The Badass of the Week.

Chuck Yeager

If you were to look up the words "balls-out" or "fearless" in the Great Big Encyclopedia of Ultimate Badassitude, you'd probably just see a giant picture of Chuck Yeager's scrotum.  The man was the world's premier test pilot for over three decades, literally getting into giant rocket-propelled flying deathtraps with wings, embarking on the most dangerous flights ever attempted, and blasting through the stratosphere at ludicrous speeds so fast that most lesser people would have their brains blast right out the backs of their heads.  The man is an aviation legend, a pioneer in the field of "going as fast as fucking possible just for the sake of being totally awesome", and a guy who made a living out of giving the Grim Reaper the finger, spitting in his eye, and/or pounding him in the balls with a two-by-four.

Chuck Yeager's adventure in badassitude started in 1941 when he got sick of the Axis powers' bullshit and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces as an aircraft mechanic.  Fixing planes and tightening nuts quickly got boring for Yeager, probably because he didn't have to spend every waking hour warding off the ominous Black Hand of Death, so he transferred to aviation and became a fighter pilot instead.  On just his eighth combat mission Yeager's P-51 was shot down over the French countryside, but he didn't even give a crap.  Chuck joined up with the French Resistance, helped them make some bombs to throw at the Nazis, and eventually escaped back to England.  Oh yeah, and he won the Bronze Star for throwing a seriously-wounded American pilot over his shoulder and carrying this dude across the motherfucking Pyrenees Mountains.

Getting shot down by the fucking Krauts only served to get Chuck Yeager really really ripshit pissed off, and he immediately went back and became one of the war's few "Aces in a Day", blasting the shit out of five German Me-109s in just a couple of hours.  Not long after that he won the Distinguished Flying Cross for being one of the first Americans to ever take down a badass Nazi Me-262 jet fighter.  During the war, he recorded 13 official aircraft kills over the course of 61 missions, and by the time he was sent back home he had already achieved the rank of Captain.

But shit was just getting started for Chuck Yeager in terms of limitless badassitude and pushing-it-to-the-limit-ness.  His experience as both a mechanic and a badass fucking fighter pilot got him attached to the Aeronautical Systems Flight Test Division back in the States, where his chief duty was to test-fly repaired aircraft to make sure they were airworthy - an exercise that was basically one step removed from playing Russian Roulette with an automatic pistol.  During his tenure flying around in a bunch of "hopefully functional" airplanes, Yeager so greatly impressed his superiors with his amazing ability to not die in a giant flaming inferno that he was selected to test-fly the new rocket-powered experimental Bell X-1 prototype aircraft.  This was a pretty big deal, since he was chosen from a field of 125 senior pilots with buttloads of flying experience, and he definitely lived up to the task.  Even though he had broken two ribs the day before and was in so much pain that he could barely get the cockpit hatch closed, Chuck Yeager sat behind the controls of this giant flying explosion and prepared to do what no man had ever done before - break the sound barrier.  On 14 October 1947 Yeager went completely balls-out full-throttle, hitting Mach 1.07 and becoming the first man to ever travel faster than the speed of sound, proving that it was possible, in fact, to travel that fast without having all of your internal organs disintegrate and turn into a thick disgusting soup (before this, scientists weren't so sure).  For his amazing fearlessness in the face of probably-certain death, he won the Congressional Silver Medal of Honor.  To give you some indication of how fucking huge this accomplishment was, his MoH citation states that it is, "For consipicuous gallantry and a total disregard for his own personal safety."


Some dude broke Yeager's air speed record by busting out Mach 2 in 1953, but Chuck wasn't the sort of total fucking badass who was going to roll over and die just because someone stole his claim to being the "Fastest Man Alive."  No, he sought vengeance pretty much immediately.  A mere two months after his record was broken, Chuck Yeager hit Mach 2.44 in a Bell X-1A.  He went so fucking completely over-the-top balls-out that immedately after he hit the fastest speed ever recorded, the plane went completely out of control, plummeting 51,000 feet in the span of 51 seconds (!!) but Chuck didn't even blink.  He just said, "fuck you plane!", pulled out of the dive mere feet from the ground, and flew back to safety.

After serving as the United States' premier test pilot for over nine years Yeager became the first-ever commandant of the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School, where he trained the first generation of badass NASA astronauts.  He also served as an Air Force squadron commander in Europe for a while, and led the 405th Tactical Fighter Wing in the Vietnam War - personally logging 127 combat missions in a B-57 bomber.  He retired as a Brigadier General in 1975 and spent much of his free time afterwards working as a consultant for the USAF and NASA.  His final flight was in 1997 - the 50th anniversary of breaking the sound barrier - when he hit Mach 1 in an F-15 Eagle at the age of 74.  During his decades-spanning career, Chuck Yeager logged over 10,000 hours of flight in 155 different military aircraft and completely re-defined what it meant to be badass, fearless, and balls-to-the-wall all the goddamned time.




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