Capt. Edward Rickenbacker of Columbus, Ohio, was a famous race car driver before the United States' entry into World War I. As the United States prepared to send troops to Europe, Rickenbacker was offered a position as General Pershing's chauffeur. He accepted and enlisted in the U.S. Army.
Soon after arriving in France, Rickenbacker transferred to the Air Service and learned to fly. He then was made an engineering officer because of his great knowledge of gasoline engines.
As the first U.S. pilots prepared to leave for the front, Rickenbacker asked to go with them. Maj. Carl Spaatz approved the request and Rickenbacker joined the 94th Aero Squadron, where he proved to be an exceptional fighter pilot. Rickenbacker rose to command the 94th Aero Squadron and became the leading U.S. ace of WWI with 26 confirmed victories.
His most remarkable action came on Sept. 25, 1918, as Rickenbacker patrolled alone near Billy, France. He spotted a group of seven enemy aircraft, and despite the strength of their numbers, boldly attacked and shot down two of them. President Herbert Hoover awarded Rickenbacker the Medal of Honor in 1930 for his aggressiveness in that action.
Rickenbacker went on to become an aviation executive, and he advised the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II. He died in 1973 and is buried at Greenlawn Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio.
Note: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the National Museum of the USAF, the U.S. Air Force, or the Department of Defense, of the external website, or the information, products or services contained therein.