Chuck Yeager

Chuck Yeager‘s most recognized achievement is being the first man to break the sound barrier, which he did on October 14, 1947 as a test pilot for the U.S. Air Force.

Much earlier in his career, Yeager flew for the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II. Shortly after he claimed his first kill, he was shot down over enemy territory. The French resistance assisted him in his escape to Spain, and he subsequently returned to active duty. Before the war ended, Yeager had flown 64 combat missions with 13 enemy kills to his credit.

During the Korean War, Yeager set a new record by flying more than double the speed of sound with an airspeed of 1,650 mph. In addition to his duties as a test pilot in Korea, he also led a fighter squadron based in Europe.

Yeager was promoted to full colonel in time for the Vietnam War, during which he commanded the 405th fighter wing. In addition to also training bomber pilots, hew flew 127 air-support missions.

Yeager received a promotion to brigadier general in 1968, a rare achievement for someone who began his military career as an enlisted man. In 1976, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Some of his other numerous decorations include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Purple Heart, the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, the Distinguished Flying Cross with two clusters, the Bronze Star with V device, the Silver Star with oak leaf cluster, the Air Medal with ten clusters, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Air Force Commendation medal. In 1973, he became the first military pilot inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame.

In 1979, Tom Wolfe immortalized Chuck Yeager in his best selling book, The Right Stuff which was later made into a movie.