- The Washington Times - Monday, December 7, 2020

The legendary pilot who broke the sound barrier died Monday evening. Gen. Chuck Yeager was 97.

Wife Victoria Yeager confirmed the death on Gen. Yeager’s certified Twitter account without specifying the cause.

“It is w/ profound sorrow, I must tell you that my life love General Chuck Yeager passed just before 9pm ET. An incredible life well lived, America’s greatest Pilot, & a legacy of strength, adventure, & patriotism will be remembered forever,” Mrs. Yeager wrote.

A World War II flying ace, Gen. Yeager achieved his greatest fame by flying on Oct. 14, 1947, the experimental Bell X-1 at the speed of sound, Mach 1, in level flight at 45,000 feet — the first man to do so.

The achievement was not announced to the public though until June 1948 for security reasons.

Born Charles Elwood Yeager on Feb. 13, 1923, to farmers in Myra, West Virginia, Gen. Yeager joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in September 1941 and became a pilot shortly after the U.S. entry into the World War II.

Gen. Yeager, who achieved that rank in 1969, was credited with 11.5 official victories as a fighter pilot in World War II. He was shot down himself over France with only one victory to his credit in March 1944, but survived and returned to the fight via neutral Spain.

He later commanded fighter squadrons and wings in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars and inaugurated into numerous aviation halls of fame.

Gen. Yeager’s feats as a test pilot were portrayed in both Tom Wolfe’s book “The Right Stuff” and Philip Kaufman’s 1983 movie adaptation. He made a cameo appearance in the movie, as a bartender at the test pilots’ base (his own role was played by Sam Shepard).

Both works depicted the grievous losses among test pilots of these early early-era jets and experimental rockets.

Gen. Yeager broke two ribs falling from a horse the week of his scheduled X-1 flight but he told nobody in the military and had a civilian doctor tape his body. He was in such pain that he couldn’t seal the X-1 hatch and, in events depicted in “The Right Stuff,” had to have a fellow test pilot improvise a lever using a broom handle to let him to make the flight that would go down in history.

He had four children with his first wife, the former Glennis Dickhouse, who died in 1990. He named both his World War II P-51 Mustang (Glamorous Glen) and the X-1 (Glamorous Glennis) after her.

“You’re my good-luck charm, hon. Any airplane I name after you always brings me home,” he once said.

• Victor Morton can be reached at vmorton@washingtontimes.com.

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