Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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September 25th
Eddie Rickenbacker, Ace of Aces
To beco me a pilot, Eddie Rickenbacker had to fib about his age – the second time he’d had to do so to get a job. The first time came in 1904, when he was thirteen. His father had died, and Rickenbacker quit school to help support his family. Child labor laws required workers to be fourteen, so he claimed that age to get a job in a glass factory for $3.50 a week. But he soon developed an interest in the new “horseless carriages” and turned himself into one of the nation’s best race car drivers, competing in the Indianapolis 500 and setting a world speed record of 134 miles per hour at Daytona.

When the United States entered World War I, Rickenbacker enlisted and went to France, hoping to become a pilot. “War flying is for youngsters just out of school,” he was told. So now he had to claim he was younger than his twenty-seven years. He talked his way into the Army Air Service, took pilot’s training, and wound up in the 94th Aero Pursuit Squadron, the famous “Hat-in-the-Ring Squadron.” In less than three months, he shot down five enemy planes, becoming the second American ace of the war.

On September 25, 1918, while flying alone near Verdun, Rickenbacker spotted seven German aircraft – two reconnaissance planes escorted by five fighter planes. Climbing as high as he could, he switched off his engine, glided toward the rear fighter, and shot it down. Instead of scrambling to safety, he roared into the enemy formation. “I saw tracer bullets go whizzing and streaking past my face,” he later recalled. He managed to shoot down one of the reconnaissance planes before turning for home.

For his courage that day, Rickenbacker was awarded the Medal of Honor. Before the war’s end, he shot down 26 enemy craft, an American record that earned him the title “Ace of Aces.”

American History Parade
1690
Publick Occurences Both Foreign and Domestic, the first American newspaper, is published in Boston (unhappy authorities quickly close it down).

1775
Patriot Ethan Allen is captured by the British during an attack on Montreal.

1789
Congress sends twelve amendments to the Constitution to the states for ratification; ten are later ratified and become the Bill of Rights.

1918
Eddie Rickenbacker earns the Medal of Honor in the skies near Verdun, France.

1957
Army troops escort nine black students into Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce desegregation laws.

1981
Sandra Day O’Connor is sworn in as the first female U.S. Supreme Court justice.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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