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US Air Force pilot Born Charles Chuck E Yeager on February 13 1923 in Myra West Virginia Yeager was the first person to fly a plane faster than the speed of sound His father was a driller for natural gas in the West Virginia coal fields As the United States began mobilizing for World War II Yeager enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1941 at the age of 18 In 1943 he became a flight officer a non-commissioned officer who could pilot aircraft He went to England where he flew fighter planes over France and Germany during the last two years of the war In his first eight missions at the age of 20 Yeager shot down two German fighters On his ninth mission he was shot down over German-occupied France suffering flak wounds He bailed out of the plane and was rescued by members of the French resistance who smuggled him across the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain In Spain he was jailed briefly but made his way back to England where he flew fighter planes in support of the Allied invasion of Normandy On October 12 1944 Yeager took on and shot down five German fighter planes in succession On November 6 flying a propeller-driven P-51 Mustang he shot down one of the new jet fighters the Germans had developed the Messerschmidt-262 and damaged two more On November 20 he shot down four FW-190s By the end of the war at which time he was 22 years old he was credited with having shot down 135 German planes one was also claimed by another pilot In 1946 and 1947 Yeager was trained as a test pilot at Wright Field in Dayton Ohio He showed great talent for stunt-team flying and was chosen to go to Muroc Field in California later to become Edwards Air Force Base to work on the top-secret XS-1 project At the end of the war the
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