Eddie Rickenbacker
Overview
 
Edward Vernon Rickenbacker (October 8, 1890 – July 27, 1973) was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 fighter ace
Flying ace
A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down several enemy aircraft during aerial combat. The actual number of aerial victories required to officially qualify as an "ace" has varied, but is usually considered to be five or more...

 in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...

 recipient. He was also a race car driver and automotive designer, a government consultant
Consultant
A consultant is a professional who provides professional or expert advice in a particular area such as management, accountancy, the environment, entertainment, technology, law , human resources, marketing, emergency management, food production, medicine, finance, life management, economics, public...

 in military matters and a pioneer in air transportation, particularly as the longtime head of Eastern Air Lines
Eastern Air Lines
Eastern Air Lines was a major United States airline that existed from 1926 to 1991. Before its dissolution it was headquartered at Miami International Airport in unincorporated Miami-Dade County, Florida.-History:...

.
He was born Edward Rickenbacher (without a middle name) in Columbus, Ohio
Columbus, Ohio
Columbus is the capital of and the largest city in the U.S. state of Ohio. The broader metropolitan area encompasses several counties and is the third largest in Ohio behind those of Cleveland and Cincinnati. Columbus is the third largest city in the American Midwest, and the fifteenth largest city...

 to German-speaking
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 Swiss
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 immigrants.
Encyclopedia
Edward Vernon Rickenbacker (October 8, 1890 – July 27, 1973) was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 fighter ace
Flying ace
A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down several enemy aircraft during aerial combat. The actual number of aerial victories required to officially qualify as an "ace" has varied, but is usually considered to be five or more...

 in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...

 recipient. He was also a race car driver and automotive designer, a government consultant
Consultant
A consultant is a professional who provides professional or expert advice in a particular area such as management, accountancy, the environment, entertainment, technology, law , human resources, marketing, emergency management, food production, medicine, finance, life management, economics, public...

 in military matters and a pioneer in air transportation, particularly as the longtime head of Eastern Air Lines
Eastern Air Lines
Eastern Air Lines was a major United States airline that existed from 1926 to 1991. Before its dissolution it was headquartered at Miami International Airport in unincorporated Miami-Dade County, Florida.-History:...

.

Early life

He was born Edward Rickenbacher (without a middle name) in Columbus, Ohio
Columbus, Ohio
Columbus is the capital of and the largest city in the U.S. state of Ohio. The broader metropolitan area encompasses several counties and is the third largest in Ohio behind those of Cleveland and Cincinnati. Columbus is the third largest city in the American Midwest, and the fifteenth largest city...

 to German-speaking
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 Swiss
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 immigrants. From childhood, he loved machines and experimented with them, encouraged by his father's words: "A machine has to have a purpose".

In what was to become one of the defining characteristics of Rickenbacker's life, he nearly died many times in events ranging from an early run-in with a horse-drawn carriage, to a botched tonsillectomy
Tonsillectomy
A tonsillectomy is a 3,000-year-old surgical procedure in which the tonsils are removed from either side of the throat. The procedure is performed in response to cases of repeated occurrence of acute tonsillitis or adenoiditis, obstructive sleep apnea, nasal airway obstruction, snoring, or...

, to airplane crashes. His first near death experience
Near death experience
A near-death experience refers to a broad range of personal experiences associated with impending death, encompassing multiple possible sensations including detachment from the body; feelings of levitation; extreme fear; total serenity, security, or warmth; the experience of absolute dissolution;...

 occurred when he was in the "Horsehead Gang". He lived near a mine, and they decided to ride a cart down the slope. It tipped over and almost crushed them.

According to Rickenbacker's autobiography, at age thirteen, his schooling ended in grade seven after the accidental death of his father on August 26, 1904. However, according to Eddie Rickenbacker: An American Hero in the Twentieth Century, by W. David Lewis, his father died after an altercation with another man in Columbus. Rickenbacker, found jobs to help support the family, but driven by an intense admiration for machines, Rickenbacker taught himself as much as he could, including enrolling in a correspondence course
Distance education
Distance education or distance learning is a field of education that focuses on teaching methods and technology with the aim of delivering teaching, often on an individual basis, to students who are not physically present in a traditional educational setting such as a classroom...

 in engineering. He aggressively pursued any chance of involvement with automobiles. Rickenbacker went to work at the Columbus Buggy Company, eventually becoming a salesman.

Rickenbacker became well-known as a race car driver, competing in the Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis 500
The Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, also known as the Indianapolis 500, the 500 Miles at Indianapolis, the Indy 500 or The 500, is an American automobile race, held annually, typically on the last weekend in May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana...

 four times before World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, and earning the nickname "Fast Eddie". Rickenbacker joined the Maxwell
Maxwell automobile
The Maxwell was a brand of automobiles manufactured in the United States of America from about 1904 to 1925. The present-day successor to the Maxwell company is Chrysler Group.-History:...

 Race Team in 1915 after leaving Peugeot
Peugeot
Peugeot is a major French car brand, part of PSA Peugeot Citroën, the second largest carmaker based in Europe.The family business that precedes the current Peugeot company was founded in 1810, and manufactured coffee mills and bicycles. On 20 November 1858, Emile Peugeot applied for the lion...

. After the Maxwell team disbanded that same year, he joined the Prest-O-Lite team as manager and continued to race improved Maxwells for Prest-O-Lite.

World War I

Pre-U.S. entry

Rickenbacker wanted to join the Allied troops in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, but the U.S. had not yet entered the war. He had several chance encounters with aviators, including a fortuitous incident in which he repaired a stranded aircraft for T. F. Dodd, a man who later became General John J. Pershing
John J. Pershing
John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing, GCB , was a general officer in the United States Army who led the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I...

's aviation officer and an important contact in Rickenbacker's attempt to join air combat.

During World War I, with its anti-German atmosphere, he – like many other German American
German American
German Americans are citizens of the United States of German ancestry and comprise about 51 million people, or 17% of the U.S. population, the country's largest self-reported ancestral group...

s – changed his surname; the "h" in "Rickenbacher" became a "k" in an effort to "take the Hun out of his name." As he was already well known at the time, the change received wide publicity. "From then on", as he wrote in his autobiography, "most Rickenbachers were practically forced to spell their name in the way I had..."

He believed his given name "looked a little plain." He signed his name 26 times, with a different middle initial each time. After settling upon "V", he selected "Vernon" as a middle name.

