Birthday: February 13, 1923
Died At Age: 97
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Also Known As: Charles Elwood , Charles Elwood Yeager
Born Country: United States
Born in: Myra, West Virginia
Famous as: Test Pilot
Spouse/Ex-: Victoria Scott D'Angelo (m. 2003), Glennis Yeager (m. 1945–1990)
father: Albert Hal Yeager
mother: Susie Mae
siblings: Doris Ann, Hal Jr., Pansy Lee, Roy
children: Don Yeager, Michael Yeager, Sharon Yeager Flick, Susan Yeager
Died on: December 7, 2020
place of death: Los Angeles, California
U.S. State: West Virginia
Who was Chuck Yeager?
Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager was a retired brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force and a very famous test pilot who became the first person to officially break the sound barrier. He achieved this feat in 1947 when he flew the experimental Bell X-1 research aircraft. Chuck Yeager had enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps to serve in World War II immediately after his graduation from high school. He began his career as a private and worked up his way to become a fighter pilot. So great was his love for flying that he became a test pilot and instructor for the United States Air Force after the war and flew many types of aircraft including experimental rocket-powered aircraft. During those times it was not even known if it was possible for a fixed-wing aircraft to fly faster than sound. Yeager proved that it was possible when he broke the sound barrier as he flew the rocket-powered X-1 fighter plane in October 1947. He set a new air speed record of 1650 mph—more than twice the speed of sound—in 1952. He later on commanded the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilots School where he trained future astronauts.
Childhood & Early Life
Chuck Yeager was born on February 13, 1923, in Myra, West Virginia, to Albert Hal Yeager and his wife, Susie Mae, who were farmers. He had two brothers and two sisters.
He graduated from a high school in West Virginia. As a teenager he attended the Citizens Military Training Camp at Fort Benjamin Harrison during the summers of 1939 and 1940.
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Chuck Yeager joined the United States Army Air Corps immediately after his graduation in 1941. He was a private at the time of his enlistment and was not eligible for fighter training. However, the entry of the U.S. into World War II led to a change of rules and he was accepted for flight training owing to his sharp vision and natural talent as a pilot.
He received his wings and was promoted to Flight Officer when he graduated from class in March 1943. He initially trained as a fighter pilot and flew Bell P-39 Airacobras when he was assigned to the 357th Fighter Group.
He flew P-51 Mustangs in combat with the 363d Fighter squadron while stationed in the United Kingdom. He was shot down over enemy territory in 1943 but managed to evade capture and escaped to Spain with the help of Maquis (French Resistance).
He helped the guerrillas in constructing bombs for the group and helped them in other duties that did not involve direct combat for as long as he was with the Maquis. He returned to England in 1944.
He was prohibited to return to active combat as per army policies as he was now an “evader”. He appealed to General Dwight D. Eisenhower who after consultation from the War Department allowed him to fly combat mission again.
During the World War II he flew a total of 64 combat missions in a display of exceptional flying skills and leadership. He had shot down a German jet from a prop plane and had brought down 13 enemy aircraft.
He was made a second lieutenant before being promoted to captain by 1945. He returned to the U.S., and by virtue of his high number of flight hours and maintenance experience became a functional test pilot of repaired aircraft under the command of Colonel Albert Boyd.
He served the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) as a flight instructor and test pilot after the war. He was selected to fly the rocket-powered Bell XS-1 in a program to research high-speed flight. At that time it was not known if an aircraft could fly faster than sound.
Chuck Yeager created history on 14 October 1947 when he broke the sound barrier by flying the Bell XS-1 at an altitude of 45,000 ft—despite the fact that he had broken several ribs just days before in a horseback riding accident.
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He commanded the F-86H Sabre-equipped 417th Fighter-Bomber Squadron in Germany from 1955 to 1957 after which he commanded the F-100D Super Sabre-equipped 1st Fighter Day Squadron in California and Spain till 1960.
He was made the first commandant of the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School after the completion of a year’s studies at the Air War College in 1962. He instructed several would-be astronauts for the NASA.
He was promoted to brigadier general in 1969 and was assigned as the vice-commander of the Seventeenth Air Force. He acted as the advisor to the Pakistan Air force from 1971 to 1973 at the behest of Ambassador Joe Farland. He retired from the Air Force in 1975.
Chuck Yeager was the first man ever to break the sound barrier and fly at a speed faster than sound. He first achieved this record in 1947 and went on to repeat the feat several times over his career. He broke the sound barrier for the last time on 14 October, 2012 on the 65th anniversary of the event when he was 89 years of age.
Awards & Achievements
Chuck Yeager was presented with the Tony Jannus Award in 1997. The award recognizes outstanding individual achievement in scheduled commercial aviation.
He was awarded the Congressional Silver Medal for breaking the sound barrier for the first time in 1976. The very same year he was also given the Collier Trophy and the Mackay Trophy for achieving this feat.
Family & Personal Life
Chuck Yeager married Glennis Dickhouse in 1945. The couple was blessed with four children and remained married till Glennis’s death in 1990.
He married actress, Victoria Scott D’Angelo, in 2003. His children were against this match as they felt that the much younger woman had married their father for his wealth. This claim was denied by both Yeager and D’Angelo.
Chuck Yeager died on 7 December 2020, in Los Angeles, at the age of 97.
The famous baseball player, Steve Yeager, is Chuck Yeager's nephew.