Eddie Rickenbacker: From Race Car Driver to Combat Pilot

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  • Topic: Eddie Rickenbacker, World War I, United States Army Air Service
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Bella Guerra November 17, 2011
Literature Research Paper

Eddie Rickenbacker, America’s Ace of Aces
Prior to the Great War, military aviation was just a concept on the drawing table. Aviation was a fairly new technology, and the airplane was less than eleven years old when World War I broken out in 1914. Military tacticians recognized the benefits of airplanes, and their ability to influence the outcome of the war. Soon, both the Allies and Central Powers began using aircrafts for scouting and reconnaissance purposes. Aircraft technology developed quickly, as there was a need to stop enemy observation planes from learning troop positions. Faster, lighter planes with machine gun weaponry were developed, and the era of fighter aircraft was born. From reconnaissance to bombing, the use of airplanes in World War I became a necessity, and aerial combat produced the fighter ace. The heroes of the sky quickly became legendary, but American Eddie Rickenbacker was the Great War’s “Ace of Aces” as the highest scorer of aerial victories. Captain Eddie Rickenbacker’s twenty-six kills of enemy aircraft had a significant impact of the Allied victory of World War I.

Eddie Rickenbacker did not grow up planning to serve his country. Like many young men of the early twentieth century, he was fascinated with the revolutionary invention of the automobile. Born in Columbus, Ohio in 1890, Rickenbacker dropped out of school at the age of twelve after his father died. He began working in an automobile garage as a mechanic. He quickly moved up to mechanical engineering with the desire to develop and assemble faster automotive engines. Rickenbacker was obsessed with technology and speed, and his thirst for adventure took him from garage mechanic to automobile racing by 1910 (Jeffers 27-29). For the next several years, Rickenbacker became one of America’s top racecar drivers of his time. He raced in the Indianapolis 500 and set a world racing record with...
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