Rickenbacker, Eddie


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Rickenbacker, (Edward Vernon) Eddie

(1890–1973) aviator; born in Columbus, Ohio. A skilled race-car driver, he became General Pershing's chauffeur during World War I but applied for aviation service. He shot down 26 enemy aircraft in seven months, receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor and the nickname, "Ace of Aces." In 1921 he founded the Rickenbacker Motor Company; it failed in 1927 and he went to work for General Motors (GM). The company employed him to rescue one of their divisions, Eastern Airlines. During his initial management year (1934), the airline turned the first profit in the history of aviation. GM divested the company in 1938; Rickenbacker bought the controlling interest and became president, general manager, and director. In 1942, while on an inspection of military bases in the Pacific, his plane crashed; he spent 22 days adrift on a raft before being rescued. After retiring in 1963, he continued to be a public figure as an advocate of conservative causes.