and staff assignments, including Director of the Air Force Inspection and Safety Center at Norton AFB, California. Retired from active duty in March 1975, but not from flying, Brigadier General Yeager continues to fly this nation's most modern aircraft as a consultant. For his achievements, General Yeager has received many awards, including the coveted MacKay, Collier, and Harmon trophies. He was also the first active-duty military member inducted into the Aerospace Hall of Fame at Dayton, Ohio.

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Lithograph Setting

Until the 1st Fighter Squadron deployed to Spain in 1958, the Tactical Air Command had never enjoyed a perfect deployment. The brass were beginning to wonder whether fighter aircraft were capable of extended-range flying without suffering numerous aborts. Yeager's squadron made it to Spain and back with all its airplanes. They maintained a perfect deployment record, unique in TAC, to Japan, back to Spain, and on to Italy. "I felt almost as good about that as breaking the sound barrier because a transoceanic deployment was how the TAC brass rated a squadron commander's leadership and ability."

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