The experimental pilots
The jet engine and the rocket engine were developed to a rudimentary level during World War II. It was clear to all the powers that control of the air would be achieved by using these new technologies. It took a couple of years after the war for governments and industry to fall back and regroup. The U.S. Air Force came into being in 1947. Germany and Japan needed time to rebuild after severe bombing of their factories and infrastructure. Russia and Britain were better off than their former enemies. We were never bombed to any degree, so our factories and infrastructure were intact. Japan was ruined and occupied. Immediately after the war, the victorious powers scrambled to get as much of the enemies’ technology as possible. The U.S. had become a manufacturing power house. Our aviation programs went experimental; pushing and stretching the flight boundaries. Many different experimental jet aircraft were built and a few rocket aircraft. Between the end of the war in 1945 and 1956, four aviation milestones were achieved: Mach 1, Mach 2, Mach 3, and 100,000 feet in altitude. A dozen years later, we had exceeded Mach 6 and were on the verge of space.