In 1916, Rickenbacker traveled to London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, with the aim of developing an English car for American races. Because of an erroneous press story and Rickenbacker's known Swiss heritage, he was suspected of being a spy. En route and in England, agents closely monitored his actions.

On a sea voyage back to America, he came up with the idea to recruit his race car driver friends as fighter pilots, on the theory that such men were accustomed to tight spaces and high speeds. His suggestion was ignored by the military.

Army service

When, in 1917, the United States declared war on Germany
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

, Rickenbacker had enlisted in the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 and was soon training in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 with some of the first American troops. He arrived in France on June 26, 1917 as a Sergeant First Class
Sergeant First Class
Sergeant First Class is the seventh enlisted rank in the U.S. Army, above Staff Sergeant and below Master Sergeant and First Sergeant, and is the first senior non-commissioned officer rank...

.

Most men chosen for pilot training had college degrees and Rickenbacker had to struggle to gain permission to fly because of his perceived lack of academic qualifications. Because of his mechanical abilities, Rickenbacker was assigned as engineering officer in a flight-training facility at Issoudun
Issoudun
Issoudun is a commune in the Indre department in central France. It is also referred to as Issoundun, which is the ancient name.-History:...

, where he practiced flying during his free time. He learned to fly well, but because his skills were so highly valued, Rickenbacker's superiors tried to prevent him from attaining his wings with the other pilots.

Rickenbacker demonstrated that he had a qualified replacement, and the military awarded him a place in one of America's air combat units, the 94th Aero Squadron
94th Fighter Squadron
The 94th Fighter Squadron ' is a United States Air Force unit. It is assigned to the 1st Operations Group and stationed at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia....

, informally known as the "Hat-in-the-Ring" Squadron after its insignia. Originally he flew the Nieuport 28
Nieuport 28
|-See also:-Bibliography:* Cheesman E.F. Fighter Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War. Letchworth, UK: Harleyford Publications, 1960, pp. 98–99....

, at first without armament. On April 29, 1918, Rickenbacker shot down his first plane and claimed his fifth to become an ace
Flying ace
A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down several enemy aircraft during aerial combat. The actual number of aerial victories required to officially qualify as an "ace" has varied, but is usually considered to be five or more...

 on May 28. Rickenbacker was awarded the French Croix de Guerre
Croix de guerre
The Croix de guerre is a military decoration of France. It was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts...

 that month for his five victories.

On May 30, he scored his sixth victory. It would be his last for three and a half months. He developed an ear infection in July which almost ended his flying career and grounded him for several weeks. He shot down Germany's hottest new fighter, the Fokker D.VII
Fokker D.VII
The Fokker D.VII was a German World War I fighter aircraft designed by Reinhold Platz of the Fokker-Flugzeugwerke. Germany produced around 3,300 D.VII aircraft in the summer and autumn of 1918. In service, the D.VII quickly proved itself to be a formidable aircraft...

, on September 14 and another the next day.

On September 24, 1918, now a captain, he was named commander of the squadron, and on the following day, he claimed two more German planes, for which he was belatedly awarded the Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...

 in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover
Herbert Clark Hoover was the 31st President of the United States . Hoover was originally a professional mining engineer and author. As the United States Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he promoted partnerships between government and business...

. After claiming yet another Fokker D.VII on September 27, he became a balloon buster
Balloon buster
Balloon busters were military pilots known for destroying enemy observation balloons. These pilots were noted for their fearlessness. Seventy-six fighter pilots in World War I were each credited with destroying five or more balloons, and thus were balloon aces....

 by downing observation balloons on September 28, October 1, October 27, and October 30, 1918.

Thirteen more wins followed in October, bringing his total to thirteen Fokker D.VIIs, four other German fighters, five highly defended observation balloons, and only four of the easier two-seated reconnaissance planes.

The military determined ace status by verifying combat claims by a pilot, but confirmation, too, was needed from ground witnesses, affirmations of other pilots, or observation of the wreckage of the opposing enemy aircraft. If no witnesses could be found, a reported kill was not counted. It was an imperfect system, dependent on the frailties of human observation, as well as vagaries of weather and terrain. Most aces' records are thus 'best estimates', not 'exact counts'. Nevertheless, Rickenbacker's 26 victories remained the American record until World War II.

Rickenbacker flew a total of 300 combat hours, reportedly more than any other U.S. pilot in the war.

When Rickenbacker learned of the Armistice
Armistice with Germany (Compiègne)
The armistice between the Allies and Germany was an agreement that ended the fighting in the First World War. It was signed in a railway carriage in Compiègne Forest on 11 November 1918 and marked a victory for the Allies and a complete defeat for Germany, although not technically a surrender...

, he flew an airplane above the western front to observe the ceasefire and the displays of joy and comradeship, as the formerly warring troops crossed the front lines and joined in the celebrations.

Verified aerial victories

Number Date Time Aircraft Opponent Location
1 1810 Nieuport Pfalz D.III
Pfalz D.III
|-See also:-Bibliography:* Gray, Peter and Owen Thetford. German Aircraft of the First World War. London: Putnam, 1962. ISBN 0-93385-271-1.* Grosz, Peter M. Pfalz D.IIIa . Berkhamsted, Herts, UK: Albatros Publications, 1995. ISBN 0-94841-425-1.* Guttman, Jon. Balloon-Busting Aces of World War 1 ...

Baussant
2 0805 Nieuport Pfalz D.III Pont-à-Mousson
Pont-à-Mousson
Pont-à-Mousson is a commune in the Meurthe-et-Moselle department in north-eastern France.Population : 14,592 . It is an industrial town , situated on the Moselle River...

3 1824 Nieuport Albatros D.V
Albatros D.V
|-See also:-Bibliography:*Bennett, Leon. Gunning for the Red Baron. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2006. ISBN 1-58544-507-X....

Ribécourt
4 0912 Nieuport Albatros D.V Flirey
5 0925 Nieuport Albatros C.I
Albatros C.I
|-See also:-Further Reading:*Cowin, H.W. German and Austrian Aviation of World War I. Osprey Publishing Ltd, 2000 ISBN 1-84176-069-2*van Wyngarden, G . Early German Aces of World War I, Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-84176-997-5...

Bois de Rate
6 0738 Nieuport Albatros C.I Jaulny
7 0815 SPAD XIII
SPAD S.XIII
|-See also:-Bibliography:* Bruce, J.M. The Aeroplanes of the Royal Flying Corps . London: Putnam, 1982. ISBN 0-370-30084-X.* Sharpe, Michael. Biplanes, Triplanes, and Seaplanes. London: Friedman/Fairfax Books, 2000. ISBN 1-58663-300-7....

