Eddie Rickenbacker

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Edward Vernon Rickenbacker

Capt. E.V. "Eddie" Rickenbacker wearing the Medal of Honor. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Nickname Eddie
Fast Eddie
Born October 8, 1890(1890-10-08)
Columbus, Ohio
Died July 23, 1973(1973-07-23) (aged 82)[1]
Zürich, Switzerland
Place of burial Columbus, Ohio
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch United States Army Air Service
Years of service 1917–1919
Rank Major
Commands held 94th Aero Squadron
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross (9)
World War I Victory Medal
Legion of Honor
Croix de Guerre
Other work Championship racing driver
Rickenbacker car company
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Eastern Air Lines

Edward Vernon Rickenbacker (October 8, 1890 – July 23, 1973) was an American fighter ace in World War I. He was also and Medal of Honor recipient. With 26 aerial victories he was America's most successful fighter ace in the war. He was also a race car driver and automotive designer. He was a government consultant in military matters and a pioneer in air transportation. He was also the longtime head of Eastern Air Lines.

Early life[change | edit source]

Rickenbacker driving in the 1915 American Grand Prize at San Francisco.

He was born Edward Rickenbacher (without a middle name) in Columbus, Ohio. His parents were German-speaking Swiss immigrants. Since childhood he loved machines and experimented with them. He was encouraged by his father's words: "A machine has to have a purpose".

Rickenbacker nearly died many times. He had an early run-in with a horse-drawn carriage, a botched tonsillectomy and multiple airplane crashes. His first near death experience 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.

He stopped going to school in grade seven after the accidental death of his father on August 26, 1904.[2] Rickenbacker found jobs to help support the family. Driven by an intense admiration for machines he taught himself as much as he could. This included enrolling in a correspondence course in engineering. He aggressively pursued any chance of involvement with automobiles. Rickenbacker went to work at the Columbus Buggy Company. He eventually becoming a salesman.

Rickenbacker became well known as a race car driver. He competed in the Indianapolis 500 four times before World War I. He earned the nickname "Fast Eddie".[3] He joined the Maxwell Race Team in 1915 after leaving Peugeot. 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.[4]

Verified aerial victories[change | edit source]

Eddie Rickenbacker in his SPAD S.XIII
SPAD XIII in the colors of the 94th Aero Squadron. Aircraft is marked as Eddie Rickenbacker's aircraft.
Number[5] Date Time Aircraft Opponent Location
1 01918-04-29 April 29 1918 1810 Nieuport Pfalz D.III Baussant
2 01918-05-07 May 7 1918 0805 Nieuport Pfalz D.III Pont-à-Mousson
3 01918-05-17 May 17 1918 1824 Nieuport Albatros D.V Ribécourt
4 01918-05-22 May 22 1918 0912 Nieuport Albatros D.V Flirey
5 01918-05-28 May 28 1918 0925 Nieuport Albatros C.I Bois de Rate
6 01918-05-30 May 30 1918 0738 Nieuport Albatros C.I Jaulny
7 01918-09-14 September 14 1918 0815 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Villecy
8 01918-09-15 September 15 1918 0810 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Bois de Warville
9 01918-09-25 September 25 1918 0840 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Billy
10 01918-09-25 September 25 1918 0850 SPAD XIII Halberstadt C Foret de Spincourt
11 01918-09-26 September 26 1918 0600 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Damvillers
12 01918-09-28 September 28 1918 0500 SPAD XIII Balloon Sivry-sur-Meuse
13 01918-10-01 October 1 1918 1930 SPAD XIII Balloon Puzieux
14 01918-10-02 October 2 1918 1730 SPAD XIII Hannover CL Montfaucon
15 01918-10-02 October 2 1918 1740 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Vilosnes
16 01918-10-03 October 3 1918 1707 SPAD XIII Balloon Dannevoux
17 01918-10-03 October 3 1918 1640 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Cléry-le-Grand
18 01918-10-09 October 9 1918 1752 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Dun-sur-Meuse
19 01918-10-10 October 10 1918 1552 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Cléry-le-Petit
20 01918-10-10 October 10 1918 1552 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Cléry-le-Petit
21 01918-10-22 October 22 1918 1555 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Cléry-le-Petit
22 01918-10-23 October 23 1918 1655 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Grande Carne Ferme
23 01918-10-27 October 27 1918 1505 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Bois de Money
24 01918-10-27 October 27 1918 1450 SPAD XIII Fokker D.VII Grand Pre
25 01918-10-27 October 27 1918 1635 SPAD XIII Balloon St. Juvin
26 01918-10-30 October 30 1918 1040 SPAD XIII Balloon Remonville

Honors and awards[change | edit source]

Military Awards[change | edit source]

Medal of Honor citation[change | edit source]

Rickenbacker's military awards, badges, and insignia on display at the San Diego Aerospace Museum

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.[6]

Medal of Honor citation, awarded November 6, 1930

First Distinguished Service Cross citation[change | edit source]

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), US 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[5]

Second Distinguished Service Cross citation[change | edit source]

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[5]

Third Distinguished Service Cross citation[change | edit source]

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), US 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[5]

Fourth Distinguished Service Cross citation[change | edit source]

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), US 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[5]

Fifth Distinguished Service Cross citation[change | edit source]

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), US 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[5]

Sixth Distinguished Service Cross citation[change | edit source]

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), US 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[5]

Seventh Distinguished Service Cross citation[change | edit source]

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), US 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[5]

Related pages[change | edit source]

References[change | edit source]

Medal of Honor
  1. "Edward Vernon Rickenbacker (date of death)". Encyclopedia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/502914/Edward-Vernon-Rickenbacker. Retrieved 2012-07-23.
  2. Rickenbacker 1967, p. 17.
  3. Zabecki, David (August/September 2009), "America's Top WWI Ace", Military History 26 (3): 80, ISSN 0889-7328
  4. Auburn University Digital Library| accessdate:April 8, 2010
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 "Edward Rickenbacker". The Aerodrome. 2007-2009. http://www.theaerodrome.com/aces/usa/rickenbacker.php. Retrieved July 8, 2009.
  6. "Medal of Honor recipients". Medal of Honor recipients: World War I. United States Army Center of Military History. June 8, 2009. http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/worldwari.html. Retrieved December 19, 2012.

Further reading[change | edit source]

  • Adamson, Hans Christian, Eddie Rickenbacker, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1946.
  • Blank, Joan Gill. Key Biscayne, Pineapple Press, Sarasota, FL, 1996. ISBN 1-56164-096-4.
  • Farr, Finis, Rickenbacker's Luck - An American Life, Houghton-Mifflin Company, Boston, 1979, ISBN 0-395-27102-9.
  • Franks, Norman, et al. American Aces of World War I. Osprey Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84176-375-6, ISBN 978-1-84176-375-0.
  • Lewis, W. David, Eddie Rickenbacker: An American Hero in the Twentieth Century, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2005.
  • Rickenbacker, Captain Edward V., Fighting the Flying Circus, Frederick A. Stokes, New York, 1919.
  • Rickenbacker, Captain Edward V., Seven Came Through, Doubleday, Doran and Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1943.
  • Rickenbacker, Edward V., Rickenbacker: an Autobiography, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1967.
  • Serling, Robert J., From the Captain to the Colonel; An Informal History of Eastern Airlines, The Dial Press, New York, 1980.
  • Whittaker, James C., We Thought We Heard the Angels Sing, E. P. Dutton, New York, 1943. An account of the adrift at sea experience by another member of the crew.

Other websites[change | edit source]