West Virginian Charles Elwood "Chuck" Yeager started his aviation career with the U.S. Army Air Corps as an aircraft maintenance mechanic in 1941. Transferring to flight training, Yeager's 64 combat missions during WWII resulted in victories over 13 German aircraft with five of those engagements in a single day, earning him the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross for his duty with the 357th Fighter Group.
After the war, Yeager transferred to testing new aircraft designs at Edwards Air Force Base in California's Mojave Desert. On Oct. 14, 1947, strapped into the experimental Bell X-1, Yeager became the first man to break the sound barrier in level flight. Following service in Vietnam with the 405th Fighter Wing, he was promoted to Brigadier General.
The gold-washed Beretta Model 1935 pistol depicted here was a presentation to General Yeager by a Cuban minister of defense following a "good will" flight with Yeager. Elaborately engraved and fitted with polished rosewood grip panels, this 7.65mm semi-automatic now resides in the collection of the National Firearms Museum and is part of the museum's General Officers' Pistols display in the galleries.
Reprinted from America's 1st Freedom, June 2007