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Edward Vernon Rickenbacker
Capt. E.V. "Eddie" Rickenbacker wearing the Medal of Honor. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Nickname(s) Eddie
Fast Eddie
Born (1890-10-08)October 8, 1890
Columbus, Ohio
Died July 23, 1973(1973-07-23) (aged 82)
Zürich, Switzerland
Place of burial
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 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.

Early life

Eddie Rickenbacker - Maxwell - San Francisco 1915 3
Rickenbacker driving in the 1915 American Grand Prize at San Francisco.

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 victories

Eddie Rickenbacker
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 Date Time Aircraft Opponent Location
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 awards

Military Awards

Related pages

Cmoh army
Medal of Honor
  • 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.

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