Brig Gen Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager is one of America's most honored fliers. He has received many awards for his numerous contributions to the advancement of flight, including the Collier and MacKay Trophies in 1948 for his flights in the X(S)-1, and the Harmon International Trophy in 1954 for his X-1A flights. He is also the first military person on active duty ever enshrined in the Aviation Hall of Fame at Dayton, Ohio. A native of West Virginia, Gen Yeager enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1941 and received his pilot wings under the "flying sergeant" program in 1943. On 5 March 1944, he was shot down over German-occupied France, but escaped capture when elements of the French Maquis helped him reach the Spanish border.
After returning to England, Gen Yeager became a double ace by shooting down 13 enemy aircraft--five on one mission. In 1945, he was assigned to Wright Field, Ohio, where he received his first taste of experimental flying, and, in 1947, he became the first man in the world to fly faster than the speed of sound. Continuing as the nation's leading test pilot, he broke his own world speed record by flying the Bell X-1A to two and one-half times the speed of sound. Gen Yeager commanded several fighter wings and squadrons during his military career and served as Commandant of the Aerospace Research Pilot School and Director of Aerospace Safety at Norton AFB.
While Flying a P-57 with the 357th Fighter Group, Gen Yeager encountered jet-propelled Messerschmitt (Me) 262s. Attacking the high element, he got hits on one of them before they pulled out of range. Separated from the rest of the flight, he spotted a lone Me 262 with its gear down approaching an airfield at approximately 500 feet. Diving at the deck, he fired a long burst into the jet before breaking off to avoid intense flak. The Messerschmitt crashed short of the runway and became the first jet aircraft on the 357th's victory list.