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EDDIE RICKENBACKER – THINGS TO KNOW

Edward Vernon Rickenbacker (October 8, 1890 – July 23, 1973) was an American fighter ace in World War I and a Medal of Honor recipient. With 26 aerial victories, he was the United States’ most successful fighter ace in the war and is considered to have received the most awards for valor by an American during the war. He was also a race car driver and automotive designer, a government consultant in military matters and a pioneer in air transportation, particularly as the long-time head of Eastern Air Lines.

1. He loved auto racing. In his first automobile race, Rickenbacker failed to finish after crashing through an outer fence. Nevertheless, his passion for speed was confirmed. That summer he went on to win most of the dirt track races he entered, including five of six at Omaha’s Aksarben Festival in October.

2. Rickenbacker was accident-prone. In his autobiography, he recounted numerous scrapes he had in his early years. Even before entering school, he toddled into an oncoming horse-drawn streetcar and fell twelve feet into an open cistern.

3. He almost lost his life to a fire. Early in his school career, he ran back into his burning school building to retrieve his winter coat, and nearly paid for it with his life.

4. He was a gardener and farmer. He helped in the garden (potatoes, cabbages, and turnips) and with the animals (chickens, goats, and pigs)

5. He was streetwise and tough. He also had a sensitive and artistic side, too. He enjoyed painting watercolors of “flowers and scenery and animals.”[6] Art was a passion he hoped to pursue as a career.

6. Rickenbacker made his first sortie with Reed Chambers on April 13, which almost ended in disaster when both became lost and Chambers had to make a forced landing. Flight commander David Peterson called Rickenbacker a “bloody fool for flying off in a fog.

7. On May 28, he claimed his fifth victory to become an ace. Rickenbacker was awarded the French Croix de Guerre that month for his five victories. This success did not mean the end of difficulties, however. Several times he almost fired on friendly planes. He nearly crashed when the fabric on his Nieuport’s wing tore off in a dive. He mourned the death of Lufbery. And his guns kept jamming whenever he went in for the kill.

8. Rickenbacker was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross a record eight times.

9. He was also awarded the Legion of Honor and the Croix de Guerre by France.

10. In 1919, Rickenbacker was discharged from the Army Air Service with the rank of captain, which he had obtained sometime in September.