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The First World War was the first large-scale war and it involved almost all nations in the world. The US joined this war in 1917 and to assist in the war efforts, it sent air combat units to Europe. One of the most famous American aviation heroes of the First World War is Eddie Rickenbacker.
Edward Rickenbacker was born in 1890 to Swiss immigrant parents in Ohio. He endured a hard childhood since his parents were poor and could not provide adequately for their eight children. He did odd jobs until 1906, when he went to work for the racecar driver, Lee Frayer. By 1912, Rickenbacker had established his own reputation as an ace racer gaining nationwide popularity (Glines 13).
In 1917, Rickenbacker joined the army and immediately went to the European battlefront. His first position in France was as an Army General’s chauffer (Ruffin 249). However, Rickenbacker expressed his desire to serve in the air force since he was sure that he could use his aggressive car racing talents to become an efficient Allied pilot in the war. He was allowed to attend flight training and subsequently joined the 94th Aero Squadron as a fighter pilot (Glines 14). He proved his prowess in the air by achieving a number of victories. Ruffin reveals that due to his aerial aptitude, Rickenbacker was made commander of his unit in September 1918 and promoted to captain in the next month (250). By the end of the war, he had accumulated 300 combat hours, survived 134 aerial encounters with enemy planes and shot down 26 enemy planes (Glines 15).
After the War, Rickenbacker returned to the US as a national hero. As a civilian, Rickenbacker expressed great desire to play a role in the aviation industry. He joined the industry and had a long and successful career in Eastern Air Transport. This Aviation Hero died of Pneumonia on July 23, 1973.
Glines, Charles. “Charmed life of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker.” Aviation History 9.3(1999): 10-18.
Ruffin, Steven. Aviation’s Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Winged Wonders, Lucky Landings, and Other Aerial Oddities. Potomac Books, Inc., 2014. Print.