Edward Vernon Rickenbacker (October 8, 1890 – July 23, 1973) was an American fighter ace in World War I. He was also a 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 airline transport. He was also the longtime head of Eastern Air Lines.
|Edward Vernon Rickenbacker|
Capt. E.V. "Eddie" Rickenbacker wearing the Medal of Honor. (U.S. Air Force photo)
|Born||October 8, 1890|
|Died||July 23, 1973 (aged 82)|
|Place of burial||Columbus, Ohio|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army Air Service|
|Years of service||1917–1919|
|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
He was born Edward Richenbacher (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. 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". 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.
He was in the United States Army in 1917 when Congress declared war. Soon he was in France where he became a pilot.
Verified aerial victoriesEdit
|1||Apr 29, 1918||1810||Nieuport||Pfalz D.III||Baussant|
|2||May 7, 1918||0805||Nieuport||Pfalz D.III||Pont-à-Mousson|
|3||May 17, 1918||1824||Nieuport||Albatros D.V||Ribécourt|
|4||May 22, 1918||0912||Nieuport||Albatros D.V||Flirey|
|5||May 28, 1918||0925||Nieuport||Albatros C.I||Bois de Rate|
|6||May 30, 1918||0738||Nieuport||Albatros C.I||Jaulny|
|7||Sep 14, 1918||0815||SPAD XIII||Fokker D.VII||Villecy|
|8||Sep 15, 1918||0810||SPAD XIII||Fokker D.VII||Bois de Warville|
|9||Sep 25, 1918||0840||SPAD XIII||Fokker D.VII||Billy|
|10||Sep 25, 1918||0850||SPAD XIII||Halberstadt C||Foret de Spincourt|
|11||Sep 26, 1918||0600||SPAD XIII||Fokker D.VII||Damvillers|
|12||Sep 28, 1918||0500||SPAD XIII||Balloon||Sivry-sur-Meuse|
|13||Oct 1, 1918||1930||SPAD XIII||Balloon||Puzieux|
|14||Oct 2, 1918||1730||SPAD XIII||Hannover CL||Montfaucon|
|15||Oct 2, 1918||1740||SPAD XIII||Fokker D.VII||Vilosnes|
|16||Oct 3, 1918||1707||SPAD XIII||Balloon||Dannevoux|
|17||Oct 3, 1918||1640||SPAD XIII||Fokker D.VII||Cléry-le-Grand|
|18||Oct 9, 1918||1752||SPAD XIII||Fokker D.VII||Dun-sur-Meuse|
|19||Oct 10, 1918||1552||SPAD XIII||Fokker D.VII||Cléry-le-Petit|
|20||Oct 10, 1918||1552||SPAD XIII||Fokker D.VII||Cléry-le-Petit|
|21||Oct 22, 1918||1555||SPAD XIII||Fokker D.VII||Cléry-le-Petit|
|22||Oct 23, 1918||1655||SPAD XIII||Fokker D.VII||Grande Carne Ferme|
|23||Oct 27, 1918||1505||SPAD XIII||Fokker D.VII||Bois de Money|
|24||Oct 27, 1918||1450||SPAD XIII||Fokker D.VII||Grand Pre|
|25||Oct 27, 1918||1635||SPAD XIII||Balloon||St. Juvin|
|26||Oct 30, 1918||1040||SPAD XIII||Balloon||Remonville|
Honors and awardsEdit
Medal of Honor citationEdit
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 citationEdit
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
Second Distinguished Service Cross citationEdit
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 citationEdit
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
Fourth Distinguished Service Cross citationEdit
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
Fifth Distinguished Service Cross citationEdit
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
Sixth Distinguished Service Cross citationEdit
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
Seventh Distinguished Service Cross citationEdit
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
- "Edward Vernon Rickenbacker (date of death)". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2012-07-23.
- Rickenbacker 1967, p. 17.
- Zabecki, David (August–September 2009), "America's Top WWI Ace", Military History, 26 (3): 80, ISSN 0889-7328
- Auburn University Digital Library| accessdate:April 8, 2010
- "Edward Rickenbacker". The Aerodrome. 2007–2009. Retrieved July 8, 2009.CS1 maint: date format (link)
- "Medal of Honor recipients". Medal of Honor recipients: World War I. United States Army Center of Military History. June 8, 2009. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
- 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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Eddie Rickenbacker.|
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:|
- The Races of Eddie Rickenbacker
- 16-year old Eddie Rickenbacker (VanderbiltCupRaces.com)
- The Rickenbacker Papers at Auburn University
- Adelaide Frost Rickenbacker, Auburn University
- Rickenbacker photographs, Auburn University Digital Library
- Fighting The Flying Circus (Wings of War) (1919) - text in public domain
- Entry from Webster's American Military Biographies
- July 14, 2008 - 90th anniversary Commemoration of Eddie Rickenbacker and 1st Pursuit Group in France
- Eddie Rickenbacker, Boy Pilot and Racer - Audiobook available at iTunes
- Eddie Rickenbacker at Find a Grave