A race car driver, he served in France during World War I as chauffeur for General Pershing. With Germany's Red Baron dominating the skies, he transferred to the 94th Aero Squadron and helped shoot down 69 enemy aircraft. Awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, his name was "Eddie" Rickenbacker, born OCTOBER 8
, 1890. After World War I, Rickenbacker became owner of the Indianapolis Speedway and Eastern Airlines. In 1942, the Secretary of War asked Rickenbacker to inspect military bases in the Pacific. With inadequate navigational equipment, the pilot flew hundreds of miles off-course, ran out of fuel and ditched in the ocean. The oldest of the seven survivors, 52-year-old Rickenbacker encouraged the others for 24 days as they drifted in the open sea Flight Engineer Pvt. John Bartek of Freehold, N.J., reported that on the 8th day, after reading from the Bible
, Matthew 6:31-34, a sea gull landed on Rickenbacker's head. He caught it and they used it for food and fish bait on a hook made from a bent key ring. Fighting off sharks and ocean swells several feet high, they drank water wrung from their clothes after infrequent drizzles. Eddie Rickenbacker later recalled: "It was clear to me that God had a purpose in keeping me alive...I had been saved to serve."