Brigadier General "Chuck" Yeager is one of America's best known aviation pioneers for his flight on 14 October 1947, when he became the first man to break the sound barrier. However, he first obtained notoriety soon after he received his US Army Air Force wings in 1943 and joined the newly formed 363rd Fighter Squadron--the first unit in the Eighth Air Force to receive the P-51 Mustang. Yeager's initial aerial victory came on 4 March 1944 when he downed an Me-109 while escorting bombers on the first big daylight raid on Berlin. But the glory of success was short lived.
The next day Flight Officer Yeager was shot down during a dogfight over German-occupied France. After evading for three grueling weeks, he reached safety only to find that, as an "evader," he was prohibited from flying further combat. Yeager was not to be deterred; however, and he raised his case directly to General Eisenhower. As a result, he was allowed to remain in England, but was limited to local flying and base defense. On his second day back on flying status, the reinstated "evader" sacked a Ju-188 while flying cover for a ditched B-17 crew. Within a week, Yeager was "officially" back on combat status. While leading his squadron over Germany on 22 October 1944, they engaged 22 Me-109s, and his work netted him five confirmed aerial victories and a Silver Star.
The next month he downed one of the first Me-262 jet fighters of the war, and the new ace added a cluster to his Silver Star by dropping four FW-190s in one mission 2 weeks later. When the war ended in Europe, he returned to the States with a total of 11 1/2 enemy aircraft destroyed, 64 combat missions, and 270 combat hours. As an experimental test pilot flying the Bell X-1 research rocket aircraft on 14 October 1947, 24-year-old Captain Yeager reached the speed of 760.5 miles per hour and became the first man to "capture the demon" of Mach 1.
For all his achievements in research programs, he received the coveted MacKay, Collier, and Harmon Trophies, in addition to being the first active duty military member to be inducted into the Aerospace Hall of Fame. Throughout his extraordinary career, Brigadier General "Chuck" Yeager has accumulated more than 11,000 flying hours in 183 different types of aircraft. He retired from active duty in 1975 and currently serves as an aviation consultant.
After escorting the "heavies" deep inside Germany on 6 November 1944, the 363rd Fighter Squadron was returning to England when they spotted an airfield from which the Luftwaffe operated its newest innovation--the Me-262 jet fighter. In their prop-driven P-51 Mustangs, the American pilots took on the technologically superior jets and Captain Yeager damaged two of the enemy fighters in the ensuing dogfight. Seeing yet another Me-262 on final approach to its home base, he pressed the attack and destroyed the jet before it landed. In recognition of his accomplishments on this mission, "Chuck" Yeager was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.