Douglas Bader was one of the most famous British fighter pilots in World War II, not only because he was an excellent pilot but more so because he had no legs.
In 1928, at the age of 18, Bader joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) and soon became known as a natural pilot and an effective leader. After two years he was commissioned as an officer. Never one to follow the rules, Bader ignored his squadron commander’s orders not to perform tricks under an altitude of 2,000 ft, and in 1931, while he was performing slow rolls at a very low altitude, his left wing hit the ground, and he crashed his airplane. Incredibly, he was not killed, but both of his legs had to be amputated, one above the knee and the other below.
Despite his terrible injury, Bader was unwilling to quit the RAF, and after recovering from his operation, he retook flight training and passed all the flight tests.
The RAF, however, did not accept him back, and he was retired on medical grounds. Then in 1939, World War II broke out. Bader once again approached the RAF, requesting that they take him back. In need of experienced pilots to fight in the war, the RAF allowed him to fly again.
During World War II, he became an ace pilot, shooting down 22 German aircraft before his airplane was shot down in France. He was captured by the Germans and imprisoned for the rest of the war. His flying abilities, however, had earned him great respect among his captors, and they even allowed a new artificial leg to be dropped by a British bomber to replace the one damaged in the crash. With his tin legs, Bader attempted again and again to escape, seeing it as his duty to defy his captors and return home at all costs.
After the war, Bader became a campaigner for the rights of disabled people and dedicated the rest of his life to helping them. He was knighted for his work in 1976 and died of a heart attack on September 5, 1982.