Chuck Yeager, a World War II fighter pilot, the first person to break the sound barrier and one of the subjects of Philip Kaufman’s The Right Stuff has died. He was 97.
Yeager’s wife, Victoria, confirmed the death on the pilot’s official Twitter page on Monday, noting that the historic WWII vet died just before 9 p.m. ET.
“An incredible life well lived, America’s greatest Pilot, & legacy of strength, adventure, & patriotism will be remembered forever,” Victoria Yeager tweeted from her husband’s profile.
Born on February 13, 1923 in West Virginia, Yeager enlisted as a private for the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1941 and started his military experience as an aircraft mechanic. Less than three months after enlisting, Yeager was accepted for flight training and became a certified pilot in 1943.
Though the second World War had come to an end in 1945, Yeager remained with the U.S. armed forces after the war and became a test pilot at the Muroc Army Air Field. Just years after on October 14, 1947 Yeager flew the experimental Bell X-1 air aircraft and became the first person to break the sound barrier, which brought him honors including the Harmon International Trophy.
While his accomplishment solidified him in the world of aeronautics and aircrafts, Yeager’s historical feat made him an inspiration for a number of Hollywood projects, most notably Philip Kaufman’s The Right Stuff.
Kaufman’s 1983 film followed Navy, Marine and Air Force test pilots who were selected to to be astronauts for NASA’s Project Mercury, the United States’ first human spaceflight. Sam Shepard starred as Yeager while the notable pilot himself appeared in a cameo role.
The Right Stuff, also starring Fred Ward, Dennis Quaid, Ed Harris and Scott Glenn, went on to win four Oscar Awards in 1984. Shepard even nabbed a best supporting actor nomination for his portrayal of Yeager.
The WWII vet, who also commanded fighter squadrons during the Vietnam War, appeared in a number of small roles for titles. His acting credits include Goodyear Playhouse, Smokey and the Bandit II and Flying Without Fear.
Yeager’s first wife of 45 years, Glennis Dickhouse, died in 1990. He is survived by their four children and his wife Victoria.
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