Charles E. Yeager was born on February 13, 1923 in Myra, West Virginia and raised the nearby village of Hamlin for the first eighteen years of his life. His father drilled natural gas, and his mother was a housewife. At an early age, Chuck helped his father drill, and learned mechanics from his father. Chuck was always fixing the car engines or the drill engine if it broke. In high school Chuck played basketball and baseball, although he never really excelled in either. He also was not that smart in school. He said the only thing that he was good at was typing and math, everything else, he got a D in.
After high school, Chuck, being poorly educated and destitute decided to join the U.S. Army Air Corps. The funny thing about that is that Chuck never even saw an airplane on the ground until he was 16 years old, when it had an emergency and landed in a cornfield, and Chuck was not even impressed with it. He said the reason that he joined the Air Corps is because the recruiter made the Air Corps sound more interesting that the Navy recruiter. Anyway, Chuck joined the Air Corps as a mechanic.
After a year of being a mechanic, the Untied States was short pilots, so they put up a notice to see if anyone wanted to become a pilot. Chuck signed the form; however, it took another year for them to pick him. It was always hard for Chuck to fit in among the other pilots and mechanics. Because he was from West Virginia, he had a strong accent, and a poor education, so he was never given a chance at first. Then, when he first went in a plane, he almost quit the pilot school because there was turbulence and he was bumping all over the place. On the other hand, once he flew a plane by himself he was hooked. He excelled in pilot school because he had excellent vision, 20/10, and learned how to dogfight, that is getting in position to shoot down another plane and avoiding getting shot down yourself.
He left for the War in 1942. He was disappointed at first because after 6 missions, they hadn’t seen one German. Yet, on his 7th mission the Americans encountered German planes while escorting a bomber. Yeager killed one and returned safely. Unluckily for Yeager, on his next mission in 1943, his plane gto shot down over enemy territory and he had to jump out (there were no ejection seats in those days).
For the next 3 weeks it was hell. After he jumped, all he had were 2 stale candy bars and a bottle of water. He saw a French woodcutter and jumped him for his axe. However, instead of getting mad, he got help for Chuck. Within a couple of hours, Chuck had the help of the French Maquis, a French resistance group. They led to the Pyrenees Mountains with one other shot down pilot, where they told them that they were on their own. They hike the mountains for days, thinking they go nowhere. One day, they found a cabin and rested. The other pilot put his socks over bushes to dry.
A German patrol did not even bother to look in the cabin, but just shot. The other pilot got his leg totally blown off. Chuck decided to carry him for three days before they finally got into neutral Spain. There, Chuck spent another 3 weeks in a luxury hotel, paid for by the army, while the government negotiated for his release. When he finally got back he received bad news. He was not going to be able to go back because if he got shot down again the Germans would torture them to find out where the Maquis were. He appealed to General Dwight Eisenhower and Eisenhower let him stay in. From there, Yeager’s career took off. He went back in the Corps and after a couple of missions we was back to dogfighting. One time there were 200 Germans attacking roughly 40 Americans. On that day, Yeager became and Ace shooting down 5 on his own, (the first 2 he did not fire a shot, a plane rammed into another). All German planes were shot down and only half of the American planes were shot down. He went on to shooting down 7 more during the war, and was promoted to Captain.
After the war, he started working at a test pilot base in California. After a while Major Boyd asked if he wanted to become a test pilot being that he was such a good combat pilot. He skipped right over the pilot school and got handed the greatest project one could ask for. He got picked to fly the jet propelled X-1 to break the sound barrier. After 3 months it was done, and Chuck’s name was in the record book. However, the interesting thing about it was that just days earlier he had broken ribs in a horseback riding accident.
You can imagine the jealousy going around the test pilots. Here is Chuck Yeager a “hick” from West Virginia getting the best assignment. Well, someone was jealous and sent a letter saying the Chuck had not passed test pilot school. He was forced to go back and take the course, in which he almost failed to written course because he felt the instructors were out to get him.
After that, he tested more planes, like a captured Russian plane, and the X-1A which from 2.5 Mach. With the X-1A he almost “bought the farm”(and expression used instead of crashing). At 80,000 feet and going 1650 mph, the X-1A took a nosedive, in a downward spiral. Chuck was thrown all over the place; his head even cracking the canopy. However, by some miracle, he took started to take control of the plane at 25,000 feet. He dropped 51,000 feet in 51 seconds! Also another scare, while he was flying and experimental plane at Mach 2 was that he had to jump out of a plane wearing a compression suit. The suit caught on fire and tangled in his parachute. He survived the fall bad needed skin grafts for his burns.
From there the book went downhill. He commanded a squadron an opened a school to train astronauts in 1956 even though he was passed up by NASA because of his lack of education. However after ten years, the school closed when NASA took over. About half of astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions were from Yeager’s school.
Then Vietnam happened. He did not go into action too much, just commanded his squadron. During Vietnam he became a General. In 1970, General Yeager served as U.S Defense Representative to Pakistan and supervised Pakistan’s air defense in its war with India.
He retired from the Air Force in 1975, but continued to serve as a consulting test pilot for many years. He still is flies and speaks at lectures and school. Throughout his career he won over 20 medals and awards including the Collier Trophies, Congressional Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, Silver Star, among others.
I chose this person because I saw the movie The Right Stuff and he interested me. Also, my stepbrother also read the book and said that it was a good book. I agree with my stepbrother, although it had its slow moments. The war scenes were exciting, and so was the book, unlike most biographies. Chuck was courageous and determined all of which I want to be.
I believe the book portrayed an accurate description of Chuck Yeager because I researched him on the Internet before I read the book and found most of the facts to be unbiased even though Chuck co-wrote the book. It also had other people commenting on the situations on hand.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and recommend people to read the autobiography.