Eddie Rickenbacker: Ace Pilot and American Hero

 October 22, 2023

Eddie Rickenbacker was an American hero who achieved a legendary status in aviation history. A pioneering aviator and World War I ace pilot, Rickenbacker not only fought in the war but also revolutionized the industry of aviation.

His accomplishments include numerous awards and medals, setting several flying records, and founding Eastern Air Lines. This article will explore the life of Eddie Rickenbacker, from his humble beginnings to his many accomplishments throughout his lifetime.

Highlights of Eddie Rickenbacker's story

Rickenbacker was born on October 8th, 1890 in Columbus, Ohio to Swiss-German immigrant parents. He grew up in a poor family and dropped out of school at the age of fourteen to work odd jobs.

Despite these challenges, he still managed to pursue his dreams of becoming a pilot. After enlisting in the U.S Army Signal Corps Aviation School during World War I, Rickenbacker distinguished himself as an ace pilot with twenty-six confirmed victories by war's end.

For this accomplishment he was awarded multiple medals for gallantry in action including America's highest military decoration - The Medal of Honor.

In addition to his wartime achievements, Rickenbacker held numerous aviation records such as being the first person to fly across the United States nonstop from coast-to-coast and set a new airspeed record at over 184 mph.

He also founded Eastern Air Lines which went on to become one of the largest carriers in America at that time. For these additional feats Rickenbacker received recognition from various global organizations including having a US Navy Aircraft Carrier named after him - The USS Rickenbacker (CV-47).

The life of Eddie Rickenbacker is truly inspiring and shines light on how one can overcome any obstacle with dedication and hard work. This article will further explore the journey and accomplishments that made him an American Hero.

Early Life and Career of Eddie Rickenbacker

Born in Columbus, Ohio on October 8th, 1890, Eddie Rickenbacker was the son of Swiss immigrants. He grew up helping his family in their machine shop and developed an interest in cars and racing.

His career as a race car driver began at the age of 24 when he won a race in Indianapolis. He would go on to become one of the most successful drivers of his time, competing in prestigious races such as the Indianapolis 500 and setting multiple speed records.

He also served as chief engineer for the Prest-O-Lite Battery Company's racing division and was a consultant for automotive companies like Ford Motors.

Along with his success as a race car driver, Rickenbacker was also credited with developing several innovations which improved the performance of early automobiles.

Military Service of Eddie Rickenbacker

During World War I, Eddie Rickenbacker enlisted in the United States Army as an ambulance driver. He was later commissioned into the Air Service.

Rickenbacker’s first combat mission was on April 29, 1918 when he and two other pilots were sent to shoot down a German observation plane. After several successful missions, Rickenbacker became one of America’s leading fighter pilots with 26 confirmed kills over enemy aircraft. He also flew his own personal plane that was painted with his name and nickname "Ace". His actions earned him numerous awards including the Medal of Honor, French Legion of Honor, and Croix de Guerre medals from both France and Belgium. By the war’s end, Rickenbacker had established himself as one of America's most renowned pilots, leading to his moniker “Ace of Aces.”

Post-War Life

After the war Rickenbacker returned to the United States and made a name for himself as a businessman in the aviation industry.

He became vice president of General Motors’ Aviation Department, where he worked on numerous projects, including the development of various aircrafts such as the Vought UO-1, Gee Bee Model Y Racer and Douglas DC-2.

He also served as a consultant for several other companies and was instrumental in establishing air mail service across the country.

In addition to being involved in aviation, Rickenbacker wrote two memoirs about his military career: Fighting The Flying Circus (1919) and Aces High (1934).

He also opened a racing car business and later established an airplane manufacturing company, which produced over 500 airplanes before it closed in 1936.

Throughout his post-war life, Rickenbacker remained an advocate for aviation safety measures and innovations that would help improve air travel.

Impact And Legacy of Eddie Rickenbacker

Eddie Rickenbacker’s legacy is one of being an ace pilot and American hero.

He was a decorated war hero who earned several awards and honors for his acts of bravery, including the Medal of Honor.

His impact on aviation was profound as he revolutionized military tactics and strategies, developed new technologies, and set numerous records throughout his career. He also served as a mentor to many aspiring aviators throughout his lifetime.

Rickenbacker’s legacy lives on in multiple ways. His name is commemorated in the Eddie Rickenbacker Memorial Airfield at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and in numerous statues around the United States.

In addition, the Eddie Rickenbacker Award is presented annually to recognize pilots who demonstrate courage, service, and patriotism above and beyond the call of duty.

Finally, Rickenbacker’s life story has been documented in multiple books, movies, television shows, songs, and other works of art that help ensure that his legacy will continue to inspire future generations.


Eddie Rickenbacker is a true American hero, remembered for his courage and strength as an ace pilot during World War I. His legacy is still felt today, owing to his contributions to the aviation industry and his lasting impact on the United States Air Force.

Rickenbacker's service in the war was exceptional, having earned 26 confirmed kills and shooting down four enemy aircraft in one day alone. As a result of his bravery and skill, he was awarded numerous medals for valor and became one of the most highly decorated pilots in the U.S. military at the time. He was also credited with introducing new tactics that proved successful in aerial combat, such as leading squadrons into battle from behind enemy lines.

After the war ended, Rickenbacker continued to be an advocate for aviation as he founded several airlines and promoted air travel to the public. He also wrote several books about his experiences as a fighter pilot during World War I, sharing stories of heroism and camaraderie that have been immortalized in films and literature since then.

Eddie Rickenbacker will forever be remembered as a brave soldier who defended his country with unwavering courage and made significant contributions to the fields of both aviation and military history. His pioneering spirit lives on through those who have been inspired by him to pursue their dreams and make a difference in the world around them.

Learn More About Eddie Rickenbacker


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