Fokker D.VII
Fokker D.VII
The Fokker D.VII was a German World War I fighter aircraft designed by Reinhold Platz of the Fokker-Flugzeugwerke. Germany produced around 3,300 D.VII aircraft in the summer and autumn of 1918. In service, the D.VII quickly proved itself to be a formidable aircraft...

Villecy
8 0810 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Bois de Warville
9 0840 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Billy
10 0850 SPAD XIII Halberstadt C
Halberstadt CL.II
|-See also:-Bibliography:*Angelucci, Enzo . World Encyclopedia of Military Aircraft. London: Jane's, 1981. ISBN 0 7106 0148 4.*Gray, Peter and Thetford, Owen. German Aircraft of the First World War. London: Putnam, 1962....

Foret de Spincourt
11 0600 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Damvillers
12 0500 SPAD XIII Balloon
Observation balloon
Observation balloons are balloons that are employed as aerial platforms for intelligence gathering and artillery spotting. Their use began during the French Revolutionary Wars, reaching their zenith during World War I, and they continue in limited use today....

Sivry-sur-Meuse
13 1930 SPAD XIII Balloon Puzieux
14 1730 SPAD XIII Hannover CL Montfaucon
15 1740 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Vilosnes
16 1707 SPAD XIII Balloon Dannevoux
Dannevoux
Dannevoux is a commune in the Meuse department in Lorraine in north-eastern France....

17 1640 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Cléry-le-Grand
Cléry-le-Grand
Cléry-le-Grand is a commune in the Meuse department in Lorraine in north-eastern France....

18 1752 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Dun-sur-Meuse
Dun-sur-Meuse
Dun-sur-Meuse is a commune in the Meuse department in Lorraine in north-eastern France....

19 1552 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Cléry-le-Petit
Cléry-le-Petit
Cléry-le-Petit is a commune in the Meuse department in Lorraine in north-eastern France....

20 1552 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Cléry-le-Petit
21 1555 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Cléry-le-Petit
22 1655 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Grande Carne Ferme
23 1505 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Bois de Money
24 1450 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Grand Pre
25 1635 SPAD XIII Balloon St. Juvin
26 1040 SPAD XIII Balloon Remonville

Between the wars

After World War I ended, Rickenbacker was approached several times about exploiting his fame. He chose to go on a Liberty bond
Liberty bond
A Liberty Bond was a war bond that was sold in the United States to support the allied cause in World War I. Subscribing to the bonds became a symbol of patriotic duty in the United States and introduced the idea of financial securities to many citizens for the first time. The Act of Congress which...

 tour. He was offered many movie positions, but did not want all the attention, even though he was the most celebrated aviator in America (soon to be supplanted by Charles Lindbergh
Charles Lindbergh
Charles Augustus Lindbergh was an American aviator, author, inventor, explorer, and social activist.Lindbergh, a 25-year-old U.S...

 after his solo flight across the Atlantic). Rickenbacker described his World War I flying experiences in his memoirs, Fighting the Flying Circus, published after the war. In this book, he also describes the character, exploits, and death of fellow pilot Lt. Quentin Roosevelt
Quentin Roosevelt
Quentin Roosevelt was the youngest and favorite son of President Theodore Roosevelt. Family and friends agreed that Quentin had many of his father's positive qualities and few of the negative ones. Inspired by his father and siblings, he joined the United States Army Air Service where he became a...

, the son of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

. Rickenbacker also continued to associate with Reed Chambers
Reed Chambers
Reed McKinley Chambers was a pioneer in the American Aviation industry, as a flying ace in World War One, as founder of an early airline, and as founder and chairman of America's first aviation insurance company.-Early life and military service:...

, with whom he had served in World War I; they jointly founded an airline.

In 1925, Rickenbacker was a defense witness, along with Hap Arnold, Tooey Spaatz, Ira Eaker, and Fiorello H. La Guardia, in the court-martial of General Billy Mitchell.

Marriage

In 1922, Rickenbacker married Adelaide Frost Durant; their marriage lasted for the rest of his life. Although they spent considerable time in Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 and Ohio
Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

, the Rickenbackers lived chiefly in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

. They adopted two boys: David Edward in 1925, and William Frost in 1928. Adelaide was an unconventional wife for the times: she was five years older than her husband, had been previously married, and was outspoken and active. As independent as she was, Adelaide fully supported Rickenbacker's endeavors until his death in 1973.

Rickenbacker automobile

He started the Rickenbacker Motor Company in 1920, selling technologically advanced cars incorporating innovations from automobile racing. The Rickenbacker
Rickenbacker (car)
Rickenbacker Motor Company was a US automobile manufacturer based in Detroit, Michigan from 1922 until 1928.The company was established by Eddie Rickenbacker , America's leading fighter ace during World War I. He used his World War I 94th Fighter Squadron emblem depicting a top hat inside a ring...

 came equipped with the first four-wheel brake system. Probably due to bad publicity from the other car manufacturers, who feared they would be unable to sell their inventory of cars with two-wheel braking, the company had trouble selling its cars and eventually went bankrupt in 1927. Rickenbacker went into massive debt, but was determined to pay back all of the $250,000 he owed, despite personally going bankrupt (and therefore no longer being legally obligated to do so). Eventually, all vehicles manufactured in the U.S. incorporated four-wheel braking.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway

On November 1, 1927, Rickenbacker bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, located in Speedway, Indiana in the United States, is the home of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race and the Brickyard 400....

, which he operated for nearly a decade and a half, overseeing many improvements to the facility. Once the Speedway operations were under control, Rickenbacker looked for additional opportunities for entrepreneurship, including in sales for the Cadillac division of General Motors, and for various aircraft manufacturers and airlines. After the 500 miles (804.7 km) race in 1941, Rickenbacker closed the Speedway due to World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Among other things, holding the race would have been a waste of valuable gasoline
Gasoline
Gasoline , or petrol , is a toxic, translucent, petroleum-derived liquid that is primarily used as a fuel in internal combustion engines. It consists mostly of organic compounds obtained by the fractional distillation of petroleum, enhanced with a variety of additives. Some gasolines also contain...

 and other fuels. In 1945, Rickenbacker sold the racetrack to the businessman Anton Hulman, Jr.

