This was one of the most incredible men who ever lived in the United States. He so loved this country, and spent his life trying to make sure it stayed on the right course.
He was born October 8, 1890 and named Edward Vernon “Eddie” Rickenbacker. When he was still quite young, he raced four time in the Indianapolis 500. They called him “Fast Eddie”.
When the First World War broke out he was sent to France and since he was such a famous driver, his first assignment was to be the driver for General Pershing. However, he wanted to get into the action, and got transferred to the Air Service. Whatever organization Rickenbacker entered, he soon “went to the top”. And he soon became commanding officer of the 94th Aero Pursuit Squadron. Germany’s Red Baron was dominating the skies there, but his squadron was responsible for destroying 69 enemy aircraft, the highest number shot down by any American squadron. Flying over 300 combat hours, Eddie Rickenbacker personally shot down 26 enemy aircraft, and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his exploits.
He wrote a book about his flying activities in that war. It is called Fighting the Flying Circus. Here is just one little excerpt from it: “… three-quarters of an hour of gasoline remained … and no compass. Then I thought of the north star! Glory be! There she shines! I had been going west instead of south ……Keeping the star behind my rudder I flew south for fifteen minutes, then … found myself above the River Meuse…….. picked up our faithful searchlight and ten minutes later I landed …..As I walked across the field to my bed I looked up …..and repeated most fervently, ‘Thank you my God!'” Eddie was a very Godly man!
In his flying exploits he miraculously escaped death so many times. In his book here is what he wrote about those times: “I want to make it clear that this escape and the others were not the result of any super ability or knowledge on my part. I wouldn’t be alive today if I had to depend on that. I realized then, as I headed for France on one wing, that there had to be something else… I had seen others die, brighter and more able than I. I knew there was a power. I believe in calling upon it for aid and for guidance. I am not such an egotist as to believe that God has spared me because I am I. I believe there is work for me to do and that I am spared to do it, just as you are.”
When he came back to the US, he started his own automobile company. Before he sold it, he created many technological innovations such as the first four-wheel brake system. As I mentioned before, whatever he tried, he would go right to the top.
In 1927 he bought the Indianapolis Speedway where he had once raced. He then went to work for Eastern Airlines and then actually bought the whole company.
The Great Depression was about over and the country was healing, but when Franklin Roosevelt became president, his anti-business, Socialist policies put businesses back in a tailspin. Rickenbacker violently opposed those Roosevelt New Deal policies as creating a “socialized welfare state,” which drew criticism from the liberal media. Yes, they were liberal even back then. In fact, Roosevelt’s administration even ordered NBC Radio not to broadcast Rickenbacker’s remarks.
When Roosevelt tried to pack the Supreme Court, Eddie knew that such would destroy our Democratic Republic, just like it would now. He went on an all-out crusade to stop it. He recruited enough Democratic Congressmen to succeed in stopping it.
He wrote way back then: “Freedom is not a physical object. It is a spiritual and a moral environment … The evil of liberalism is its emphasis on material things and its disdain for the spiritual and moral resources that we call liberty. The liberal would sweep aside the constitutional restraints upon government in a blind rush to supply food, clothes, houses and financial security from birth to death, from the cradle to the grave for everybody …”
Rickenbacker explained that liberals view people collectively, while “… the conservative knows that to regard man of a part of an undifferentiated mass is to consign him to ultimate slavery.”
He went on to add: “A government that is large enough to give you all you want is large enough to take all you own first.”
In 1942, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson asked Rickenbacker to go on a special mission to the Pacific to inspect our military bases. Flying from Hawaii to New Guinea to meet with General Douglas MacArthur, the plane’s inadequate navigational equipment resulted in them being hundreds of miles off-course. Out of fuel, the plane ditched in the ocean, October 21, 1942.
For 24 days, in almost hopeless conditions, Eddie Rickenbacker and seven others drifted aimlessly on the open sea. Lt. James s Whittaker wrote a book about their ordeal. He wrote that they shivered wet all night but baked in the burning sun all day, and fought off sharks. When all seemed lost, they pulled their three little boats together and had a pray meeting. They recited the Lord’s Prayer together and then Private Johnny Bartek got out his Testament and Col. Adamson read from the 31st through the 34th verses of the sixth chapter of Matthew: “Therefore, take ye no thought, saying: What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For these are things the heathen seeketh. For your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Rickenbacker was deeply impressed by those verses and told all there that God was going to take care of them. They would have all given-up if he had not kept encouraging them. However, things became so bad that Lt. James Whittaker wrote: “Col. James C. Adamson … suddenly raised himself over the side of the raft and slid into the water. Quick as a flash, Rick had him.”
Rick, as they called him, was not going to have any quitters among them. He had them read that passage from Mathew again, and suddenly a big sea gull came and started flying above them. They all prayed that it would land so they could eat it. Sure enough, it landed right on Rickenbacker’s head. They had food from the sea gull, and used part of it for bait to catch fish with a hook that they fashioned from a keyring.
Whitaker wrote that they prayed again and that I looked over to the left. A cloud that had been fleecy and white a while ago now was darkening by the second. While I watched, a bluish curtain unrolled from the cloud to the sea. It was rain – and moving toward us! Now everyone saw the downpour, sweeping across the ocean and speckling the waves with giant drops.
Rickenbacker shouted out thanks to God. And Whitaker wrote: “Another minute and we were being deluged by sheets of cold water that splashed into our parched mouths and sluiced the caked salt off our burned and stinging bodies. We cupped our hands to guide the life-giving rivulets down our throats …We soaked and wrung out our shirts until all the salt was washed out of them. Then we saturated them again and wrung the water into our mouths.”
Eventually a Navy ship found them in that empty part of the Pacific.
Rickenbacker began radio broadcasts to encourage the people of our country. He wrote in another book: “I pray to God every night of my life to be given the strength and power to continue my efforts to inspire in others the interest, the obligation and the responsibilities that we owe to this land for the sake of future generations – for my boys and girls – so that we can always look back when the candle of life burns low and say, ‘Thank God I have contributed my best to the land that contributed so much to me.'”
One woman wrote in after listening to one of his radio broadcasts: “We listened to your radio broadcasts and now we know why you were saved, as we have needed someone in this good country of ours who was not afraid to speak their convictions …… The history of our country shows that in every crisis God has always produced a man strong enough for the time and we feel strongly that you were the man for this time.”
Eddie Rickenbacker died July 23, 1973. Jimmy Dolittle, of the famous Dolittle’s Raiders, spoke at his memorial service at Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church.