Charles Elwood Yeager Essay

Charles Yeager / aviation / plane / career

Essay Topic:

The biography and life-achievement of Charles Elwood Yeager.

Essay Questions:

How is Chuck Yeager known to every single American citizen? What influence did Chuck Yeager have on the creation of the new-generation planes? How did Chuck Yeager’s biography affect his personality and future success?

Thesis Statement:

Even thought times change and new technologies appear leaving the past far behind, Chuck Yeager and his “key to the sky” is something the present would have been nothing without: the “key” to the new-generation planes and the “key” to a tremendous American pride!


Charles Elwood Yeager Essay


Table of contents:

1. Introduction

2. From an ordinary boy to a general

1. Growing up

2. Career start

3. The life-achievement

4. The ”golden age of flying and fun” and further

3. The aviator

4. Conclusion

"That day was a fighter pilot's dream. In the midst of a wild sky,

I knew that dog fighting was what I was born to do."

1. Introduction

The name of Chuck Yeager is familiar to every single American, not depending on the age or level of education. This is not because Chuck Yeager is a famous movie star or he has a TV-show of his own. Though the contemporary life evaluates people through being or not being in public, there still exist certain immortal things that are worth of immense respect and at some point even of “worship”. If it is not clear what is being talked about we can clear it up: it is all about American pride and honor. It is all about the endless admiration that surrounds Chuck Yeager all over. It is about people believing that they can be “the first”, that they can succeed no matter how impossible it seems to be.

Just as every boy dreams of becoming a hero of his country, every person dreams of living in the era of the heroes in order to have the ability to see everything themselves and be truly proud of their nation. Chuck Yeager gave the nation the opportunity to be proud and even more than that – he made a priceless gift for the people all over the world, the gift of “a sky without borders”.

Chuck Yeager will always remain in the hearts of true Americans. And there is nothing in the world that can make these hearts turn away from one of the brightest man of the past century. Even thought times change and new technologies appear leaving the past far behind, Chuck Yeager and his “key to the sky” is something the present would have been nothing without: the “key” to the new-generation planes and the “key” to a tremendous American pride!


2. From an ordinary boy to a general

Great People are not born that way, but they become great owing to the outstanding strength to overcome difficulties, persistence, and confidence and always hope for the best. All these qualities are always obtained from the families such people were raised in. Charles Elwood Yeager was not an exception. His life started out exactly as the life of all the boys born after the World War I. He had the very same opportunities as every other boy but the major thing that distinguished his from the rest was his ability to learn and immense desire to achieve heights. It is hard to evaluate either his ambitions or his “thirst for changes” lead his primary steps, nevertheless the result is that Charles Yeager has succeed in his desire to the best.

He contributed changes into America’s history but to the world’s history. And the person who has once been a little boy dreaming of flying became the “sky legend” of the world’s sky space. Nowadays, this boy is a general whose sense for living has always been and will be flying forever and ever. He is more of a “sky’s son” for the love he shows for it is so strong and unbreakable that can be compared only to a son’s devotion. Brigadier General Yeager has cherished this devotion throughout all his life and his love for the sky has remained as pure as it was back in the years.

2.a. Growing up

Charles Elwood Yeager also known as “Chuck” Yeager was born on the 13th of February 1923 in the town of Myra situated in West Virginia, the town that became Charles’s home when he turned five years old. This town was situated a couple miles away from Hamlin. So Chuck’s childhood was spent in the vicinity of the Mud River and the Appalachian foothills. But it was neither the Mud River not the Appalachian foothills that made the “invisible” town famous. It was a small boy named Chuck Yeager who was just a kid from the block, a kid that turned the tiniest town into the “legendary” one.

Charles Elwood Yeager was the son of Albert and Susie Mae Yeager1[1]. Through his life he has disclaimed the theory that the second child is less likely to succeed along with this he also disclaimed the notion that a boy from the poor family can hardly achieve anything at all, not mentioning the possibility to become a “living legend”.

