Eddie Rickenbacher
Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005

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Aviation is proof that given the will, we have the capacity to achieve the impossible.

Courage is doing what you are afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you are scared.

I would rather have a million friends than a million dollars.

The four cornerstones of character on which the structure of this nation was built are: Initiative, Imagination, Individuality and Independence.

If a thing is old, it is a sign that it was fit to live. Old families, old customs, old styles survive because they are fit to survive. The guarantee of continuity is quality. Submerge the good in a flood of the new, and good will come back to join the good which the new brings with it. Old-fashioned hospitality, old-fashioned politeness, old-fashioned honor in business had qualities of survival. These will come back.(1890 - 1973)

. . . we saw nothing in the way of searching planes or ships. . . . the second day out we organized little evening and morning prayer meetings. . . . Frankly and humbly we prayed for our deliverance. After the oranges were gone, we experienced terrific pangs of hunger, and we prayed for food. We had a couple of little fish lines with hooks about the size of the end of my little finger, but no bait. Were it not for the fact that I have seven witnesses, I wouldn't dare tell this story because it seems so fantastic. Within an hour after prayer meeting on the eighth day, a sea gull came out of nowhere and landed on my head. I reached up my hand very gently and got him. We wrung his head, feathered him, carved up his carcass and ate every bit, even the little bones. We distributed and used his innards for bait. Captain Cherry caught a little mackerel about six or eight inches long and I caught a little speckled sea bass about the same size, so we had food for a couple of days. . . . That night we ran into our first rainstorm. Usually you try to avoid a black squall, but in this case we made it our business to get into it and catch water for drinking. . . . Later we were able to catch more water and build up our supply. . . .(1890 - 1973)


"I can see that aerial warfare is actually scientific murder."

"In addition to leading my flight on routine patrols, I emulated Lufbery's example and flew my own lone-wolf missions over the lines. He always said that it was impossible to shoot down German planes sitting in the billet with you feet before the fire. I heeded this advice so well that I had more hours in the air than any other American flier."


Edward Vernon Rickenbacker
October 8, 1890 - July 27, 1973
in his SPAD S.XIII
Nickname "Eddie"
Place of birth Columbus, Ohio
Allegiance U.S. Army
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross (USA)

Edward Vernon Rickenbacker was born Edward Rickenbacher in Columbus, Ohio, to German-speaking Swiss immigrants. During World War I, he changed the "h" in his last name to "k" in an effort to "take the Hun out of his name." As he was already well known at the time, the change received wide publicity. "From then on", as he wrote in his autobiography, "most Rickenbachers were practically forced to spell their name in the way I had..." [1] He started using the name "Vernon" as a middle name because he believed his given name "looked a little plain." He was primarily concerned with what his new middle initial would be. After settling upon "V", he selected "Vernon" as a middle initial name. [2]

From childhood, Eddie Rickenbacker loved machines and experimented with them, encouraged by his father's words "A machine has to have a purpose" [3].

When Eddie Rickenbacker's father, William Rickenbacher, was killed at a construction site in 1904, young Eddie chose to quit school at age 13 to support his mother and siblings. He turned to trade work, first as a night-shift glazer and then later as a worker in a steel mill.

Near-death experiences
In what was to become one of the defining characteristics of Eddie Rickenbacker's life, Rickenbacker nearly died many times, from an early run-in with a horse-drawn carriage, to a botched surgery, to airplane crashes. His first near-death experience occurred in 1918, when he noticed himself bleeding to death from an internal surgery wound. He also was said to have gone to North Carolina for a break where he went into a river. An alligator was in the water and he distracted it by tossing a piece of meat into the water.

Auto racing career
Rickenbacker participated in the formative years of auto racing as a driver. Before owning and operating the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he participated in some of the first 500-mile races held there.

