Balladeer’s Blog had proceeded from the assumption that most readers were familiar with flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker but comments and emails indicate otherwise. Here’s a look at him as we lead up to another November 11th, now called Veterans Day but formerly known as Armistice Day since November 11th, 1918 marked the end of World War One.
EDDIE RICKENBACKER – “Fast Eddie” Rickenbacker was first known as a race-car driver who competed in four Indianapolis 500’s before the U.S. entered World War One. Upon America’s entry into the conflict Rickenbacker enlisted in the Army and was in France with his unit by late June 1917.
Fast Eddie’s mechanical abilities – honed working with engines during his racing days – kept him grounded as a mechanic for several months. During that period Rickenbacker learned to fly in nearly every spare moment. Eventually he got his wings and took to the air with America’s legendary Hat in the Ring Squadron (the 94th Aero Squadron).
Eddie made Ace – five confirmed kills – with less than a full month between his first kill and his fifth. Lieutenant – eventually Captain – Rickenbacker scored his sixth verified kill on May 30th, 1918 before getting an ear infection which kept him out of the air for a few months. Many more kills lay ahead of him.
After returning to flight duty, Fast Eddie shot down 20 more aircraft, ending the war with 26 total verified shoot-downs and at least 2 more possibles. This made Rickenbacker the American Ace with the most kills in World War One.
The good Captain was awarded the Medal of Honor, the Croix de Guerre, the Legion of Honor and was an EIGHT-time winner of the Distinguished Service Cross. After the war he helped found Eastern Airlines, ultimately passing away in 1973 at age 82.
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