CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait (4/26/2012) - Blending history and humor,
heroic World War II fighter ace and pioneering jet test pilot Chuck
Yeager wowed a capacity crowd here April 12.
With a twinkle
in his eye and a Kris Kringle smile, Yeager drew laughter and
applause from the audience of nearly 200 soldiers, airmen, sailors
and civilians, some of who were standing in the aisles at the Camp
Buehring Morale, Welfare and Recreation Theater.
Heroic WWII fighter ace, jet pioneer and
retired United States Air Force Maj. Gen. Chuck Yeager speaks about
his experiences during his visit here April 12, 2012. Photo by U.S.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Drumsta
Yeager, now a retired U.S. Air Force major general,
regaled the crowd with stories about his life-and-death
experiences, which he described in modest everyday terms,
like the time he recovered control after he "spun" his
aircraft during a "hairy ride."
"That's just part of
the life of a test pilot," he said, grinning.
Following a movie about his career highlights, Yeager
answered questions and recounted many episodes from his life
as a pilot, which began in the Army Air Corps in World War
II, according to his website.
A native of West
Virginia, Yeager flew the P-51 Mustang in the European
theater, completed 60 missions, and shot down 13 German
aircraft, including Germany's first jet, the Messerschmitt
Yeager recounted how he was shot down, or as
he put it, "separated from my aircraft."
"Of course I
loved the Mustang because it saved my tail," he said,
recounting the incident. "Of course, it blew up on me, too."
Yeager parachuted safely into France and linked up with
the French underground. When asked, Yeager said he and other
pilots were well-trained to evade capture. That training
included some practical exercises in England, during which
he and other pilots "stole turnips" from farms, he recalled.
"When we got into combat, we got a refresher course," he
joked."There's not a German in the world who can catch a
West Virginian in the woods."
With the aid of the
underground, Yeager escaped into Spain, at one point
carrying an injured airman over the Pyrenees Mountains.
Though regulations stated pilots couldn't return to combat
over enemy territory they'd escaped from, Yeager appealed to
Gen. Dwight Eisenhower.
Under strict orders to avoid
combat, Yeager flew training missions while Eisenhower
decided the matter. But during one such flight, Yeager was
ordered to fly cover for a downed B-17 bomber crew near
German-occupied Heligoland. When he saw a German plane he
suspected was going tostrafe the crew, Yeager shot him down.
A superior officer later reminded him about his orders
and shouted, "Can't you do anything right?" Yeager recalled.
In the end, Eisenhower decided in Yeager's favor and he
returned to combat.
In 1947, Yeager flew the Bell X-1
and became the first person to break the sound barrier.
Prior to his historic flight, he broke some of his ribs in a
riding accident, Yeager recalled, explaining that he was
"pulling three Gs on my horse," and the horse "spun out."
"I had a veterinarian tape me up," he said. "I was
Though he "probably wasn't the best
pilot," his mechanical know-how - gained while he was
growing up and while in the military -served him well,
"Not only was I a good pilot, I
understood machinery," Yeager said.
Yeager went on to
become the first commandant of the U.S. Air Force Research
Pilot School, according to his website. Over two dozen of
Yeager's students later earned astronaut's wings, flew in
the X-15, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs.
"I was not allowed to go into space," Yeager joked. "I only
had a high school education. "That's the way the cookie
In a ceremony during the show, Yeager promoted Pvt. Sean Stang to
private first class. Stang belongs to Headquarters and Headquarters
Troop, 1st of the 7th Cavalry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry
Division. Staff Sgt. Hank Slaughter, Stang's platoon sergeant,
coordinated the promotion with Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
Heroic WWII fighter ace, jet pioneer and
retired United States Air Force Maj. Gen. Chuck Yeager (left) pins
private first class rank on Sean Stang in a promotion ceremony here
April 12, 2012. The ceremony took place during Yeager's visit here,
and he performed the promotion at the request of Stang's platoon
sergeant, Staff Sgt. Hank Slaughter (right). Stang, of Chandler,
Ariz., and Slaughter, of Abilene, Texas, belong to Headquarters and
Headquarters Troop, 1st of the 7th Cavalry, 1st Brigade Combat Team,
1st Cavalry Division, which is currently based at Camp Buehring.
Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Drumsta
Stang is from Chandler, Ariz., and Slaughter is from
Abilene, Texas. Their unit is currently based at Camp
"I had already decided that my platoon's
afternoon training would be Gen. Yeager's visit," Slaughter
said. "He has been one of my personal heroes since I was a
Stang's promotion date coincided with Yeager's
visit, and he thought "it would be really cool" to have
Yeager perform the promotion, Slaughter said.
returned with my platoon in the afternoon, I met with the
general and his wife backstage and he was more than happy to
do it," Slaughter said. "The best part is that it was a
total surprise to Pfc. Stang."
Yeager took time to
recognize the Air Force personnel in the audience, as well
as the Army aviators.
"Just to make you chopper
pilots feel good, a rotor came off a Huey I was in, 80 feet
off the ground," Yeager said. "And I lived."
posed for pictures with service members and others before
leaving. The audience gave him a standing ovation.
"You guys fly safe," he said heartily as he smiled and waved
By U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Drumsta
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