World War Iwanted to join the Allied troops in World War I, but the U.S. had not committed. He had several chance encounters with aviators, including a fortuitous incident where he repaired a stranded aircraft for T.F. Dodd, a man who would become General "Black Jack" Pershing's aviation officer and an important contact in Rickenbacker's attempt to join air combat.

Suspected of spying
In 1916, Rickenbacker traveled to Paris, with the aim of developing an English car for American races. Because of press innuendo and Rickenbacker's known Swiss heritage, he was suspected of being a spy. En route and in England, agents closely monitored his actions.

Eager to fight
Rickenbacker helped organize an advance group of soldiers to be ready if the United States joined the war. When, in 1917, the United States declared war on Germany, Rickenbacker had enlisted in the U.S. Army and was training in France with the very first American troops. Rickenbacker arrived in France on June 26, 1917 as sergeant first-class.

Learning to fly and adversity
Most men chosen for pilot training had degrees from prestigious colleges,[citation needed] and Rickenbacker had to struggle to gain permission to fly because of his perceived lack of qualifications.

Because of his prodigious mechanical abilities, Rickenbacker obtained a position as engineering officer in a flight-training facility at Issoudun, where Rickenbacker practiced flying during his free time. He flew Nieuport 28 and SPAD XIII aircraft. He learned to fly well, but because his skills were badly needed at the training facility, Rickenbacker's superiors tried to prevent him from attaining his wings with the other pilots.

94th Aero Squadron
Rickenbacker demonstrated that he had a qualified replacement, and the military awarded Rickenbacker a place in America's first air-combat squadron, the 94th Aero Squadron, informally known as the Hat-in-the-Ring Squadron. He flew rudimentary aircraft, sometimes without weaponry, alongside French pilots. The 94th periodically faced Germany's legendary Flying Circus, led by the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen, until von Richthofen's death in combat. On April 29, 1918, Rickenbacker shot down his first plane. During WWI, Rickenbacker and the other pilots developed important aviation principles that would serve them in civil aviation and in WWII combat.

Aerial victories
Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, United States Army Air Service, c.1919Respect for him grew as his successes mounted. Rickenbacker was awarded the French Croix de Guerre in May 1918, for shooting down five German airplanes. On September 24, 1918, now a captain, he was named commander of the squadron, and on the following day, he shot down two more German planes, for which he was belatedly awarded the Medal of Honor in 1931. Rickenbacker's 26 victories constituted an American record that stood until World War II.

The military determined ace status by counting the number of aircraft shot down by a pilot, and verifying reports with ground witnesses and the affirmations of other pilots. If no witnesses could be found, a reported kill was not counted. In 1969, the U.S. Air Force released Historical Study 133. This study converted the whole victory credits awarded into fractions, to show which credits were shared and to calculate the number of enemy aircraft actually covered by the credits. This was more in line with the criteria the Americans applied in World War II, but it did not reflect the actual credits awarded. Confusion resulted, because researchers using Historical Study 133 would sometimes add the fractions of flyers to get their aerial victory credit totals. Rickenbacker's official score of 26 still stands, which can be seen at the USAF Historical Research Agency. While the US Air Service credited "out of control" and other nonfatal victories, in terms of aircraft destroyed, Rickenbacker's tally was six airplanes and three balloons in the air, plus two balloons on the ground. (Several other Americans were credited with more enemy aircraft destroyed but fewer victories, including Frank Luke; Raoul Lufbery, who flew with the French; and Frederick Gilette and Harold Kullburg of the RAF.) Nevertheless, Rickenbacker flew a total of 300 combat hours, reportedly more than any other U.S. pilot in the war.

The most successful American ace at that time, Rickenbacker was dubbed by the press as America's "Ace of Aces." He claimed his 26th and final plane on October 30, 1918, 12 days before the end of the war.

When Rickenbacker learned of the Armistice, he flew an airplane above the western front to observe the cease fire and the displays of joy and comradeship as the formerly warring troops crossed the front lines and joined in celebration.