Clashes with President Roosevelt

Rickenbacker was adamantly opposed to President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal
New Deal
The New Deal was a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They were passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were Roosevelt's responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call...

 policies, seeing them as little better than socialism
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

. For this, he drew criticism and ire from the press and the Roosevelt administration, which ordered NBC Radio not to allow him to broadcast opinions critical of Roosevelt's policies after Rickenbacker had harshly denounced the president's decision to rescind existing mail contracts
Air Mail Scandal
The Air Mail scandal, also known as the Air Mail fiasco, is the name that the American press gave to the political scandal resulting from a congressional investigation of a 1930 meeting , between Postmaster General Walter Folger Brown and the executives of the top airlines, and to the disastrous...

 in 1934 and have Army Air Corps
United States Army Air Corps
The United States Army Air Corps was a forerunner of the United States Air Force. Renamed from the Air Service on 2 July 1926, it was part of the United States Army and the predecessor of the United States Army Air Forces , established in 1941...

 pilots carry the air mail. At the time, Rickenbacker was vice president of one of the companies affected, Eastern Air Transport. When a number of inexperienced, undertrained army pilots were killed in crashes soon afterward, Rickenbacker stated, "That's legalized murder!"

Eastern Air Lines

Rickenbacker's most lasting business endeavor was his longtime leadership of Eastern Air Lines
Eastern Air Lines
Eastern Air Lines was a major United States airline that existed from 1926 to 1991. Before its dissolution it was headquartered at Miami International Airport in unincorporated Miami-Dade County, Florida.-History:...

. Through the 1920s, he had worked with and for General Motors
General Motors
General Motors Company , commonly known as GM, formerly incorporated as General Motors Corporation, is an American multinational automotive corporation headquartered in Detroit, Michigan and the world's second-largest automaker in 2010...

 (GM): first as the California distributor for its new car, the short-lived Sheridan, then later as a marketer for the LaSalle, and finally as vice president of sales for their affiliate, Fokker Aircraft Company
Fokker
Fokker was a Dutch aircraft manufacturer named after its founder, Anthony Fokker. The company operated under several different names, starting out in 1912 in Schwerin, Germany, moving to the Netherlands in 1919....

. He persuaded GM to purchase North American Aviation
North American Aviation
North American Aviation was a major US aerospace manufacturer, responsible for a number of historic aircraft, including the T-6 Texan trainer, the P-51 Mustang fighter, the B-25 Mitchell bomber, the F-86 Sabre jet fighter, the X-15 rocket plane, and the XB-70, as well as Apollo Command and Service...

, a conglomerate whose assets included Eastern Air Transport. GM asked him to manage Eastern, beginning in 1935. With the help of some friends, Rickenbacker merged Eastern Air Transport and Florida Airways to form Eastern Air Lines, an airline that eventually grew from a company flying a few thousand miles per week into a major airline
Airline
An airline provides air transport services for traveling passengers and freight. Airlines lease or own their aircraft with which to supply these services and may form partnerships or alliances with other airlines for mutual benefit...

. In April 1938, after learning that GM was considering selling Eastern to John D. Hertz
John D. Hertz
John Daniel Hertz, Sr. was an American businessman, thoroughbred racehorse owner, and philanthropist.-Biography:...

, Rickenbacker met with GM's Chairman of the Board, Alfred P. Sloan
Alfred P. Sloan
Alfred Pritchard Sloan, Jr. was an American business executive in the automotive industry. He was a long-time president, chairman, and CEO of General Motors Corporation...

, and bought the company for $3.5 million.

Rickenbacker oversaw many radical changes in the field of commercial aviation. He negotiated with the U.S. government to acquire air mail routes, a great advantage to companies in need of business. He helped develop and support new aircraft designs. Rickenbacker bought the new, large, faster airliner
Airliner
An airliner is a large fixed-wing aircraft for transporting passengers and cargo. Such aircraft are operated by airlines. Although the definition of an airliner can vary from country to country, an airliner is typically defined as an aircraft intended for carrying multiple passengers in commercial...

s for Eastern Air Lines, including the four-engined Lockheed Constellation
Lockheed Constellation
The Lockheed Constellation was a propeller-driven airliner powered by four 18-cylinder radial Wright R-3350 engines. It was built by Lockheed between 1943 and 1958 at its Burbank, California, USA, facility. A total of 856 aircraft were produced in numerous models, all distinguished by a...

 and Douglas DC-4
Douglas DC-4
The Douglas DC-4 is a four-engined propeller-driven airliner developed by the Douglas Aircraft Company. It served during World War II, in the Berlin Airlift and into the 1960s in a military role...

. Rickenbacker personally collaborated with many of the pioneers of aviation, including Donald W. Douglas, the founder of the Douglas Aircraft Company
Douglas Aircraft Company
The Douglas Aircraft Company was an American aerospace manufacturer, based in Long Beach, California. It was founded in 1921 by Donald Wills Douglas, Sr. and later merged with McDonnell Aircraft in 1967 to form McDonnell Douglas...

, and the designer and builder of the large, four-engined airliners, the DC-4, DC-6, DC-7, and DC-8 (its first jet airliner).

Rickenbacker promoted flying to the American public, but, always aware of the possibility of accidents, he wrote in his autobiography, "I have never liked to use the word "safe" in connection with either Eastern Air Lines or the entire transportation field; I prefer the word 'reliable'."

Rickenbacker's near-fatal airline crash

Rickenbacker often traveled for business on Eastern Air Lines flights. On February 26, 1941, he was a passenger on a Douglas DC-3
Douglas DC-3
The Douglas DC-3 is an American fixed-wing propeller-driven aircraft whose speed and range revolutionized air transport in the 1930s and 1940s. Its lasting impact on the airline industry and World War II makes it one of the most significant transport aircraft ever made...

 airliner that crashed just outside of Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta is the capital and most populous city in the U.S. state of Georgia. According to the 2010 census, Atlanta's population is 420,003. Atlanta is the cultural and economic center of the Atlanta metropolitan area, which is home to 5,268,860 people and is the ninth largest metropolitan area in...

. Rickenbacker suffered especially grave injuries, being soaked in fuel, immobile, and trapped in the wreckage. In spite of his own critical wounds, Rickenbacker encouraged the other passengers, offered what consolation he could to those around him who were injured or dying, and guided the survivors who were still ambulatory to attempt to find help. The survivors were rescued after spending the night at the crash site. Rickenbacker barely survived. This was just the first time that the press announced his death while he was still alive.