Chuck Yeager was born into a very poor family that did not have enough money to provide everything required for their children. Charles Elwood Yeager was often in need but this fact did not turn him into a person full of animosity to the world around him but even vice versa – he became a very curious boy that loved nature and enjoyed greatly the exploration of everything connected to it. Shannon White describes little Charles Yeager the following way: “When he wasn’t climbing trees or exploring in the woods, he could often be found by Grandpa Yeager’s side watching, listening, and learning how to become a skillful hunter and fisherman”[1]. It was for Grandpa Yeager that little Chuck Yeager learned how to respect and truly love everything that surrounds a man: every tree, every bird, every stone and even the sky. There was nothing in the house that would make him sit and spend a day without being in the outdoors. Little Chuck Yeager showed much attention to all the changes in nature that occurred around him, without out letting not a single detail escape from him. And even if it did Grandpa Yeager always helped him to “catch it back”. Chuck’s boyhood was full of: “making moonshine, eating cornmeal mush three times a day, shooting squirrels for dinner, chasing rats out of the kitchen, going barefoot all summer, butchering hogs, and stealing watermelons”[2].

Since his early childhood Charles also adored everything that was associated with machines. His father Albert taught him how to understand the principles of their work and how to disassemble and repair them.

Academic achievements were not of primary importance for Charles Elwood Yeager. So he was what is called an “average” student. He was neither studying badly nor showing outstanding academic results. His thirst for being close to nature was something that no academic discipline could upstage. “Chuck excelled at anything that required mathematical ability, physical coordination, or manual dexterity” and all these altogether provided an outstanding base for his future life and career [1]. He was the best when physical endurance was required. Charles perfectly demonstrated it in his games for the school football and basketball team. Charles’s school years flew by fast and the year of his graduation was the year of the most terrible was ever to start – the World War II. It was 1941 and the world was not ready for such a tremendous “operation test”.

2.b. Career start

As it has already been mentioned above – Charles Elwood Yeager was an ordinary boy from West Virginia. He was just a boy with good grades in geometry, an ability to “feel” the machines and an immense love for the outdoors. This young man at the age of eighteen joined the U.S. Army Air Force and once and forever became its pride and an example to follow for the future pilots. He started his career as an aircraft mechanic [3]. In 1942 he was chosen for the flight training program and his potential impressed everybody as he seemed to be a bird in the sky and had an outstanding “feeling” of the plane: “His good coordination, mechanical abilities, and excellent memory enabled him to impress his instructors in flight training” [2]. His natural talent for becoming a pilot and his achievements opened him the door to the career-growth.

Yeager’s true service started when he was assigned to the to the 363rd Fighter Squadron of the 357th Fighter Group with which he first moved to Tonopah, Nevada then to California, left for a temporary duty for Ohio and came back to California to his fighter squadron. Charles Yeager flew on P-49 and tried the P-47. California became a place of some life changes for young Yeager, as it was the place where he met his future wife Glennis. Charles Elwood Yeager depicted his wife choosing the words that completely correspond to those times: “pretty as a movie star and making more money than I was”[2].

The next base for the squadron was Wyoming, which became a rather unfortunate place for Yeager. Completing his everyday trainings before entering the combat on the twenty-third of October 1943 he got to the hospital with a fractured spine. The reason of this injury was a P-39 engine blow up when he recovered he was posted to Europe with the squadron.

Yeager’s entrance to the combat happened in United Kingdom in 1944 on a P-51 Mustang and was a success in his seventh combat mission with a Messerschmitt 109 claim [4]. His eighth combat mission on the fifth of March turned out to be rather dangerous as three German FW-190s caught him and shot him down over France. Yeager landed on his parachute bleeding and exhausted, nevertheless he did not lose his temper and become desperate. He had his pistol with him and started his way back to the United Kingdom through the woods. Yeager met a woodcutter in the woods and it was the woodcutter that led him to the representatives of the French Resistance. He got all the required help starting from hiding him from the German soldiers and ending up with the medical aid Yeager’s leg required so much [2].

The most outstanding part of this story is that with the help of French underground Charles Elwood Yeager managed to evade capture which was the first miracle and the second miracle was that he somehow managed to persuade General Dwight Eisenhower to confirm the permission to come back to his very same 363rd fighter squadron. The fact of his return to the squadron was “almost impossible” under the war terms and the possibility of espionage. So Yeager also revealed a talent of convincing people in his rightness.

The end of WWII showed Yeager’s result of twelve and a half victories. His magnificent eyesight and his attention to details helped him shot down four FW 190s and five Me109s. All his achievements and an outstanding talent that astonished everybody and made everybody keep a check at his career lead him to the first promotion – he was promoted to captain2. In 1945 we married his fiancée Glennis Faye Dickhouse and there is no surprise in the fact that all the planes the he flew were named in her honor (-51B, -C and –D Mustangs)[5].

