WWI Fighter Ace Eddie Rickenbacker: An Aviation Legend

Last updated June 28, 2022
Eddie Rickenbacker

One of World War I's aces, Eddie Rickenbacker, had an incredible story. He lost his father when he was a young boy, but that did not stop him from having a successful life.

An Interesting Career Path

Rickenbacker was smart and a successful car salesman. He wanted to become a machinist but taught himself to be an engineer and became an auto racing champion.

He built push carts with his friends and loved to create inventions. He loved machines and was fascinated by the Wright Brothers and their planes.

He began working at an automobile company to learn about cars and took an engineering course. In 1906, he was a member of an engineering team with a car competing in the New York City Vanderbilt Cup. However, the car did not succeed.

But, Rickenbacker was not discouraged. At 16, he became the chief testing engineer at Columbus Buggy Company. By 19, he was Firestone-Columbus Automobile Companies regional chief engineer. He began racing. The first race did not go well. However, once again, he did not give up. He ended up in the first Indianapolis 500 as a replacement driver and finished.

World War I

Four years later, he was an accomplished race car driver sponsored by an automotive company at age 26. However, World War I had begun. He tried to pitch the idea of a group of fighters with racecar drivers at the helm. But the War Department shot it down.

Gen. John J. Pershing had him as his chauffeur, and he became Sgt. 1st Class Rickenbacker. In his spare time, he learned about being a pilot in the Army and flew planes.

In January 1918, he went to the Army's air gunnery school. Finally, he became a pilot. Much like everything else he had done, the first flight was a bit of a fail.

However, in April, he shot down his first enemy plane. By the end of his time in Europe, he had 26 kills, the most out of all the American pilots. He also received the Medal of Honor. The man was the epitome of the phrases "you can do anything you put your mind to"and "never give up."

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