Personal account of war events, more fame
After World War I ended, Eddie was approached for publicity exploits. He chose to go on a Liberty bond tour, but declined to use his renown for more celebrity or personal gain. Rickenbacker described his WWI flying experiences in his memoirs, Fighting the Flying Circus. published after the war. In this book, he also describes the character, exploits, and death of fellow pilot Lt. Quentin Roosevelt, the son of American President Theodore Roosevelt. Fighting the Flying Circus is now in the public domain, and the text is available online. [4].

Bombers of WWI (file info)
Video clip of Rickenbacker conducting a bombing run over German lines.
Problems seeing the videos? See media help.

Famous Trial
In 1925 Rickenbacker was a defense witness-along with Hap Arnold, Tooey Spaatz, Ira Eaker and Fiorello H. LaGuardia-in the court-martial of General Billy Mitchell.

Personal philosophy and family life
Rickenbacker expressed strong patriotism, beginning in childhood. Realising that his German name appeared to undermine his credibility as a fully American citizen, Rickenbacker changed the spelling of his name while in France in WWI. He professed a strong Christian faith (though he was not accustomed to sharing it until after his experience of being stranded on the Pacific Ocean for 24 days in 1942), and urged honest dealings, corporate and personal. Eddie Rickenbacker promoted technology and innovation and predicted many events that eventually came to pass, such as the prevalence of air transportation, and the critical role an air combat division would play in future wars. Many of his ideas that eventually occurred were met with scepticism or outright disbelief when he expressed them.

Rickenbacker was also adamantly opposed to Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal policies, seeing them as little better than socialism. For this he drew criticism and ire from the press and the Roosevelt Administration, which ordered NBC Radio not to allow him to broadcast opinions critical of FDR's policies after Rickenbacker harshly denounced FDR's use of Air Force pilots to carry Air Mail; the primary reason for the denunciation was that several of the pilots died in crashes while carrying the mail.

In 1922, Rickenbacker married Adelaide Frost; their marriage lasted for the rest of his life. Although they spent considerable time in Florida, Texas, and Ohio, the Rickenbackers lived chiefly in New York City. They adopted two sons: David, in 1925, and William, in 1928. Adelaide represented an unconventional wife for the era; she was five years older than her husband, had previously married, and was outspoken and active. As independent as she was, Adelaide fully supported Rickenbacker's endeavors until his death in 1973. In 1977, Adelaide committed suicide.

Post-war: Business and technology

Rickenbacker automobile designs
Still interested in machines, Rickenbacker started an automobile company (see: Rickenbacker), selling technologically advanced cars based on innovations discovered in automobile racing. The Rickenbacker came equipped with the first four-wheel brake system. Probably due to the resistance to this idea propagated by other car manufacturers, who had inventory lacking four-wheel braking systems, Rickenbacker's car company was financially unsuccessful. He went into massive debt, because of company losses, and determined to pay back everything he owed. Eventually, all vehicles manufactured in the U.S. incorporated four-wheel braking.

Managing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
In 1927, Rickenbacker bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which he would operate for nearly a decade and a half before closing it down due to World War II. Rickenbacker oversaw many improvements of the facility, such as banking the curves to enable better and safer turning. In 1945, Rickenbacker sold the Speedway to Terre Haute, Indiana businessman Anton Hulman, Jr..

Once the Speedway operations were under control, Rickenbacker looked for additional opportunities for entrepreneurship, including sales for the Cadillac division of General Motors and various aircraft manufacturers and airlines.

Eastern Air Lines
Rickenbacker's most lasting business endeavor was his lifelong leadership of Eastern Air Lines. With the help of friends he had met in the war, or in car racing, or in other walks of life, Eddie Rickenbacker combined Eastern Air Transport with Florida Airways to form Eastern Air Lines, an airline that would grow from a company flying a few thousand air miles per week to a major international transportation company.

