Battle of the Chucks: Yeager v. Norris (Or, “In Which I Adore Chuck Yeager”)
Yesterday I found myself trapped watching The Right Stuff. It is a docudrama film about the rise of the American space program and the Mercury Seven astronauts. The entire story fascinates me, and the movie interests me. I’ve seen it maybe 20 times.
Here is why:
One of the film’s subjects, Chuck Yeager, is probably the baddest motherfucker still living today. In fact, he’s probably in line for being one of the Baddest Motherfuckers In the Fucking Universe. And few people know who he is.
I know, I know. It’s a big thing to say that it’s actually Chuck Norris is the baddest dude walking, but that guy, for all his karate, sushi, kung-pow, and other Asian words, is a pale fucking shadow to Chuck Yeager.
First off, Chuck Norris can’t fly a plane. Second, Chuck Norris never really did shit except get his ass kicked by Bruce in Fury of the Dragon, star in a bunch of films where he wished he was Chuck Yeager, and inspire a bunch of young kids to take Tae Kwon Do for a few months before giving it up.
Also: Who fights in cowboy boots?
Now. Back to Yeager, since we’ve established that Norris is just a figment.
First off, okay, Yeager Broke the Fucking Sound Barrier. He is widely regarded as the greatest pilot of all time. Seriously: the best pilot who has ever lived, ever. Aside from his post-war test pilot accomplishments, during World War II he proved himself to be a total fucking bad ass by scoring an Ace in a Day – that is, shooting down five enemy aircraft in one day.
He did this before he turned twenty-two.
But wait, there’s more!
He got shot down over France. This happens. But did he let that keep him down?
Hell no. The motherfucker’s from West Virginia. Oh no; he joined the fucking Maquis and built bombs (which his dad taught him to make) to fuck up the Germans.
Later, and hand to $DEITY, this is the baddest ass thing ever, he carried another dude (who had lost his foot) over the Pyrenees mountains, evading German gunfire, in the snow, while barefoot.
When downed pilots were attempting to home, they were sent in pairs to a series of safehouses over the mountains. Yeager and his partner were in a safehouse in the mountains and his partner (rather stupidly) hung his socks out to dry in the crisp winter air.
A passing German patrol saw the socks, realized the cabin was not abandoned, and opened fire into it with machine guns. The assault blew off his partner’s foot just below the knee.
Chuck grabbed him, made a makeshift tourniquet, threw him over his shoulders, and ran out the back. He did not take time to grab shoes or socks.
When he returned, he was one of the few people allowed back into air combat (policy was that pilots who had previously been shot down were not allowed back into air combat, in case they were captured, tortured, and could give up Maquis intelligence.)
Okay, so post-war. We all know that he broke the sound barrier in the X-1. (and if you don’t know this, you should write a stern letter to the education department in your home state, because you are seriously fucking lacking in history).
Did you know that he did this with several broken ribs? He had been thrown from a horse two days previous and hid the injury from the Air Force so that they wouldn’t ground him.
He was passed over for the astronaut program, despite being more qualified than anyone else, because he didn’t have a college degree.
The motherfucker landed a plane in the streets of Hamlin, WV, just to see his lover. He could (and did) pilot on a dime and they turned him out for lack of a piece of paper.
One day, he took out an experimental plane (which would become the F-104 Starfighter) and shit went bad. He flew it into space. In hindsight, probably not a great move. It stalled, died, and went into a tailspin. So he ejected.
The ejection seat (which is on fire at the bottom, because it’s got a jet on it) spun around and hit him in the face of his helmet, breaking it. This had the added effect of setting the rubber in his helmet on fire. So here he is, plummeting from 30,000 feet with his fucking face on fire.
He landed safely and they took him to the hospital where, for the next several months, he underwent an “extremely painful and experimental” procedure where they peeled any scabs that grew off his face in order to avoid burn scarring.
Oh, but we’re not done.
After this, he took command of an Air Force base during the Vietnam conflict and by 1970 he had been promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. Yeah. A fucking star, bitches (he was later promoted to Major General in a post-retirement promotion).
And he never got a fucking New York City ticker tape parade.
Why do I know this? Because he’s from fucking West Virginia.
And that’s how we roll.