Eddie Rickenbacker

Eddie Rickenbacker: racecar driver, WWI fighter pilot and president of Eastern Airlines

Eddie Rickenbacker was a famed racecar driver, World War I fighter pilot and president of Eastern Airlines. He was born Oct. 8, 1890, in Columbus, Ohio, and died July 23, 1973 in Zurick, Switzerland.

In 1930, Rickenbacker received the U.S. Army Congressional Medal of Honor for his 26 air victories. He was America’s most successful fighter ace of World War I.

In 1942, Secretary Stimson gave Rickenbacker a B-17 Flying Fortress and crew and tasked him with inspecting the Army air bases across the Pacific theater. Due to a navigational error, the plane ran out of fuel and the crew and passengers ditched in the central Pacific.

Rickenbacker and the others were adrift for 24 days before they were rescued. Rickenbacker’s leadership qualities and “never give up” attitude were instrumental in their survival.

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