In a dramatic retelling of the incident, Rickenbacker's autobiography relates his astonishing experiences. While he was still conscious but in terrible pain, Rickenbacker was left behind while some ambulances carried away bodies of the dead. When Rickenbacker arrived at a hospital, his injuries appeared so grotesque that the emergency surgeon
Surgeon
In medicine, a surgeon is a specialist in surgery. Surgery is a broad category of invasive medical treatment that involves the cutting of a body, whether human or animal, for a specific reason such as the removal of diseased tissue or to repair a tear or breakage...

s and physician
Physician
A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...

s left him for dead for some time. They instructed their assistants to "take care of the live ones." Rickenbacker's injuries included a fractured skull, other head injuries, a shattered left elbow with a crushed nerve, a paralyzed left hand, several broken ribs, a crushed hip socket, a pelvis broken in two places, a severed nerve in his left hip, and a broken left knee. Rickenbacker's left eyeball was also blown out of its socket.

It took many months in the hospital, followed by a long time at home, for Rickenbacker to heal from this multitude of injuries and to regain his full eyesight. Rickenbacker described his terrible experience with vivid accounts of his mental state as he approached death—emphasizing the supreme act of will that it took to stave off dying. Rickenbacker's autobiography reports that he spent ten days at the door of death, which he illustrated as "having an overwhelming sensation of calm and pleasure".

Ace Drummond

Rickenbacker also scripted a popular comic strip called Ace Drummond
Ace Drummond
Ace Drummond was an aviation comic strip scripted by Eddie Rickenbacker, the celebrated World War I aviator, and illustrated by Clayton Knight , well-known aviation author and artist, who was the father of illustrator Hilary Knight...

from 1935-1940. He worked with aviation artist and author Clayton Knight, who illustrated the series. The strip followed the adventures of aviator Drummond. It was later adapted into a film serial and radio program.

World War II

Rickenbacker supported the war effort as a civilian. In 1942, he toured training bases in the southwestern United States and in England. He encouraged the American public to contribute time and resources, and pledged Eastern Air Lines equipment and personnel for use in military activities.

Rickenbacker inspected troops, operations, and equipment, and served in a publicity function to increase support from civilians and soldiers. In 1942, with a sweeping letter of authorization from Henry L. Stimson
Henry L. Stimson
Henry Lewis Stimson was an American statesman, lawyer and Republican Party politician and spokesman on foreign policy. He twice served as Secretary of War 1911–1913 under Republican William Howard Taft and 1940–1945, under Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the latter role he was a leading hawk...

, U.S. Secretary of War
United States Secretary of War
The Secretary of War was a member of the United States President's Cabinet, beginning with George Washington's administration. A similar position, called either "Secretary at War" or "Secretary of War," was appointed to serve the Congress of the Confederation under the Articles of Confederation...

, Rickenbacker visited England on an official war mission and made ground-breaking recommendations for better war operations.

Adrift at sea

One of Rickenbacker's most famous near-death experiences occurred in October 1942. He was sent on a tour of the Pacific Theater of Operations
Pacific Theater of Operations
The Pacific Theater of Operations was the World War II area of military activity in the Pacific Ocean and the countries bordering it, a geographic scope that reflected the operational and administrative command structures of the American forces during that period...

 to review both living conditions and military operations, and also to deliver personally a secret message to General Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

 from the President. After visiting several air and sea bases in Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

, Rickenbacker was a passenger in the B-17D Flying Fortress numbered 40-3089, which strayed hundreds of miles off course while on its way to a refueling stop on Canton Island in the Central Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

. The B-17 was forced to ditch
Water landing
A water landing is, in the broadest sense, any landing on a body of water. All waterfowl, those seabirds capable of flight, and some human-built vehicles are capable of landing in water as a matter of course....

 in a remote and little-traveled part of the Central Pacific.

The failure in navigation has been ascribed to an out-of-adjustment celestial navigation
Celestial navigation
Celestial navigation, also known as astronavigation, is a position fixing technique that has evolved over several thousand years to help sailors cross oceans without having to rely on estimated calculations, or dead reckoning, to know their position...

 instrument, a bubble octant, that gave a systematic bias to all of its readings. That octant reportedly had suffered a severe shock in a pre-takeoff
Takeoff
Takeoff is the phase of flight in which an aerospace vehicle goes from the ground to flying in the air.For horizontal takeoff aircraft this usually involves starting with a transition from moving along the ground on a runway. For balloons, helicopters and some specialized fixed-wing aircraft , no...

 mishap. This unnecessary ditching spurred on the development of improved navigational instruments and also better survival gear
Survival kit
A survival kit is a package of basic tools and supplies prepared in advance as an aid to survival in an emergency. Military aircraft, lifeboats, and spacecraft are equipped with survival kits....

 for the aircrewmen. The B-17's pilot-in-command, Captain William T. Cherry, Jr., was forced to ditch his B-17 in the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

, rather close to Japanese
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

-held islands, also. However, the Americans were never spotted by Japanese patrol planes, and they were to drift on the ocean for thousands of miles.

For 24 days, Rickenbacker, the Army captain Hans C. Adamson, his friend and business partner, and the rest of the crewmen drifted in life rafts at sea. Rickenbacker was still suffering somewhat from his earlier airplane crash, and Capt. Adamson sustained serious injuries during the ditching. The other crewmen in the B-17 were hurt to varying degrees. The crewmen's food supply ran out after three days. Then, on the eighth day, a seagull landed on Rickenbacker's head. He warily and cautiously captured it, and then the survivors meticulously divided it into equal parts and used part of it for fishing bait. They lived on sporadic rain water that fell and similar food "miracles".

Rickenbacker assumed leadership, encouraging and browbeating the others to keep their spirits up. One crewman, Alexander Kaczmarczyk of the USAAF, died and was buried at sea. The U.S. Army Air Forces and the U.S. Navy's patrol planes planned to abandon the search for the lost B-17 crewmen after just over two weeks, but Rickenbacker's wife persuaded them to extend it another week. The services agreed to do so. Once again, the newspapers and radio broadcasts reported that Rickenbacker was dead.

A U.S. Navy patrol OS2U-3 Kingfisher
OS2U Kingfisher
The Vought OS2U Kingfisher was an American catapult-launched observation floatplane. It was a compact mid-wing monoplane, with a large central float and small stabilizing floats. Performance was modest, because of its light engine...

 float-plane piloted by Lieutenant William F. Eadie, USN spotted and rescued the survivors on November 13, off the coast of Nukufetau
Nukufetau
Nukufetau is an atoll that is part of the nation of Tuvalu. The atoll was claimed by the US under the Guano Islands Act some time in the 19th century and was ceded in a treaty of friendship concluded in 1979 and coming into force in 1983...

 in Tuvalu
Tuvalu
Tuvalu , formerly known as the Ellice Islands, is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia. Its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Fiji. It comprises four reef islands and five true atolls...

