America's World War I "Ace of Aces," Edward Vernon Rickenbacker was born in Columbus in 1890 to Swiss immigrant parents, leaving school at age 12 to help support his family. Working for several Columbus automobile companies initiated his love of racing, and he achieved fame as a race driver and team owner between 1910 and 1916. Enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1917, he went to France as staff driver for General John Pershing with ambitions of becoming a combat flier. He managed a transfer to the American Expeditionary Force's Aviation Instruction Center, learned to fly, and was assigned to the 94th Aero Squadron, the famed "Hat in the Ring" squadron led by ace Raoul Lufbery. (continued on other side)
(continued from other side) In a deadly environment where a pilot's life expectancy was measured in weeks, Rickenbacker quickly mastered air combat tactics and scored six victories in little more than a month. He assumed command of the 94th Aero Squadron in June 1918. America's leading fighter ace with 26 victories at the Armistice, Rickenbacker eventually received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Instrumental in the development of commercial aviation during the interwar years, he served as general manager and president of Eastern Airlines while he continued to set aviation records and survived two flying mishaps that only added to his legend. He was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1965. A beloved hero of American aviation, "Captain Eddie" died in 1973.