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  1. Rickenbacker driving in the 1915 American Grand Prize at San Francisco. Edward Rickenbacker was born at 1334 East Livingston Avenue in Columbus, Ohio, the third child to Swiss immigrants. His father, Wilhelm Rickenbacher, aspired to own his own house-building business, but remained stuck in wage labor for breweries and street-paving crews.

    • 1917–1919
    • Captain
  2. Captain Eddie Rickenbacker. Consider it luck, skill, or just plain determination: Captain Eddie Rickenbacker survived, by his own count, 135 brushes with death before finally succumbing at the respectable age of 82. He flew numerous combat missions in World War 1 and survived multiple serious airplane crashes after the war.

  3. Dec 11, 2015 · ~Eddie Rickenbacker. During these early years, Eddie Rickenbacker also developed an interest in cars and their engines. He had an intense desire to drive a powerful and fast car of his own, and he was determined to make this happen. So, at the age of 16, he took a job for a race car driver named Lee Frayer. Eddie served as his mechanic, further ...

    • Auto Racing
    • World War I
    • Fighting to Fly
    • to The Front
    • Postwar
    • World War II
    • Post-War

    A successful driver, he earned the nickname "Fast Eddie" and participated in the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911 when he relieved Lee Frayer. Rickenbacker returned to the race in 1912, 1914, 1915, and 1916 as a driver. His best and only finish was placing 10th in 1914, with his car breaking down in the other years. Among his achievements was setting a race speed record of 134 mph while driving a Blitzen Benz. During his racing career, Rickenbacker worked with a variety of automotive pioneers including Fred and August Duesenburg as well as managed the Prest-O-Lite Racing Team. In addition to fame, racing proved extremely lucrative for Rickenbacker as he earned over $40,000 a year as a driver. During his time as a driver, his interest in aviation increased as a result of various encounters with pilots.

    Intensely patriotic, Rickenbacker immediately volunteered for service upon the United States' entry into World War I. After having his offer to form a fighter squadron of race car drivers refused, he was recruited by Major Lewis Burgess to be the personal driver for the commander of the American Expeditionary Force, General John J. Pershing. It was during this time that Rickenbacker anglicized his last name to avoid anti-German sentiment. Arriving in France on June 26, 1917, he commenced work as Pershing's driver. Still interested in aviation, he was hampered by his lack of a college education and the perception that he lacked the academic ability to succeed in flight training. Rickenbacker received a break when he was requested to repair the car of the chief of the US Army Air Service, Colonel Billy Mitchell.

    Though considered old (he was 27) for flight training, Mitchell arranged for him to be sent to flight school at Issoudun. Moving through the course of instruction, Rickenbacker was commissioned as a first lieutenant on October 11, 1917. Upon completion of training, he was retained at the 3rd Aviation Instruction Center at Issoudun as an engineering officer due to his mechanical skills. Promoted to captain on October 28, Mitchell had Rickenbacker appointed as the chief engineering officer for the base. Permitted to fly during his off hours, he was prevented from entering combat. In this role, Rickenbacker was able to attend aerial gunnery training at Cazeau in January 1918 and advanced flight training a month later at Villeneuve-les-Vertus. After locating a suitable replacement for himself, he applied to Major Carl Spaatzfor permission to join the newest US fighter unit, the 94th Aero Squadron. This request was granted and Rickenbacker arrived at the front in April 1918. Known for it...

    Flying his first mission on April 6, 1918, in company with veteran Major Lufbery, Rickenbacker would go on to log over 300 combat hours in the air. During this early period, the 94th occasionally encountered the famed "Flying Circus" of the "Red Baron," Manfred von Richthofen. On April 26, while flying a Nieuport 28, Rickenbacker scored his first victory when he brought down a German Pfalz. He achieved the status of ace on May 30 after downing two Germans in one day. In August the 94th transitioned to the newer, stronger SPAD S.XIII. In this new aircraft Rickenbacker continued to add to his total and on September 24 was promoted to command the squadron with the rank of captain. On October 30, Rickenbacker downed his twenty-sixth and final aircraft making him the top American scorer of the war. Upon the announcement of the armistice, he flew over the lines to view the celebrations. Returning home, he became the most celebrated aviator in America. During the course of the war, Rickenb...

