Other reviewers are right- the men who teamed up to break the speed of sound were the best. Even without their combat experiences, they 'flew by the numbers' and did it on service pay. Great timing on their part! This book features page after page of men in front of P-51s, F-86s, B-29s- and, of course, the Bell X-1. I had always remembered the affection Yeager felt for Pancho Barnes; but had missed the generous nature that led her to give a meal and helping hand to any pilot down on his luck.
What really struck me were the opportunities missed by Bell Aircraft. They produced the first U.S. jet plane (P-59 in 1943), then the X-1 family after 1945. However, other companies got the big orders, leaving Bell either sub-contracting or go into the field of rotary wing design. Lousy timing! They never got to build on their design experience with the X-1.
Worse, several of the key players in breaking the sound barrier died soon after. But Muroc/Edwards Air Force Base grew to become a center of research in aviation technology.
In time, aeronautical design blended wartime experience (especially German research), wind tunnel testing, and advances in engines to build fast planes like the SR-71, or Space Shuttle, and B-1 bomber. Yet that first flight is always into the unknown.
I count off one star because the book ends after the Air Force released news of breaking the sound barrier, and leaves the impression that the 'monster of high speed flight' had been conquered. Whole generations of production planes would be tested at Edwards by the successors to Yeager, Hoover, Ridley, Cardenas, and others. Too many lost their lives doing it.