Cover image for Chasing the demon : a secret history of the quest for the sound barrier, and the band of American aces who conquered it / Dan Hampton.
Chasing the demon : a secret history of the quest for the sound barrier, and the band of American aces who conquered it / Dan Hampton.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2018]

Physical Description:
xvi, 331 pages, 16 unnumbered leaves of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Part I: Origins. Flying monks to mud ducks ; The cauldron -- Part II: Into the fire. The next leap ; The crucible ; Wonder ; The brave -- Part III: Hunting the demon. World War to Cold War ; The final stage ; The demon.
"In 1947, the United States Air Force was established. Meanwhile, scientists and engineers were pioneering a revolutionary new type of aircraft which could do what no other machine had ever done: reach mach 1--a speed faster than the movement of sound--which pilots called "the demon." Chasing the Demon recreates an era of excitement and danger, adventure and innovation, when the future of the free world was at stake and American ingenuity took the world from the postwar years to the space age. While the pressure to succeed was high, it was unknown whether man or machine could survive such tremendous speeds. A decorated military pilot with years of experience flying supersonic fighter jets, Dan Hampton reveals in-depth the numerous potential hazards that emerged with the Air Force's test flights: controls broke down, engines flamed out, wings snapped, and planes and pilots disintegrated as they crashed into the desert floor. He also introduces the men who pushed the envelope taking the cockpits of these jets, including World War II ace Major Dick Bong and twenty-four-year-old Captain Chuck Yeager, who made history flying the Bell X-1 plane faster than the speed of sound on October 14, 1947."-- Provided by publisher.

Describes the post-World War II efforts by the American military to develop a new type of aircraft that could break the sound barrier, revealing the hazards that emerged during test flights and the bravery of the men who made aviation history in pursuit of this goal.


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
629.132305 HAM Book Adult General Collection

On Order



NATIONAL BESTSELLER * At the end of World War II, a band of aces gathered in the Mojave Desert on a Top Secret quest to break the sound barrier-nicknamed "The Demon" by pilots. The true story of what happened in those skies has never been told.

Speed. In 1947, it represented the difference between victory and annihilation.

After Hiroshima, the ability to deliver a nuclear device to its target faster than one's enemy became the singular obsession of American war planners. And so, in the earliest days of the Cold War, a highly classified program was conducted on a desolate air base in California's Mojave Desert. Its aim: to push the envelope of flight to new frontiers. There gathered an extraordinary band of pilots, including Second World War aces Chuck Yeager and George Welch, who risked their lives flying experimental aircraft to reach Mach 1, the so-called sound barrier, which pilots called "the demon."

Shrouding the program in secrecy, the US military reluctantly revealed that the "barrier" had been broken two months later, after the story was leaked to the press. The full truth has never been fully revealed--until now.

Chasing the Demon, from decorated fighter pilot and acclaimed aviation historian Dan Hampton, tells, for the first time, the extraordinary true story of mankind's quest for Mach 1. Here, of course, is twenty-four-year-old Captain Chuck Yeager, who made history flying the futuristic Bell X-1 faster than the speed of sound on October 14, 1947. Officially Yeager was the first to achieve supersonic flight, but drawing on new interviews with survivors of the program, including Yeager's former commander, as well as declassified files, Hampton presents evidence that a fellow American--George Welch, a daring fighter pilot who shot down a remarkable sixteen enemy aircraft during the Pacific War--met the demon first, though he was not favored to wear the laurels, as he was now a civilian test pilot and was not flying the Bell X-1.

Chasing the Demon sets the race between Yeager and Welch in the context of aviation history, so that the reader can learn and appreciate their accomplishments as never before.

Author Notes

Dan Hampton served for twenty years in the U.S. Air Force and flew 151 combat missions. For his service in the Iraq War, Kosovo conflict, and first Gulf War, he received four Distinguished Flying Crosses with Valor, a Purple Heart, eight Air Medals with Valor, and five Meritorious Service Medals. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2006. He has written several books including Viper Pilot and Lords of the Sky: Fighter Pilots and Air Combat, from the Red Baron to the F-16.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Author of the New York Times best-selling Viper Pilot and a decorated military pilot well acquainted with flying supersonic fighter jets, Hampton chronicles the U.S. effort to break the sound barrier, starting with the founding of the U.S. Air Force in 1947 and ending with Capt. Chuck Yeager's triumph on October 14, 1947.

Table of Contents

Author's Notep. xi
Prologuep. 1
Part I Originsp. 13
1 Flying Monks to Mud Ducksp. 15
2 The Cauldronp. 35
Part II Into The Firep. 61
3 The Next Leapp. 63
4 The Cruciblep. 79
5 Wonderp. 113
6 The Bravep. 131
Part III Hunting the Demonp. 165
7 World War to Cold Warp. 167
8 The Final Stagep. 185
9 The Demonp. 215
Epilogue: Ripplesp. 247
Acknowledgmentsp. 267
Glossaryp. 271
Appendix: Aerodynamics 101p. 275
Notesp. 287
Selected Bibliographyp. 303
Indexp. 315