    Settling into postwar life, Rickenbacker married Adelaide Frost in 1922. The couple soon adopted two children, David (1925) and William (1928). That same year, he started Rickenbacker Motors with Byron F. Everitt, Harry Cunningham, and Walter Flanders as partners. Using the 94th's "Hat in the Ring" insignia to market its cars, Rickenbacker Motors sought to achieve the goal of bringing racing-developed technology to the consumer auto industry. Though he was soon driven out of business by the larger manufacturers, Rickenbacker pioneered advances that later caught on such as four-wheel braking. In 1927, he purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for $700,000 and introduced banked curves while significantly upgrading the facilities. Operating the track until 1941, Rickenbacker closed it during World War II. With the end of the conflict, he lacked the resources to make necessary repairs and sold the track to Anton Hulman, Jr. Continuing his connection to aviation, Rickenbacker bought E...

    With the outbreak of World War II, Rickenbacker volunteered his services to the government. At the request of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, Rickenbacker visited various Allied bases in Europe to assess their operations. Impressed by his findings, Stimson dispatched him to the Pacific on a similar tour as well as to deliver a secret message to General Douglas MacArthurrebuking him for negative comments that he made about the Roosevelt Administration. En route in October 1942, the B-17 Flying FortressRickenbacker was aboard went down in the Pacific due to faulty navigation equipment. Adrift for 24 days, Rickenbacker led the survivors in catching food and water until they were spotted by a US Navy OS2U Kingfisher near Nukufetau. Recovering from a mix of sunburn, dehydration, and near-starvation, he completed his mission before returning home. In 1943, Rickenbacker requested permission to travel to the Soviet Union to aid with their American-built aircraft and to assess their milit...

    With the war concluded, Rickenbacker returned to Eastern. He remained in charge of the company until its position began to erode due to subsidies to other airlines and a reluctance to acquire jet aircraft. On October 1, 1959, Rickenbacker was forced from his position as CEO and replaced by Malcolm A. MacIntyre. Though deposed from his former position, he stayed on as chairman of the board until December 31, 1963. Now 73, Rickenbacker and his wife began traveling the world enjoying retirement. The famed aviator died in Zurich, Switzerland on July 27, 1973, after suffering a stroke.

    • Eddie Rickenbacker’s Early Life
    • Fighting in World War I
    • America’s Top World War I Flying Ace
    • A Natural Pilot
    • Eastern Air Lines and Another Brush with Death
    • Rickenbacker Adrift at Sea
    • Trip to The USSR and Later Life

    Edward Rickenbacker was born on October 8, 1890, to Swiss immigrants in Columbus, Ohio. He was the third-oldest of seven children in the Rickenbacker household. The family lived in poverty for most of Eddie’s younger years. Then, in 1904, when Eddie was 13 years old, his father William Rickenbacker suddenly died in a construction accident. Eddie was forced to drop out of school to become the breadwinner of the family. This seemed like a terrible way to start out in life, but Rickenbacker was determined. Fascinated with cars, then a relatively new technology, Rickenbacker worked as a mechanic for a race car driver and later as a car salesman. His love of cars led him into racing and in 1911 he came in at 13th place in the inaugural race of the now-famous Indianapolis 500. He soon established himself as a fearless young driver with multiple accidents and close calls. In 1914 in Daytona, Florida, young Eddie entered a race and set a then-world record of an impressive 134 miles per hour...

    After America officially entered World War I in 1917, Eddie Rickenbacker immediately joined the army as a mechanic and automobile driver for Gen. John J. Pershing. However, he quickly switched his sights to the fledgling U.S. Army Air Service. After just 5 1/2 hours of flying with an instructor, Rickenbacker flew solo. Despite his lack of a college degree, Rickenbacker finished his flight training in just 17 days. His experience as a race car driver was crucial to his success. He earned a commission as a lieutenant and joined the 94th Aero Squadron in France. As Rickenbacker later recalled, he was determined to fly in the war, no matter what. “I learned pretty fast. Long practice in driving a racing car at 100 miles per hour gives first-class training in control and in judging distances at high speed, and helps tremendously in getting motor sense, which is rather the feel of rather than the sound of it,” he said. “This is a part of the physical equipment of handling an airplane, and...

