Eddie Rickenbacker was born on October 8, 1890, in Columbus, Ohio. Before World War I, Eddie was a race car driver and competed in the Indianapolis 500 in 1912, 1914, 1915, and 1916. Rickenbacker enlisted in the Aviation Section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps on May 25, 1917. After arriving in France and serving as Gen John J. Pershing's staff driver, Rickenbacker was assigned to the Aviation Training School at Tours, France, where he completed flying school and was commissioned a 1Lt on October 10, 1917. His next assignment was as an Engineering Officer to Headquarters Detachment of the 3rd Aviation Instruction Center at Issoudun, France, where he served under Maj Carl A. Spaatz, who would later become the first Chief of Staff of the Air Force. In March 1918, Rickenbacker was assigned to the 1st Pursuit Group's 94th Aero Squadron and began flying combat missions in April 1918. He became Commander of the 94th at the end of September 1918, and remained in France after the war ended, returning to the United States in January 1919. During World War I, Capt Rickenbacker was credited with destroying 26 enemy aircraft in aerial combat, the highest number for any American pilot in the war. He left the service after the war and went into business, first starting an automobile company, and later buying the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. From 1929 to 1934, Rickenbacker accepted a commission as a Colonel and served as a Specialist in the Officers Reserve Corps. In 1938 he purchased Eastern Airlines and served as the President and CEO of the company until 1959. During World War II, Eddie served as a civilian supporting the war effort. In October 1942, the B-17 he was flying was forced to ditch in the Pacific Ocean. He and the other survivors of the crash survived 24 days in a life raft before being rescued. Eddie Rickenbacker died of a stroke while in Zurich, Switzerland, on July 23, 1973. His wife of 51 years, the former Adelaide Frost, died in 1977.
His Medal of Honor Citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy near Billy, France, 25 September 1918. While on a voluntary patrol over the lines, 1st Lt. Rickenbacker attacked 7 enemy planes (5 type Fokker, protecting two type Halberstadt). Disregarding the odds against him, he dived on them and shot down one of the Fokkers out of control. He then attacked one of the Halberstadts and sent it down also.