Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager was the first person to break the sound barrier and went on to become one of the most legendary figures in aeronautical history. Born in 1923 in Myra, West Virginia, Yeager joined the US Army Air Corps at 18. After serving as a mechanic, he attended pilot training at Luke Field, Arizona. He then reported to the 363d Fighter Squadron in Tonopah, Nevada, where he trained in the Bell P-39 Airacobra. The squadron deployed to England in 1943 and there converted to the North American P-51 Mustang. Yeager soon shot down two German fighters, but was himself downed on his eighth mission by a Focke-Wulf Fw 190.
He escaped capture and eventually walked from France across the Pyrenees to Spain. Yeager then personally convinced General Eisenhower to allow him to stay and fly combat. He returned home in 1945 as a commissioned officer with 64 combat missions and 13 victories, including five Messerschmitt Me-109 Gustavs in a single day. After the war, he was assigned to the Flight Test Division at Wright Field, Ohio, as a maintenance officer. However, his superb flying skills led to his attendance at the Flight Performance School (initial designation of the USAF Test Pilot School). In 1947, he was sent to Muroc Army Air Field (now Edwards AFB), California, as project pilot for one of the nation's most secret aircraft-the rocket-powered Bell XS-1.
On 14 October 1947, Yeager became an aviation legend-the first man to fly supersonic. He made history again in 1953 in the Bell X-1A when he set another record by exceeding Mach 2.5. In 7 years as a test pilot, he averaged 100 flying hours per month. Yeager left Edwards in 1954 to command squadrons in Germany and California, the Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards AFB, and a wing in the Philippines. After 127 combat missions over Vietnam, he took command of the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, and led its deployment to Korea during the Pueblo crisis. He was then promoted to brigadier general and became Vice Commander, 17th Air Force.
He later served as US Defense Representative to Pakistan and, in 1973, became the first active-duty military member inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame. At the time of his retirement in 1975, he had flown over 10,000 hours in 180 aircraft. Yeager has been awarded every major award in the field of flight, including the MacKay, Collier, and International Harmon Trophies, a peacetime Medal of Honor, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He currently dedicates a large portion of his time to the General Chuck Yeager Foundation, founded in 2002 to support young people in their quest for knowledge, honor, and service.
On 14 October 1947, flying the first Bell XS-1 (Experimental Sonic-One), Chuck Yeager became the first pilot to fly faster than sound. The XS-1, later designated X-l and named "Glamorous Glennis" by Yeager in honor of his wife, reached Mach 1.06, 700 mph, at an altitude of 43,000 feet, over the Mojave Desert near Muroc Dry Lake, California. The flight dispelled the myth that aircraft could not be designed to fly supersonic and propelled Yeager into the history books forever.