After spending some time as a flight instructor Yeager got the opportunity to fly “almost every fighter in the flight line” as assistant maintenance officer in the Fighter section of the Flight test division at Wright Field [5]. Yeager was always chosen for the flight shows and he enjoyed his job strongly. The chief of the Flight test division Colonel Albert Boyd took notice of young Charles Yeager and chose him for entering his test pilot school at Wright Field. It was definitely a problem for Yeager as the only education he had was his High School diploma, nevertheless Yeager showed a great persistence and his ability to fly upstaged his academic “gaps”.

It was now the moment that was about to change the both the live of Charles Elwood Yeager and the lives of all the American society. Yeager was still a junior test pilot when Colonel Albert Boyd decided that Yeager would be the first pilot attempting to exceed the speed of the sound.

2.c. The life-achievement

So Charles Elwood Yeager was to exceed the speed of sound in the rocket-powered Bell X-1 [2]. In July 1947 he flew to the Muroc Army Air Field, which nowadays is called Edwards Air Force Base [4]. On the fourteenth of October 1947, flying the rocket-powered Bell X-1 with the rocket engine Reaction Motors XLR-11 previously launched from a B-29 over the town of Victorville, California he managed to accelerate to the speed of 1.06 at the height of 42,000 feet above the earth level, leaving the compelling force of the “sound barrier” far behind. This may be certainly called Yeager’s life-achievement, which started his career at Edwards and established a new generation in the test piloting in particular and aviation in general. It was the “key” that made the limits of space expend dramatically and moved the mankind towards a new era!

This Yeager’s flight became the first supersonic flight in the history of the humankind. And basically saying it was the first glance of a man into space for this flight drew near the moment of space exploration. He indeed became the “fastest man alive”. “This is an epochal achievement in the history of world aviation–the greatest since the first successful flight of the original Wright Brothers’ airplane, forty-five years ago” – these were the words that were given to him along with the Collier Trophy [5].

An impressing story that is not known to the wide mass happened to Yeager two days before the flight. Yeager rode a horse and broke two ribs – this did not stop him from participating in the mission. He did not tell anyone about the case except person – Jack Ridley and went to a small town to get at least some treatment. Chuck Yeager constantly experienced a severe pain and even required assistance in sealing the hatch of the airplane. If it was not for a device made up by his friend he would not have been even able to close the hatch himself and would have probably been removed from the mission [3].

2.d. The ”golden age of flying and fun” and further

The next six years became the years as Yeager himself called “golden age of flying and fun”. Charles Elwood Yeager continued to conquer new altitudes. One of the most prominent flight between the period of 1947 and 1954 was the X-1A flight in which he hardly escaped death when his plane was about to crash. He continued flying experimental aircraft for the U.S. Army Air Force. “He averaged more than 100 flying hours per month from 1947-1954 and, at one point, actually flew 27 different types and models of aircraft within the span of a single month”[4].

In the mid fiftieth he became to “grow” rapidly and was appointed as a commander of the 417th Fighter squadron with which he spend three years away from the U.S. in Germany and France. On his return he was promoted to be the commander of the 1st Fighter squadron at George air force base [4].

Back in 1958 “Yeager planned and led the first flawless trans-Atlantic deployment of a jet fighter squadron in TAC history, as all of the 1st’s F-100s landed together and on schedule at Moron Air Base in Spain” [5]. His personal comments on this occasion were the next: “I felt almost as good about that as breaking the sound barrier because a transoceanic deployment was how the TAC brass rated a squadron’s leadership and ability”.

In 1960 a very important event occurred for Charles Elwood Yeager became director of the Space School of Edwards Air Force Base and became a full colonel. So, he returned to the place where he started. It was the first school of this type who basic goal was to sort our pilots and prepare them for space flights. It was a significant change in the Air Force’s structure that also opened the “gate” for the institution. Colonel Yeager was doing a great job and even when his pilots tried to test him he always revealed magnificent abilities and skills that impressed every single person that dared to question his born-talent of being a pilot. It took for the school ten years to prepare a space pilots and only the best were honored to become its students. It is common knowledge that Yeager has never flown into space but what he can be called is a “mentor”, for he has been mentoring the whole mankind. Yeager became the teacher of future space flight pioneers and he did everything he could to make the space exploration more productive and intensity its effectiveness.

So, the West Virginia boy with a strange accent turned into a respected director of a respected space school and later became the wing commander in Vietnam. It was for is love for the combat and unbeatable experience helped Yeager to be a creative commander of the 405th Fighter Wing. His major headquarters were situated in the Philippines at Clark Air Base. There Charles Elwood Yeager managed to command five squadrons which flew all over Asia. He was in charge of two tactical bomber squadrons, a squadron of fighter-bombers with a base in Taiwan and two defense squadrons.