. All were suffering from exposure
Exposure
-Entertainment:* Exposure , the practice of revealing the secrets of magic to non-magicians* Exposure , a short film anthology series on Sci-Fi Channel from 2000–2002* Exposure , a current affairs strand on ITV in 2011...

, sunburn
Sunburn
A sunburn is a burn to living tissue, such as skin, which is produced by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation, commonly from the sun's rays. Usual mild symptoms in humans and other animals include red or reddish skin that is hot to the touch, general fatigue, and mild dizziness. An excess of UV...

, dehydration
Dehydration
In physiology and medicine, dehydration is defined as the excessive loss of body fluid. It is literally the removal of water from an object; however, in physiological terms, it entails a deficiency of fluid within an organism...

, and near-starvation
Starvation
Starvation is a severe deficiency in caloric energy, nutrient and vitamin intake. It is the most extreme form of malnutrition. In humans, prolonged starvation can cause permanent organ damage and eventually, death...

. Eadie was awarded the Navy's Air Medal
Air Medal
The Air Medal is a military decoration of the United States. The award was created in 1942, and is awarded for meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight.-Criteria:...

. Rickenbacker completed his assignment and delivered his message to General MacArthur, which has never been made public. Rickenbacker had thought that he had been lost for 21 days, and wrote a book about this experience titled Seven Came Through, published by Doubleday, Doran. It was not until later that he recalculated the number of days, and he corrected himself in his autobiography in 1967.

The story was also recounted in Lt. James Whittaker's book We Thought We Heard The Angels Sing, published in 1943.

The story of Rickenbacker's ordeal has been used as an example for Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcoholics Anonymous is an international mutual aid movement which says its "primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety." Now claiming more than 2 million members, AA was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in Akron, Ohio...

 when the first of their Twelve Traditions
Twelve Traditions
The Twelve Traditions of twelve-step programs provide guidelines for relationships between the twelve-step groups, members, other groups, the global fellowship, and society at large. Questions of finance, public relations, donations, and purpose are addressed in the Traditions...

 was formulated: "Our common welfare should come first. Personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity."

1943 mission to the USSR

Still determined to support the U.S. war effort, Rickenbacker suggested a fact-finding mission in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 to provide the Soviets with needed technical assistance for their American aircraft. Rickenbacker approached Soviet diplomats, and avoided requesting help from President Franklin Roosevelt, due to their prior disagreements. With the help of the Secretary of War
United States Secretary of War
The Secretary of War was a member of the United States President's Cabinet, beginning with George Washington's administration. A similar position, called either "Secretary at War" or "Secretary of War," was appointed to serve the Congress of the Confederation under the Articles of Confederation...

 and by trading favors with the Soviet ambassador, Rickenbacker secured unlikely permission to travel to the Soviet Union. The War Department
United States Department of War
The United States Department of War, also called the War Department , was the United States Cabinet department originally responsible for the operation and maintenance of the United States Army...

 provided everything Rickenbacker needed, including a highly unusual letter stating that the bearer was authorized to "visit ... any ... areas he may deem necessary for such purposes as he will explain to you in person", signed by the Secretary of War.

Rickenbacker's trip took him over South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

, where he made observations about the conditions there. He stopped in Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, at each stop reviewing American operations and making notes to report to authorities. In Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Rickenbacker offered to bring along an American officer, whose unapproved request to travel to the Soviet Union delayed Rickenbacker's party for a few days.

In the Soviet Union, Rickenbacker observed wartime conditions, the extraordinary dedication and patriotism by the populace, and the ruthless denial of food to those deemed unproductive to the war effort. He befriended many Soviet officials and shared his knowledge of the aircraft they had received from the United States. He was lavishly entertained and recalled attempts by KGB
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

 agents and officials to get him intoxicated enough to disclose sensitive information.

Rickenbacker's mission was successful. He discovered that a commander of Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

's defense had stayed at Rickenbacker's home in 1937, and personal connections like this and the respect the Soviet military personnel had for him greatly aided his information-gathering. He learned about Soviet defense strategies and capabilities. In the distraction resulting from the outbreak of the Battle of Kursk
Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk took place when German and Soviet forces confronted each other on the Eastern Front during World War II in the vicinity of the city of Kursk, in the Soviet Union in July and August 1943. It remains both the largest series of armored clashes, including the Battle of Prokhorovka,...

, he saw a map of the front line showing the locations of all major Soviet military units, which he did his best to memorize. He also persuaded his hosts to give him an unprecedented tour of the Shturmovik
Ilyushin Il-2
The Ilyushin Il-2 was a ground-attack aircraft in the Second World War, produced by the Soviet Union in very large numbers...

 aircraft factory. But it was comments made by Rickenbacker during his trip that alerted the Soviets to the existence of the secret B-29 Superfortress
B-29 Superfortress
The B-29 Superfortress is a four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber designed by Boeing that was flown primarily by the United States Air Forces in late-World War II and through the Korean War. The B-29 was one of the largest aircraft to see service during World War II...

 program.

Rickenbacker observed some traces of capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 (for example, people were allowed to grow food and sell their surplus) and predicted that the Soviet Union would eventually become a capitalist nation.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 interviewed Rickenbacker about his mission. In the U.S., Rickenbacker's information resulted in some diplomatic and military action, but President Roosevelt did not meet with Rickenbacker.

Later life

Although his main home was in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 for many years, Rickenbacker owned a winter home in Coconut Grove, Florida
Coconut Grove, Florida
Coconut Grove is the oldest continuously inhabited neighborhood of Miami, Florida in Miami-Dade County, United States. The neighborhood is roughly bound by North Prospect Drive to the south, LeJeune Road to the west, South Dixie Highway and Rickenbacker Causeway to the north, and Biscayne Bay to...

, near the Eastern Air Lines
Eastern Air Lines
Eastern Air Lines was a major United States airline that existed from 1926 to 1991. Before its dissolution it was headquartered at Miami International Airport in unincorporated Miami-Dade County, Florida.-History:...

' major maintenance and administrative headquarters at the Miami International Airport
Miami International Airport
Miami International Airport , also known as MIA and historically Wilcox Field, is the primary airport serving the South Florida area...