Rickenbacker oversaw many radical changes in the field of commercial aviation. He negotiated with the U.S. government to acquire air mail routes, a great advantage to companies in need of business. He helped develop and support new aircraft designs. Rickenbacker acquired historic aircraft for Eastern, including the Lockheed Constellation commissioned by Howard Hughes for Trans World Airlines (Rickenbacker, 1967, 440). Rickenbacker personally collaborated with many of the pioneers of aviation, including Donald Wills Douglas, Sr., founder of the Douglas Aircraft Company that would become McDonnell Douglas.

He helped convince the American public to consider flying; but, always aware of the possibility of accidents, Rickenbacker avoided calling the new method of transportation "safe." In his autobiography, he wrote "I have never liked to use the word "safe" in connection with either Eastern Air Lines or the entire transportation field; I prefer the word "reliable."" (Rickenbacker, 1967, page 261).

Surviving a fatal crash
Main article: Eastern Air Lines Flight 21
Rickenbacker often traveled for business on Eastern Airlines flights, and on February 26, 1941, a DC-3 flying Eddie Rickenbacker and other passengers crashed outside Atlanta. Rickenbacker suffered grave injuries, was soaked in fuel, and was immobile and trapped in the wreckage. In spite of his own critical wounds, Rickenbacker encouraged the uninjured passengers, offered what consolation he could to those around him who were injured or dying, and guided the still-mobile survivors to attempt to find help. They were rescued after spending the night at the crash site. Rickenbacker barely survived, and this was the first time the press announced his death while he was still alive.

In a dramatic retelling of the incident, Rickenbacker's autobiography relates his astonishing experiences: while still conscious but in terrible pain, Rickenbacker was left behind while ambulances transported bodies of those killed in the accident. When he arrived at a hospital, his injuries appeared so grotesque that doctors left him for dead for some time, instructing staff to "take care of the live ones." (Rickenbacker, 275) Rickenbacker's injuries included a dented skull, other head injuries, shattered left elbow and crushed nerve, paralyzed left hand, several broken ribs, a crushed hip socket, twice-broken pelvis, severed nerve in his left hip, and a broken left knee. Most shocking, his left eyeball was expelled from the socket. (Rickenbacker, 273) He recovered from these after months in the hospital, and regained full eyesight.

Rickenbacker describes the experience with vivid accounts of his mentality as he approached death, emphasizing the supreme act of will necessary to stave it off. His autobiography reported that he spent ten days on the brink of death, which he illustrated as an overwhelming sensation of calm and pleasure (Rickenbacker, 1967, 278).

Airline outcome
For a time, Eastern was the most profitable airline in the post-war era. In the late 1950s, Eastern's fortunes changed, and Rickenbacker was forced out of his CEO position on October 1, 1959. He left his position as chairman of the board December 31, 1963.

World War II
Rickenbacker supported the war effort as a civilian. In 1942, he toured training bases in the southwestern United States and in England. He encouraged the American public to contribute their time and resources to success in WWII, and pledged Eastern Airlines equipment and personnel for use in military activities.

Rickenbacker served the military extensively, inspecting troops, operations, and equipment, and serving in a publicity function to increase support from civilians and soldiers. In 1942, with a sweeping letter of authorization from Henry L. Stimson, U.S. Secretary of War, Rickenbacker visited England on an official war mission and made ground-breaking recommendations for better war operations.

Adrift at sea
One of Rickenbacker's most famous near-death experiences occurred during the service of the United States war effort. In October 1942, Rickenbacker was sent on a tour of the Pacific theater to review conditions, operations, and to personally deliver a secret message to General MacArthur. After visiting bases in Hawaii, the B-17D, 40-3089, in which he was flying went off course hundreds of miles from its first scheduled stop at Canton Island. The airplane had flown in an undetected tailwind, which carried them faster than they knew and rendered their calculations ineffective. This accident later resulted in improved navigation tools for aircraft, and improved survival gear provided on aircraft. The pilot ditched the plane in the Pacific, dangerously close to Japanese-held enemy territory.