    On April 29, 1918, Rickenbacker shot down his first enemy aircraft. By the end of May, he scored five individual victories to earn him the official title of “ace,” as well as the French Croix de Guerre. After his sixth score on May 30, an ear infection grounded the pilot until July 31. The last half of September 1918 was Eddie Rickenbacker’s busiest time in the air. On September 14 and 15, he shot down two of Germany’s newest airplanes, a pair of imposing Fokker D.VII’s, all on his own. By the end of September, he earned a promotion to captain and was made the commanding officer of the squadron. The very next day, Rickenbacker went on to achieve a feat that would eventually earn him the highest honor of the U.S. military: the coveted Medal of Honor. Taking to the skies near Billy, France, Capt. Rickenbacker went on a voluntary patrol. Soon enough, he came upon a squadron of seven German planes, including five of the new Fokkers. Given the odds, a more sensible man would likely avoid...

    Eddie Rickenbacker’s secret was simple: “The experienced fighting pilot does not take unnecessary risk. His business is to shoot down enemy planes, not get shot down.” Rickenbacker learned that the best way to take down enemy planes was to sneak up on them. Once he determined their position, he came down from above with the sun behind him. Enemy planes didn’t see his fighter until it was too late. By the time they could react, the dive-bombing pilot was out of sight and ready for another attack run. His skills were not without risks. He returned from one mission with a fuselage filled with bullet holes and half of a propeller. On another mission, a bullet grazed his helmet. But, all of that didn’t matter. Rickenbacker truly loved flying — he just wanted to be up in the air. Whereas many other fighter pilots grew tired of their jobs and left the service, Rickenbacker had no such thoughts: “The sky means something to me it never meant before. When I look up and see the sun shining on...

    Rickenbacker retired from the military after World War I. Although he was promoted to major, he chose to keep the title of captain. In his own words, “I felt that my rank of captain was earned and deserved.” Consequently, he was referred to as “Captain Rickenbacker” or “Captain Eddie” by the public. This may have been a good time to settle down and make use of his considerable fame as a flying ace. However, Rickenbacker was not that kind of person. Instead, he went into the car manufacturing and later air transportation business, eventually becoming president of Eastern Air Lines, which he grew into one of America’s biggest, most profitable airlines. Then, on February 26, 1941, Rickenbacker again brushed shoulders with death when the Eastern Air Lines plane he was traveling on crashed into a hillside. Although both pilots and 11 passengers perished, Rickenbacker somehow managed to survive the crash, adding to the popular belief that he was blessed with good fortune. Despite heavy in...

    Despite his ordeal, Rickenbacker was determined to continue living his active, often-dangerous life. He raised support for Britain during the Second World War, toured military bases in England and the United States, and even used his airline to support the war effort. Then, in October 1942, as Rickenbacker was on the way to New Guinea to inspect the American troops and deliver a secret message to General Douglas MacArthur, his B-17 plane went down in the ocean. Although all eight men survived the crash, they were now stranded in the middle of the ocean in rubber rafts. Despite being the only civilian, Rickenbacker immediately took charge of the situation. He allegedly taunted the men to encourage them to stay alive and helped divide the rainwater and fish that served as their only source of sustenance. Supposedly, when a seagull landed on his head, Rickenbacker killed it with his bare hands and divided the carcass among the men. Thanks to Rickenbacker’s indomitable will and a little...

    Not long after his rescue, Rickenbacker continued his touring mission to promote the war effort. Then, in 1943, he went on a 55,000-mile trip to Russia, inspecting how the ally was using American equipment and offering his military advice. He returned to the U.S. with vital military intelligence. By this point, “Captain Eddie” was so popular that many people wanted him to run in the 1944 presidential electionagainst Franklin Roosevelt: a man he had strongly disagreed with on several occasions. But just as he did before, Eddie Rickenbacker chose to stay out of the spotlight. He continued to run the Eastern Air Lines company, traveled the United States with his wife, and went on speaking tours touting conservative American values. After a long, adventurous, and exciting 82 years of life, Eddie Rickenbacker passed away in 1973 in Switzerland, his ancestral homeland. After learning about Eddie Rickenbacker, read about Richard Bong, who downed 40 planes during World War II.

  4. Rickenbacker’s raft was located by a Navy Catalina flying boat, and once more Captain Eddie became front-page news. He had lost 60 pounds, had a bad sunburn and salt water ulcers, and was barely alive, but the famous Rickenbacker luck had held.

  5. Nov 15, 2012 · —Eddie Rickenbacker. The trip was originally scheduled to begin on Oct. 20, but Rickenbacker and the crew, led by pilot Capt. William Cherry, Jr., were delayed a day after being forced to transfer to another B-17 when their original aircraft suffered mechanical failure. At 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 21, 1942, Rickenbacker, together with his aide Col ...

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