That's right! Doc. I briefly spoke to him and shook his hand at the Reno Air Races in the 90s. He was appearing at an Air Force static display of an F15 sponsored by the Nevada Air National Guard recruiting Unit. What was funny was there were just a few people at the table he was greeting people at and as I walked up I said "hey Fred, great stuff". He turned to look at me and then burst out laughing. The young air guard guys just looked at each other, having no idea what was going on.
We spoke a min or two and he said "that movie was a good movie but nothing about test flight is like a movie. Anyway, it was a lot of fun doing it with the actors and everything." I thanked him for his service and shook his hand and said "thanks Fred, take care" He had a big smile on his face as I left and the two guard guys still had no clue. I remember thinking of the contrast. That old guy and all he has done and remembers and those two bored young enlisted guys.
That man was a real deal American Hero! No overuse of the word, far too much of that nowadays, IMHO. That really was the greatest generation.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, --and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of --Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
--- John Gillespie Magee, Jr
You may not have heard about it on the TV network news- he wasn’t a celebrity entertainer, politician, or sports figure but last evening a true hero died. He was Chuck Yeager. Back in 1947 at Muroc Dry Lake, he piloted a Bell X-1 rocket plane faster than the speed of sound. For the first time in history, the “sound barrier” was broken. For a year the Air Force kept it secret but in 1948 it was announced publicly. We were living in Tokyo when my Dad told me about what Captain Yeager had done and he was immensely proud that Yeager was a “West Virginia boy”. Since I was building model airplanes then, even I knew that it was big news. Yeager had been an Ace fighter pilot in WW II, flew in Korea and Vietnam as well as having been a USAF test pilot at Muroc (now Edwards AFB) but his name was relatively unknown to the public until Tom Wolfe’s book “The Right Stuff” and later the movie. His chance to be one of the original seven Project Mercury astronauts was denied simply because he did not have a college education. Rest in peace, General Chuck Yeager, USAF (retired) Neil