Chuck Yeager became the first human to break the sound barrier — an amazing feat and one that cemented his place in aviation history.
Here are some lesser-known facts about Gen. Yeager:
1. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces as a private in Sept. 1941 because he lacked the education for flight training.
2. The outbreak of war generated a greater need for pilots, and because Yeager had 20/10 vision, he was accepted for flight training.
3. He was grounded for a week after hitting a tree in a farmer’s field while flying a P-39 on a training flight.
4. During his first combat tour, he named his P-51 “Glamorous Glennis” after his girlfriend Glennis Dickhouse (who he married after the war).
5. One kill under his belt, Yeager was shot down over France in March 1944, during his 8th mission.
6. He was rescued by the French resistance and stayed with them for two months, building bombs using techniques his father had taught him.
7. Yeager was awarded a Bronze Star for helping another downed airman, who was severely wounded, cross the Pyrenees.
8. Although there was a rule against downed pilots returning to combat because of fears they might expose the resistance in the event they got shot down again and fell into enemy hands, Yeager was able to personally convince Gen. Eisenhower to let him back into the fight.
9. On Oct 12, 1944, he became an “ace in a day” by shooting down 3 Luftwaffe aircraft and causing a midair collision between 2 others by rolling in behind them.
10. Yeager finished the war as a captain, which is amazing considering he started it as a private.
11. His post-war experience as a maintenance check pilot led to his assignment at Murdoc Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base) as a test pilot.
12. Yeager got the nod to attempt to break the sound barrier in the X-1 because Bell’s test pilot, “Slick” Goodlin, wanted his employer to pay him $150,000 to do it.
13. Two days before he was scheduled to fly the X-1, Yeager fell off a horse and broke his ribs. Fearing the flight surgeon would ground him, he convinced a local veterinarian to tape him up.
14. Because of his injury, it was too painful for him to reach up to shut the X-1’s hatch after he climbed into the craft from the B-29 mothership that carried it to altitude, so his friend and fellow test pilot Jack Ridley rigged him a broom handle that he used to get it done.
15. After his test pilot exploits, Yeager went back to the regular Air Force where he commanded squadrons, air bases, and fighter wings. He retired in 1975 at the rank of brigadier general.
16. He broke the sound barrier again exactly 65 years after he originally did it, this time in the backseat of an F-15. He was 89 years old.
17. Yeager has a cameo in the movie “The Right Stuff” during the “Panchos” bar scene, staring down Sam Shepard, the actor playing him.