By Carlos Alvarez
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It took approximately a month, but the consul was able to negotiate the release of Chuck and several other evaders from Spain. The war had created a gasoline shortage, so the United States traded gallons of Texaco’s finest to the gasoline-hungry Spanish government in exchange for the release of their flyboys. By May, Chuck was back in England. The men of his squadron welcomed him back, slightly in awe—he was the first downed pilot that they had ever seen make it back from behind enemy lines. Tanned from the Spanish sun and slightly heavier than when he had been shot down, the young pilot was an anomaly.
Now Jackie was traveling to Russia and she had requested that Chuck be allowed to accompany her. The Air Force Chief 59 60 CHUCK YEAGER President Dwight D. Eisenhower awarded the Harmon Trophy to Chuck Yeager and Jackie Cochran in 1954 for their achievements as pilots. Chuck was the first man, and Jackie the first woman, to break the sound barrier. of Staff, General Tommy White, was a close friend of Jackie’s. S. Air Force saw this as a great opportunity for Chuck to be their eyes and ears within the borders of Russia.
The men were part of the Maquis—a group French resistance fighters. It was explained to the young pilot that it was too snowy to cross the Pyrenees at that time, and he would have to wait until the snow thawed. When there was less snow in the mountain passes, he would be able to try to escape into Spain. In the meantime, however, he would have to live and work with the 36 CHUCK YEAGER Maquis. From that point on, he would have to follow in the footsteps of the Maquis. The French freedom fighters would hide by day and attack at night—the Maquis were famous for sabotaging German supply routes.
AC-130H/U Gunships by Carlos Alvarez