Captain Edward Vernon Rickenbacker – America’s Top scoring Ace 1890 / 1973 Part 2
During World War One, He like many other German Americans changed the spelling of his name to a more American sounding equivalent, he changed the H’s for K’s thus becoming Rickenbacker. Because he was well known in the media, this name change received wide publicity.
In 1917, when The United States declared war on Germany. Rickenbacker enlisted in the Army and was soon training in France with some of the first American troops. He arrived in France on the 26th of June 1917 as a Sergeant First Class.
Most of the men chosen for pilot training had college degrees and Rickenbacker had to struggle to gain permission to fly because of his perceived lack of academic qualifications. Because of his mechanical abilities, He was transferred as engineering officer to the 3rd Aviation Instruction Centre at Issoudun, The U.S. Air Service’s pursuit training facility, where he learnt to fly in his spare time. He learnt to fly well, but because his mechanical skills were so highly valued, his superior’s tried to prevent him from attaining his wings with the other pilots.
Rickenbacker demonstrated that he had a qualified replacement, and the military awarded him a place in the 94th Aero Squadron, informally know as the ” Hat – in – the – Ring” Squadron after its insignia. Initially he flew the Nieuport 28, at first without armament. On April 29th 1918, Rickenbacker shot down his first plane. On May the 28th he shot down his fifth to become an Ace. Later that month the French awarded Rickenbacker the Croix de Guerre for his five victories.
(C) Damian Grange 2018