. For a time, Eastern was the most profitable airline in the postwar era. During the late 1950s though, Eastern Air Line's fortunes declined, and Rickenbacker was forced out of his position as CEO on October 1, 1959. Rickenbacker also resigned as the Chairman of the Board on December 31, 1963, at the age of 73. After that, Capt. and Mrs. Rickenbacker traveled extensively for a number of years.

In the 1960s, Rickenbacker became a well-known speaker. He shared his vision for the future of technology and commerce, exhorted Americans to respect the enemy, the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, but still uphold American values. Rickenbacker endorsed many conservative ideas.

In 1967, when Rickenbacker published his autobiography, a special edition was printed for the employees of Eastern Air Lines, and it contained the following dedication:

To the Men and Women of Eastern Air Lines
It is with pleasure and pride that I inscribe to you this copy of my life story from the time I was three years of age.

You will find therein the source of those principles I used to preach; and if they can help you avoid even a few of the keen disappointments and bitter heartaches that I have lived through, then I will feel well repaid for my efforts.

From these principles and our labors together emerged one of our country's great airlines and further developed our great heritage of pioneering. In the years ahead young, strong hands will carry them into a future which you and I, with all our dreams, can scarcely visualize---that "Parade of Youth" which always was and always will be the true spirit of Eastern Air Lines.


(signed) Capt Eddie Rickenbacker


Capt. Rickenbacker suffered from a stroke
Stroke
A stroke, previously known medically as a cerebrovascular accident , is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia caused by blockage , or a hemorrhage...

 while he was in Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 seeking special medical treatment for Mrs. Rickenbacker, and he then contracted pneumonia
Pneumonia
Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung—especially affecting the microscopic air sacs —associated with fever, chest symptoms, and a lack of air space on a chest X-ray. Pneumonia is typically caused by an infection but there are a number of other causes...

. Rickenbacker died on July 23, 1973 in Zürich, Switzerland, a memorial service was held at the Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church with the eulogy given by Lt. General Jimmy Doolittle, and then his body was interred in Columbus, Ohio
Columbus, Ohio
Columbus is the capital of and the largest city in the U.S. state of Ohio. The broader metropolitan area encompasses several counties and is the third largest in Ohio behind those of Cleveland and Cincinnati. Columbus is the third largest city in the American Midwest, and the fifteenth largest city...

, at the Green Lawn Cemetery.

In 1977, at the age of 92, Adelaide Rickenbacker was completely blind, suffering from failing health, and still grieving severely from the loss of her husband. She committed suicide by gunshot at their home on Key Biscayne, Florida
Key Biscayne, Florida
Key Biscayne is a village in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States on the island of Key Biscayne. The population was 10,507 at the 2000 census. As of 2004, the population estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau is 10,324....

.

Military Awards

Junior Military Aviator Badge
U.S. Air Force Aeronautical Ratings
U.S. Air Force aeronautical ratings are military aviation skill standards established and awarded by the United States Air Force for commissioned officers participating in "regular and frequent flight", The standard by which flight status has been defined in law, executive orders, and regulations...

Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...

Distinguished Service Cross
Distinguished Service Cross (United States)
The Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Army, for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force. Actions that merit the Distinguished Service Cross must be of such a high degree...

World War I Victory Medal Croix de guerre (WWI)
Croix de guerre 1914-1918 (France)
The Croix de guerre 1914–1918 is a French military decoration.-Creation:Soon after the outbreak of World War I, French military officials felt that a new military award had to be created...


Medal of Honor citation

Edward V. Rickenbacker, Colonel, specialist reserve, then first lieutenant, 94th Aero Squadron, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy near Billy, France, September 25, 1918. While on a voluntary patrol over the lines Lieutenant. Rickenbacker attacked seven enemy planes (five type Fokker protecting two type Halberstadt photographic planes). Disregarding the odds against him he dived on them and shot down one of the Fokkers out of control. He then attacked one of the Halberstadts and sent it down also.


Medal of Honor citation, awarded November 6, 1930

First Distinguished Service Cross citation

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Montsec, France, April 29, 1918. Captain Rickenbacker attacked an enemy Albatross monoplane, and after a vigorous fight in which he followed his foe into German territory, he succeeded in shooting it down near Vigneulles-les-Hatton Chatel.

General Orders No. 32, W.D., 1919

Second Distinguished Service Cross citation

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), U.S . for extraordinary heroism in action over Richecourt, France, on May 17, 1918. Captain Rickenbacker attacked three Albatross enemy planes, shooting one down in the vicinity of Richecourt, France, and forcing the others to retreat over their own lines.

General Orders No. 32, W.D., 1919

Third Distinguished Service Cross citation

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action over St. Mihiel, France, on May 22, 1918. Captain Rickenbacker attacked three Albatross monoplanes 4,000 meters over St. Mihiel, France. He drove them back into German territory, separated one from the group, and shot it down near Flirey.

General Orders No. 32, W.D., 1919

Fourth Distinguished Service Cross citation

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action over Boise Rate, France, on May 28, 1918. Captain Rickenbacker sighted a group of two battle planes and four monoplanes, German planes, which he at once attacked vigorously, shooting down one and dispersing the others.

General Orders No. 32, W.D., 1919

Fifth Distinguished Service Cross citation

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action on May 30, 1918, 4,000 meters over Jaulny, France. Captain Rickenbacker attacked a group of five enemy planes. After a violent battle, he shot down one plane and drove the others away.


General Orders No. 32, W.D., 1919

Sixth Distinguished Service Cross citation

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action in the region of Villecy, France, September 14, 1918. Captain Rickenbacker attacked four Fokker enemy planes at an altitude of 3,000 meters. After a sharp and hot action, he succeeded in shooting one down in flames and dispersing the other three.

General Orders No. 32, W.D., 1919

Seventh Distinguished Service Cross citation

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action in the region of Bois-de-Wavrille, France, September 15, 1918. Captain Rickenbacker encountered six enemy planes, who were in the act of attacking four Spads, which were below them. Undeterred by their superior numbers, he unhesitatingly attacked them and succeeded in shooting one down in flames and completely breaking the formation of the others.

