The Bonus Book of the Week is “Yeager, An Autobiography by General Chuck Yeager and Leo Janos” published in 1985.
Born in February 1923 in West Virginia, Yeager was the second oldest of five children. He was raised as a Methodist Republican.
When his older brother was six and Yeager was four and a half, the two accidentally killed their two-year old sister while playing with their father’s twelve-gauge shotgun. The family never spoke of the incident. But Yeager wrote, “By the time I was six, I knew how to shoot a .22 rifle and hunted squirrel and rabbit.” Which the family ate. Later, he went on trips with his father’s buddies, hunting deer, bear, quail and wild turkeys. Having field-independent vision gave him a great advantage at that, and at flying.
In spring 1943, Yeager signed up for a Flying Sergeant program in the Army Air Corps in California. He became a passionate fighter pilot. In March 1944, he was shot down by a Focke Wulf 20 millimeter cannon over southern France. His situation was rather uncertain for a while, but he survived, due to a long story of great good luck and one sympathetic individual who literally pointed him in the right direction.
Acting against the rules of the War Department, Yeager got special permission to continue flying combat missions. Theoretically, the American president, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, had ultimate authority to decide that. However, if the president has sole control over the military and it obeys only him, is loyal only to him, including in connection with all top-secret foreign policy matters– THERE IS POTENTIAL FOR THE PRESIDENT TO BECOME A DICTATOR.
Anyway, of the thirty original fighters in the squadron who arrived in Leiston, England, four, including Yeager, were left by the end of the war.
Yeager became one of the best pilots in the Air Force, spending time as a maintenance officer, air-show performer and aircraft tester. His expertise allowed him to skirt other rules and weasel out of flight test school and other training classes.
Instead, he risked his life for hours every day in the air. When he was gearing up to break the sound barrier, his aircraft was “… carrying six hundred gallons of LOX and water alcohol on board that can blow up at the flick of an igniter switch and scatter your pieces over several counties.”
By the end of his career, he had spent some ten thousand hours in the air in 180 different military (including aerospace-related) aircraft built by various nations.
Read the book to learn how Yeager got out of WWII alive, and numerous other tough situations alive, his (almost non-existent) personal and family life, and his global adventures with other crazy characters.