HAMLIN — American Legion Post 111 hosted a renaming ceremony in honor of Hamlin native Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager. Yeager was a member of the post that now bears his name for 42 years before his passing in December 2020.
Yeager was a military test pilot who was the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound and live to tell about it. He died at age 97.
During the Oct. 27 ceremony, Yeager’s widow, Victoria, told stories both of her husband’s bravery in war and how he always remained connected to his West Virginia roots.
“His life was building blocks,” Victoria said. “He learned so much here in Lincoln County that kept him alive. … Coming back here renewed his strength, reminded him where he came from. His father always said, ‘Don’t forget where you came from,’ and he never did.”
Yeager was born Feb. 13, 1923, in Myra, Lincoln County. He first stepped into a cockpit during World War II after joining the Army Air Forces directly out of high school.
By the end of the war, he was a fighter ace credited with shooting down at least 12 German planes, including five in one day. Making the military his career, he emerged in the late 1940s as one of the newly created Air Force’s most revered test pilots.
His greatest breakthrough occurred Oct. 14, 1947, when a B-29 aircraft released then-Capt. Yeager and his orange Bell X-1 experimental craft at nearly 20,000 feet over California’s Mojave Desert. The Bell X-1 was propelled by a four-chamber rocket engine and a volatile mix of ethyl alcohol, water and liquid oxygen, and Yeager named it “Glamorous Glennis” after his first wife. Yeager, traveling at nearly 700 mph, broke the sound barrier.
“A lot of people think he was fearless, but he wasn’t,” Victoria said. “He just didn’t let fear get in the way… he didn’t waste time being afraid.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., recorded a video message for the occasion that was shown during the ceremony.
“I am incredibly proud of the work the American Legion has accomplished for our home state and nation,” Manchin said. “Like Chuck, you selflessly stepped forward when our nation called. It is my greatest honor to say thank you for your service.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., sent staffer Alex Vaughn to read a letter from her commending Yeager’s legacy.
“Must people know Chuck Yeager as the first pilot to break the sound barrier,” Capito wrote. “While his most famous feats certainly transformed the aviation world, Chuck Yeager’s life represents much more. He was the embodiment of the American dream. A boy from Lincoln County who would go on to achieve what pilots had then only dreamed of accomplishing.”
General David Allvin, vice chief of staff of the Air Force, released a statement to mark the occasion and highlight Yeager’s achievements throughout his career.
“A month after our service separated from the Army, General Yeager explored the boundary of supersonic flight—an amazing and successful journey that tested both intellectual faculties and physical fortitude,” Allvin said. “However, in honor of the American Legion that recognizes patriotic veterans, it is important to highlight that General Yeager’s influence goes beyond test flights, and includes his history as an incredible war hero as well. A courageous combat fighter pilot during World War II, who flew over 60 missions over Europe, shot down 13 enemy aircraft, and despite being shot down himself — used his wit and determination to evade capture with the assistance of the French underground. His devotion to duty and tireless efforts not only helped the U.S. prevail but demonstrated the confidence and courage needed to take on other formidable challenges in the jet age.”
The ceremony also featured guests from the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance and West Virginia Paralyzed Veterans of America, Inc.