Who Were Some Notable WWII Pilots?


Quick Answer

Chuck Yeager, Gregory Boyington and Paul Tibbets are some notable pilots of World War II. Many of the most well-known aviators of the time were fighter pilots that amassed high kill scores of enemy planes, but some bomber pilots are known for just one mission.

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In 1941, Chuck Yeager joined the American Army Air Force at the age of 18. On his first European tour of duty, flying his P-51B Mustang called The Glamorous Glen, he became an ace in one day. He was shot down over France, where he evaded escape and returned to fly many missions for the rest of the war. The most notable event during his flying career occurred after the war, however, when he became the first pilot to break the sound barrier. Piloting the Bell X-1 on Oct. 14, 1947, Yeager earned the celebrity title "The Fastest Man Alive" when flew the rocket plane over 700 miles per hour.

Gregory Boyington resigned from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1941 to join the famous Flying TIgers squadron that was flying missions for China to stem the Japanese advance and protect the Burma road. He returned to the Marines in 1942 and was given command squadron VMF-214, which nicknamed the Black Sheep squadron. He was given the nickname Pappy by his men because of his advanced age of 31. The exploits of the flying ace and his pilots were the focus of the 1970s television show "Baa Baa Black Sheep."

Paul Tibbets is probably a lesser known name, but the B-29 Superfortress pilot flew arguably the most notable mission of the war. Tibbets was at the controls of the Enola Gay when it dropped the world's first atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Japan on Aug. 6, 1945.

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