For 24 days, Rickenbacker, his friend and business partner, and the crew drifted at sea without food or water aside from an occasional fish and rain. Rickenbacker still suffered from the airline crash, his friend Hans Adamson sustained serious injuries in the water landing, and others in the crew were hurt to varying degrees. The crew's food supply ran out after three days. On Day 8 a seagull landed on Rickenbacker's head. Rickenbacker painstakingly caught it, and the survivors meticulously divided it equally and used some for fishing bait. They lived on sporadic rain water and similar food "miracles." Rickenbacker assumed a role of leadership, encouragement, and browbeating to help the others survive, and encouraged them to turn to God for solace. According to Rickenbacker, each person on the rafts converted to Christianity after the experience. The U.S. Army Air Forces, unable to find them, intended to abandon the lost crew after searching unsuccessfully for more than two weeks, but Rickenbacker's wife convinced them to extend the search another week. Once again, the press reported that Rickenbacker had died.

Navy pilots rescued the surviving members of the crew, suffering from exposure, dehydration, and starvation, on November 13, 1942. One serviceman had died and was buried at sea. Rickenbacker completed his assignment and delivered MacArthur's secret message. No one ever made the message public.

It should be noted that Rickenbacker initially thought that he had been lost a mere 21 days, and wrote thus in a book about the experience published by Doubleday. It was not until later that he recalculated and corrected the error in his 1967 autobiography.

1943: Mission to besieged USSR
Still determined to support the U.S. war effort, Rickenbacker suggested a fact-finding mission in the Soviet Union to provide the Soviets with needed technical assistance for their American aircraft. His private objective was to gain knowledge about ever-more hostile Soviet military capabilities.

Gaining permission to enter the Soviet Union
Rickenbacker approached Soviet diplomats, and avoided requesting help from President Franklin Roosevelt, alluding to personal disagreements between the two. With the help of the Secretary of War and by trading favors with the Soviet ambassador, Rickenbacker secured unlikely permission to travel to the Soviet Union.

The War Department provided everything Rickenbacker needed, including a highly unusual letter stating that the bearer was authorized to "visit ... any ... areas he may deem necessary for such purposes as he will explain to you in person," signed by the Secretary of War (Rickenbacker, 1967, 390).

55,000-mile side-trip around the world
Rickenbacker's trip took him over South America, where he made important observations about conditions there. He stopped in Africa, China, and India, at each stop reviewing American operations and making notes to report to authorities. In Iran, Rickenbacker offered to bring along an American officer, whose unapproved request to travel to the Soviet Union delayed Rickenbacker's party for a few days.

Soviet information-gathering
In the Soviet Union, Rickenbacker observed wartime conditions, extraordinary dedication and patriotism by the populace, and ruthless denial of goods and services to unproductive members of society. He befriended many Soviet officials, and shared his knowledge of the aircraft they had received from the United States. He was lavishly entertained and recalled attempts by KGB agents and officials to intoxicate him and gain sensitive information. Rickenbacker's mission was successful. He discovered that a commander of Moscow's defense had stayed at Rickenbacker's home in 1937, and personal connections like this and the respect the Soviet military personnel had for Rickenbacker greatly improved Rickenbacker's effectiveness at information-gathering. When he left the Soviet Union, Rickenbacker understood Soviet defense strategies and capabilities, knew about brand-new strategies against advancing tank battalions, and had memorized a map of the Soviet's front line showing standard military location markers for all major units. (Rickenbacker, 1967, 422). He was also provided with unprecedented access to the Shturmovik aircraft factory. But it was comments made by Rickenbacker during his trip that alerted the Soviets to the existence of the secret B-29 Superfortress program.