General Orders No. 32, W.D., 1919

Other

Rickenbacker was inducted into various halls of fame including the National Aviation Hall of Fame
National Aviation Hall of Fame
The American National Aviation Hall of Fame is located at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, east Dayton, Ohio...

 in 1965, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame
International Motorsports Hall of Fame
The International Motorsports Hall of Fame is a Hall of Fame dedicated to enshrining those who have contributed the most to auto racing either as a driver, owner, developer or engineer...

 in 1992, the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame
National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum
The National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum is a Hall of Fame and museum for sprint car drivers, owners, mechanics, builders, manufacturers, promoters, sanctioning officials and media members....

 in 1992 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America
Motorsports Hall of Fame of America
The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America is a Hall of Fame and museum for American motorsports legends. It was originally located in Novi, Michigan and it moved to the Detroit Science Center in 2009.-Museum:...

 in 1994.

He also received the Tony Jannus Award
Tony Jannus Award
The Tony Jannus Award recognizes outstanding individual achievement in scheduled commercial aviation by airline executives, inventors and manufacturers, and government leaders. The award is conferred annually by the Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Society and was first bestowed in 1964 in Tampa,...

 in 1967 for his contributions to scheduled commercial aviation.

What is now Dobbins Air Reserve Base
Dobbins Air Reserve Base
Dobbins Air Reserve Base or Dobbins ARB is a United States air reserve base located in Marietta, Georgia, a suburb about northwest of Atlanta. It was named in honor of Captain Charles M. Dobbins, a World War II C-47 pilot who died near Sicily...

 was originally called Rickenbacker Field in his honor when it opened in 1941. In 1945 20th Century Fox made a movie called Captain Eddie. It starred Fred MacMurray as Rickenbacker. In November 1947, a four mile (6 km) causeway was completed, linking Miami
Miami, Florida
Miami is a city located on the Atlantic coast in southeastern Florida and the county seat of Miami-Dade County, the most populous county in Florida and the eighth-most populous county in the United States with a population of 2,500,625...

 on the mainland of Florida with Crandon Park on the island of Key Biscayne
Key Biscayne
Key Biscayne is an island located in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States, between the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay. It is the southernmost of the barrier islands along the Atlantic coast of Florida, and lies south of Miami Beach and southeast of Miami...

. The road was named Rickenbacker Causeway in his honor. In 1974, Lockbourne Air Force Base in his home town of Columbus was renamed Rickenbacker Air Force Base. On April 1, 1980 it was turned over to the Air National Guard and renamed Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base. It shares an airfield with Rickenbacker International Airport
Rickenbacker International Airport
Rickenbacker International Airport is a joint civil-military public airport located 10 miles south of the central business district of Columbus, near the village of Lockbourne in extreme southern Franklin County, Ohio, United States. The southern end of the airport extends into northern Pickaway...

.

The Rickenbacker award is the Civil Air Patrol
Civil Air Patrol
Civil Air Patrol is a Congressionally chartered, federally supported, non-profit corporation that serves as the official civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force . CAP is a volunteer organization with an aviation-minded membership that includes people from all backgrounds, lifestyles, and...

 cadet achievement equivalent to an Active Duty Air Force Technical Sergeant. Cadets awarded the Rickenbacker achievement are promoted to C/TSgt.

The United States Postal Service issued a postage stamp in honor of Rickenbacker's accomplishments as an aviation pioneer in 1995.

Cultural references

In his comic strip
Comic strip
A comic strip is a sequence of drawings arranged in interrelated panels to display brief humor or form a narrative, often serialized, with text in balloons and captions....

 Li'l Abner
Li'l Abner
Li'l Abner is a satirical American comic strip that appeared in many newspapers in the United States, Canada and Europe, featuring a fictional clan of hillbillies in the impoverished town of Dogpatch, Kentucky. Written and drawn by Al Capp , the strip ran for 43 years, from August 13, 1934 through...

, Al Capp
Al Capp
Alfred Gerald Caplin , better known as Al Capp, was an American cartoonist and humorist best known for the satirical comic strip Li'l Abner. He also wrote the comic strips Abbie an' Slats and Long Sam...

 included an airplane pilot modeled on Rickenbacker: Cap'n Eddie Ricketyback.

Eddie Rickenbacker appears in the computer game Red Baron as one of the Allied aces. In the 1999 game System Shock 2
System Shock 2
System Shock 2 is a 1999 first-person action role-playing video game, designed by Ken Levine for Microsoft Windows. The title is a sequel to the 1994 PC game System Shock, and was co-developed by Irrational Games and Looking Glass Studios...

, a military spaceship is named the UNN Rickenbacker. Wings of War
Wings of War
Wings of War, by Andrea Angiolino and Pier Giorgio Paglia, is a modular boardgame collection published by Nexus Editrice and dedicated to air combat.A new edition is announced by Ares Games as Wings of Glory....

: Famous Aces
features Rickenbacker's Spad XIII. He also appears in the World War I simulation game Rise of Flight as an instructor.

In the 2007 movie The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is a 2007 American documentary film that follows Steve Wiebe as he tries to take the world high score for the arcade game Donkey Kong from reigning champion Billy Mitchell...

, Billy Mitchell
Billy Mitchell (gamer)
Billy L. Mitchell, born July 16, 1965, in Holyoke, Massachusetts, is best known for recording high scores in classic video games from the Golden Age of Arcade Games. He has been claimed by some as the "greatest arcade-video-game player of all time". His achievements include the first perfect score...

 compares Eddie Rickenbacker with the Red Baron to illustrate his own dominance of competitive video game playing, stating "There's a level of difference between some people."

In 2009, musician Todd Snider
Todd Snider
Todd Daniel Snider is an American singer-songwriter with a musical style that combines Americana, alt-country, and folk.-Biography:...

 wrote a song called "Money, Compliments, and Publicity," which revolves around a statement Rickenbacker made indicating that the pinnacle of success is when you lose interest in money, compliments, and publicity.

In the 1955 film The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell, Rickenbacker is played by Tom McKee
Tom McKee
Tom McKee is an American politician. A member of the Democratic Party, McKee is a state representative from Kentucky's 78th district.McKee, a tobacco farmer and resident of Cynthiana, Kentucky, was first elected to the house seat in 1996...

.

In the 2004 novel The Godfather Returns
The Godfather Returns
The Godfather Returns is a novel written by author Mark Winegardner, published in 2004. It is the sequel to Mario Puzo's The Godfather, which was originally published in 1969, and The Sicilian...

,
Nick Geraci is reading Eddie Rickenbacker's autobiography. His father quotes from the sleeve of the book.

Rickenbacker Guitars

Eddie was a distant cousin of Adolph Rickenbacker, co-founder of Rickenbacker Guitars. The company name was purposely chosen for the association with Eddie Rickenbacker.

See also

  • List of Medal of Honor recipients for World War I
  • Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker House


External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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