An Airman's Story: Captain Eddie Rickenbacker

Captain Edward Rickenbacker was born on October 8, 1890, in Columbus, Ohio. Forced to leave school early after his father's death to help support his family, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker continued to learn and study independently and enrolled in many correspondence courses.

Fascinated by cars (and machinery in general), he began working as a salesman at the Columbus Buggy Company. Captain Eddie Rickenbacker golfed and raced cars as a hobby, competing in the Indianapolis 500 four times before the beginning of World War I and setting a world speed record in 1914 at Daytona.

Eager to support the war, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Service in 1917. Wanting to fly, his lack of formal education and his age barred him from flight school. Instead, he was assigned to work as a chauffeur and mechanic. Undaunted, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker learned to fly independently and was finally awarded his wings. He had a stellar career, earning the 'Ace' designation with 26 victories and 300 combat flight hours. Earning him a Congressional Medal of Honor and seven Distinguished Service Crosses.

After the war, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker founded the Rickenbacker automobile company, which fell during the depression. He also founded Eastern Airlines, which provided his bread and butter. For a short time, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker owned the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Not one to be idle, he also scripted the comic strip "Ace Drummond" from 1935 to 1940.

In 1941, Captain Eddie, as he was often known, was involved in a near-fatal airline crash that took almost a year to recover from and left him with a slight limp.

He was always a supporter of American patriotic service. He provided civilian aid during World War II and, during a tour of bases in the Pacific, was involved in another plane crash that left him and the rest of the crew adrift in the ocean for 24 days. Earning him the Medal of Merit. This story is used by Alcoholics Anonymous for inspiration.

He resigned as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Eastern Airlines on December 31, 1963, and spent the remaining years touring and traveling with his wife. Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was a popular speaker.

Captain Eddie Rickenbacker died while in Zurich, Switzerland, on July 23, 1973.


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

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