Rickenbacker predicted that the Soviet Union's practices favored capitalism and that it would become a capitalist nation (Rickenbacker, 1967, 425)

Winston Churchill interviewed Rickenbacker about his mission. In the U.S., Rickenbacker's information resulted in some diplomatic and military action, but President Roosevelt ignored the information and did not meet with Rickenbacker about his groundbreaking visit to the U.S.S.R. (Rickenbacker, 1967, 438).

Post-World War II
In the 1960s, Rickenbacker became a well-known speaker. He shared his vision for the future of technology and commerce, exhorted Americans to respect the enemy (the Soviet Union) during the Cold War, yet uphold American values, and endorsed conservative ideals.

After retiring from Eastern Air Lines, Adelaide and Eddie Rickenbacker traveled extensively, until Eddie Rickenbacker had a stroke while in Switzerland seeking medical treatment for Adelaide there. He died in 1973 in Zürich, Switzerland, and his body was buried in Columbus, Ohio, at Greenlawn Cemetery.


Eddie Rickenbacker

Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was born Oct. 8, 1890 in Columbus, Ohio. A pioneer in military and civilian aviation as well as in automotive development, his skillful leadership, courage and perception made him a legend in his own time.

His parents, William and Elizabeth Basler Rickenbacker were both native of Switzerland, though they had met and married in Columbus.

Tragedy struck the family when William was killed on the job. Eddie was only 13 and had to drop out of the seventh grade to get a job with the Federal Glass Factory. There he earned $3.50 for working from 6p.m. to 6a.m. six days a week. He worked at the Zenker Monument Company where he made the tombstone that marks his father’s grave in Greenlawn Cemetery.

As he was growing up, Eddie found himself attracted to the “horseless carriages” that were appearing on the streets of Columbus. He responded to this fascination by learning to drive and working for Evens Grage, the Frayer-Miller automobile company and eventually the Columbus Buggy Company. To promote the automobiles he was selling, he started racing. By age 22, he left his job to race full-time, making headlines across the nation as “King of the Dirt Tracks”.

When World War I broke out, Eddie was recruited in May 1917 to be part if a secret troop movement to France as an Army Staff Car Driver.

With help from Gen. Billy Mitchell and a flight surgeon-who listed his age as 25 instead of 27-Eddie was assigned as a student to the Aviation Training School in Tours, France.After completing the school, he was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Army Air Corps.

Rickenbacker flew his first combat mission in a French Nieuport on April 14,1918.He scored his first aerial victory a few days later.Eddie shot down four more planes in May to become an ace.Then he was grounded for three months while undergoing mastoid operations.About this time he wrote a letter to a friend in Detroit, spelling his name RickebacKer-emphasizing the second “K.”Eddie had once been suspected by the English of being a German spy and newspapers hailed the new spelling of his name as “taking the hun out of it.”Soon everyone in the family used the new spelling.

After getting out of the hospital, Eddie picked up the first Spad to be assigned to the 94th Aero Squadron.Rickenbacker was promoted to captain and made squadron commander on Sep.24, 1918.His string of victories continued, including one mission which he shot down two Fokkers and chased away two others.He won the Congressional Medal Of Honor for that battle.

He reported that in later October he got his 25th and 26th victories.The Air Force Historical Research agency, which provides the official accounting of aerial victories, credits him with 24.33 kills, the most in World War I.

The people of Columbus hoped that Rickenbacker would make his home here when the war ended, but he had different plans.He decided to go back into the automobile business, and became president and director of sales for the Rickenbacker Motor Company-“A Car Worthy of the name.” Business was good and in 1922, Rickenbacker married Adelaide Frost Durrant.

That year, three Rickenbackers were displayed at the New York auto show:a $1,485 touring car, a $1885 coupe and a $1,995 sedan.Rickenbacker put four-wheel brakes on his car in 1924 and claims the company was driven to bankruptcy in 1927 by claims of other automakers that four-wheel brakes were a safety hazard.