His following commanding was the fourth Tactical Fighter Wing, which was in Korea after the Pueblo crisis in North Korea. The work of the fighter wing was more than just satisfactory and achieved the rank of an “Outstanding Unit”. Yeager showed himself as a true commander, able to make right decisions even in critical situations in which other people lose their temper and panic.And in 1968 Charles Elwood Yeager was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. His final active duty in 1973 was being the director of the Air Force Safety and Inspection Center at Norton Air Force Base situated in California. He retired on the first of March 1975 having a 34-year old aviation career behind his back3.

The retirement did not change Yeager’s life much for he has always remained very active in the sphere of aviation. He always maintained the ability to deal and handle the latest aircraft and remains an active consulting test pilot at Edwards.

On the fourteenth of October 1997 General Yeager celebrated his fiftieth anniversary of his magnificent flight that broke the “sound barrier” and started up a new reality for the contemporary people, started the era of space exploration by making one huge step towards the space. The Bell X—1 flight was a decent event to celebrate because it was also the celebration of his whole career. On the celebration he was on the “Glamorous Glennis“ again and repeated the flight profile. Nowadays Charles Elwood Yeager lives in Grass Valley situated in California.

3. The aviator. A lot of books have been written about Brigadier General Yeager. Among them the book by William Lundgren “Across the high frontier; the story of a test pilot, Major Charles E. Yeager”. It is a wonderful book describing the life-story of one of the most magnificent aviators ever – Charles Elwood Yeager. There is also a Hollywood movie based on his life. And yes, maybe was can agree with Edward Ingraham that Yeager did not have talent for paper work, office routines and as he adds did not follow the principles of modern management, nevertheless he was a born-aviator. He did not have to learn the textbook in order to “feel” what he had to do and that makes he achievement even more significant. He put his soul and all the knowledge he had into it and owing to this unique combination of abilities, qualities and knowledge the mankind obtained what it did. His natural talent was the one who brought him to be on the presidential commission that investigated the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger on STS-51-L.This outstading man has always been not just a great pilot but also a wonderful man. That has loved his wife Glennis until the very moment of her death and was devoted to her thirteen years after it.

4. Conclusion

The world lived a completely different life until the fourteenth of October 1947. It was a world that had borders a world that did not have enough space for the imaginatory thought of the space exploration. Everything was limited: time, speed, distance. Chuck Yeager changed it by his “sound barrier” breakthrough. People obtained hope, the got something that was impossible to get before – the acknowledgement that they truly extend time and space. He has truly shown the way in exploring the frontiers of flight to the mankind.

The society seemed to buy a ticket to their future. The ticket that will never expire and will always promise new opportunities. It is not just a story of a “significant event” it is the life-story of a person that numerously risked his life to open this “elbowroom” for the people “down there”. Charles Elwood Yeager is an example, an example of a bright aviator and a good American. A person who did not care about himself but only for the country and everything he did was for the country. A person who flew the X-1 with broken ribs and when he turned 74 said that:”All that I am… I owe to the Air Force”[3].

Chuck Yeager’s carrier in aviation meant a lot for the aviation and the society back then and still does mean a lot to the present aviation and society. Aviation got the result they so desperately needed for future development for they were developing horizontally and not vertically. Yeager’s career became the guarantor of the bright and successful generation of pilots that were carefully mentored by him. It became the guarantor of professional space flights and space exploration. The society got a national hero that inspired a lot of people to live and work for he opened a world without “edges” for them, he united the space and the earth for the people. Charles Elwood Yeager’s contribution into the aviation and society is immense and is seem in every single step he has taken throughout his career. And finally if the world got “Chuck”, then it deserved him and needed him.

There is still so much to say in order to estimate the contribution of Charles Elwood Yeager to the aviation and the life of the American society but it would be easier to end with the words of the ex-president George Bush: ”If I was asked to choose one word that would define Chuck Yeager, it would be service. Fighter pilot, test pilot, combat commander—you have always valued service to our country above all else...Chuck, the courage, resourcefulness, and integrity which you have displayed so magnificently throughout over five decades of service to the United States are the very qualities that built this country into the greatest nation on earth”!

1 The second son of Albert Hal and Susie Mae Yeager [ 1].

2 Yeager had totaled 64 combat missions for 270 hours.

3 At the time of his retirement, he had flown more than 10,000 hours in more than 330 different types and models of aircraft [4].


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