He maintained his interest in aviation and was chosen to operate Eastern Air Transport, a small airline on the East Coast.After the 1934 Air Mail Act was passed, Rickenbacker was able to raise $3.5 million to buy the airlines from North American Aviation.

He developed it into a major north-south airline and is credited with making southern Florida a year-round destination for tourist.The Rickenbacker Causeway in Miami honors him.

Rickenbacker also borrowed money and bought controlling interest in the Indianapolis Speedway, which kept him busy until 1941, when World War II caused the cancellation of the races.

Taking on the role of civilian advisor, Rickenbacker accepted assignments from Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson to visit our forces throughout the world.His travels took him to England and North Africa, and to China, and Russia, where he observed the use made of Lend Lease equipment.

While serving in this capacity, Rickenbacker was asked by Stimson to deliver a personal message to Gen. Douglas MacArthur.On the second leg of the trip, he was to fly from Hawaii to Canton Island, some 1,800 miles to the southeast. The flight was to be in a B-17D bomber.

The tail wind was greater than they had been predicted for the flight and, unknown to the eight men on board, the B-17 passed the small Canton Island without it being seen.

The plane had to ditch at sea because of lack of fuel. The men on board ended up in two “five-man” and one“ two-man” life rafts. They had left their water and most of their food aboard the airplane, which sank.

The men had three oranges, which they divided and ate. The nights were cold and the equatorial sun in the daytime burned the flesh of the men.Sharks circled around their rafts.

Rickenbacker led the men in prayer services, encouraging their will to survive. One day after such a service, he felt something on the gray hat he wore. He cautiously reached up and grabbed the legs of a seagull that had landed on his head.

The men ate the bird and saved the innards for bait to catch a few fish. The fishing ended when the sharks stole the lines.

A few rainsqualls were seen at sea and the men paddled to get in them. They collected rainwater in their clothes and squeezed the water out into bailing buckets.

One of the eight men died at sea. Rickenbacker believed it was because he drank seawater in an effort to quench his thirst.

It was believed that all the men had died. They remained in the rafts for 24 days before being sighted by American airplanes as they floated near the Ellice Islands, 500 miles southwest of Canton.

Rickenbacker had gone from 180 to 126 pounds, but after a few days of treatment he continued his mission to visit MacAuthur at Port Moresby, New Guinea.

Rickenbacker didn’t know what his reception would be. He had opposed MacAuthur , who was against Billy Mitchell’s plan to establish a separate Air Force.

Rickenbacker reported that MacAuthur greeted him with,” God, Eddie, I’m glad to see you.”

When the war ended, Rickenbacker developed Eastern into a major airline. After DC-3, the airline started flying the four-engine Constellation. Then it went into the jet age with the DC-8. Rickenbacker talked of a future with supersonic airplanes and even orbital flight to move people and products quickly across the earth and beyond.

One of the most pleasant experiences was in bringing Easter service to Columbus, Ohio.

Rickenbacker personally went along to take a group of Columbus political and business leaders on an early flight south of Miami. They flew in a Constellation and made several stops along the way where Rickenbacker introduced the Columbus contingent to leaders of the cities that Eastern served in the South.

When Rickenbacker heard one of the Columbus passengers complain about the time it took to get refreshments on the plane, he put on a cap and served champagne to the passengers.

After his retirement at 73 as head of the airline, Rickenbacker still took an interest in aviation matters. He was at Cape Kennedy to watch Apollo 11 blast off to take Americans to the surface of the moon.

Eddie and Adelaide went to Switzerland to find the home of their parents. In Zurich he suffered a fatal illness and died July 23,1973. By his own count, Rickenbacker had defeated death 135 times. When his time finally came, he died peacefully.

He is now buried in Green lawn Cemetery. At the funeral service, John W. Wolfe talked about knowing Capt. Rickenbacker as a young boy and how Edgar T. Wolfe Sr. tried to get Rickenbacker to make his future in Columbus after World War I. Rickenbacker had other things to do but now he’s home for good.



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