Monday, December 16, 2019

Never Give Up! Never Surrender!*

Busy, Busy, Busy!  Christmas draws nigh and the juvat abode (not the Lair, that's still in the design phase) is approaching "Fully Decorated" status.  Johnson and Johnson stock has skyrocketed this past week based on increased sales. Ben Gay is remarkably effective in soothing aches in the knees, back and neck caused by climbing ladders, moving furniture and bending over to trace the one burned out bulb that causes the whole tree not to illuminate.

Ask me how I know.

But the week went by quickly, and since I've now been retired one year, I've come to realize there are only two days in a week.  Sunday and NotSunday.  Since I went to Church today, ergo it must be Sunday.  Which means I gotta post something, but the Ben Gay fumes are not conducive to cognitive thought about a subject to post about.

So...fully realizing that I'm raiding my fall back story bank for the second week in a row...I'm going to go here for a story.



The Medal of Honor Recipient I'm discussing was originally intended to be one of the last in the Air Force Medal of Honor series.  While I don't think there's any name on that monument that doesn't deserve to be there, I do feel that some are more deserving than others.  Is there any doubt that Lt Sijan, or BG Day, or Lt Femoyer, without a doubt, deserved the award?

I mean the criteria for the medal is "...risk of life above and beyond the call of duty..."  right?  As a fighter pilot, my job, my duty, was to shoot down as many enemy aircraft as possible and to keep doing that until I was relieved or the war ended.

So based on that, I had kinda postponed posting the stories of a couple of recipients. However, I learned something interesting recently about one of the recipients that I hadn't known before. While the incident occurred well after he was awarded the Medal, I think the circumstances filled the above criteria quite well.

Suffice it to say, Edward V. Rickenbacker led an "interesting" life.  Born in 1890 as Edward Rickenbacher, his formal schooling ended at seventh grade, but he self educated himself in engineering and mechanical fields.  Automobiles fascinated him particularly and he became  a race car driver participating in four Indy 500 races among others.

When WWI started in 1914, He changed his name by switching the H to a K to make it "Less German".  As an aside, which I thought descriptive, he also wrote his name 26 times with a different middle initial.  He thought Edward V. Rickenbacker looked  the best so he changed his name to Edward Vernon Rickenbaker.

His mechanical aptitude stood him in good stead as the US entry to WWI approached. He had enlisted in the Army and by the time he got to France was a Sergeant First Class.  Assigned as the engineering officer at the Army's flying school in France, he would "practice flying" in between fixing airplanes.  (The rules are different now.)  His proficiency at fixing aircraft kept his superiors from recommending his training to officially be a pilot.

Persistence won out and he was eventually transferred to the 94th Aero Squadron.

94 Fighter Squadron F-22's
Source

No, Beans, this was not what he was flying.  Although it is what the 94th Fighter Squadron is flying today.

He first flew Nieuport 28s, as hand-me-downs from the French, but eventually flew this.
Spad XIII
Source
Between April 29, 1918 and October 30, 1918, he scored  21 German Aircraft and 5 Balloons confirmed kills.  This total made him the highest scoring American pilot in the War.  For this he received 8 Distinguished Service Crosses.

One of those DSC's was converted to a Medal of Honor in 1930.

After the war, Rickenbacker had many careers.  He was a defense witness in the Courts Martial of Billy Mitchell.  He started his own Automobile manufacturing company, later bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as well as Eastern Airlines.

In February 1941, he was on board an Eastern DC-3 which crashed.  Severely injured, he was left on board soaked in aviation fuel, because rescue workers thought he was too injured to survive.  This same thinking again happened in the emergency room.  However, he did survive and, although it took several months, recovered.

I also loved this quote from the Wikipedia Source.

"Rickenbacker was adamantly opposed to President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal policies, seeing them as little better than socialism. For this, he drew criticism and ire from the press and the Roosevelt administration, which ordered NBC Radio not to allow him to broadcast opinions critical of Roosevelt's policies..."

Let's see...Democrat, New Deal, Socialism, trampling Freedom of Speech...Yep, not much has changed.

Stay on Target, juvat!

¡Sí, sí, permanecer en el objetivo, mi antiguo sargento de la Fuerza Aérea!

He also wrote a comic strip Ace Drummond.

All of which made him a very talented and interesting man.

However, the story I heard (viewed actually) happened in the early years of WWII.  He was dispatched by FDR to deliver a letter to MacArthur (a rebuke for the General's public criticism of the administration), as well as inspect the situation and conditions of the war in the SW Pacific. He departs Hawaii in a B-17 to fly to Australia with an enroute refueling stop at Canton Island.

The distances are so great, it was difficult to get all three points on a single screen shot
However, unbeknownst to the crew, the compass had been damaged in a taxi accident prior to takeoff and was unreliable.  They missed the island completely (even outside of radio range) and eventually ran out of gas forcing them to ditch the aircraft.  There were 8 men on board, including Rickenbacker, and only 3 small life rafts.

Rickenbacker assumed leadership and directs them to tie the rafts together to improve their chances of being spotted.  Food and water run out after 3 days.  8 days into the adventure, a seagull lands on one of the rafts and is caught.  That sustains them for a bit. Intermittent rain and an occasional bird or fish keep them alive...barely All were suffering from sunburn, dehydration and starvation.  One of the crew, knowing that it is harmful, drinks seawater.  He, shortly thereafter, dies and is buried at sea.

After 2 weeks, the search is about to be called off. However, Rickenbacker's wife manages to convince the Military to continue searching.  The survivors eventually decide to split up.  The pilot goes off in a single seat raft and is rescued on day 23.  The other raft with 3 survivors in it, makes it to a small inhabited island where the Natives are manning an Allied Radio Station.  On Day 24, a Navy OS2U Kingfisher spots the remaining raft off the coast of Nukufetau (far left dot above) and rescues them.


Never give up....Never Surrender!

Indeed.



Captain Rickenbacker's Citation(s):

   Edward V. Rickenbacker, Colonel, specialist reserve, then first lieutenant, 94th Aero Squadron, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy near Billy, France, September 25, 1918. While on a voluntary patrol over the lines Lt. Rickenbacker attacked seven enemy planes (five type Fokker protecting two type Halberstadt photographic planes). Disregarding the odds against him he dived on them and shot down one of the Fokkers out of control. He then attacked one of the Halberstadts and sent it down also.

Medal of Honor citation, awarded November 6, 1930


First Distinguished Service Cross citation

    The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), US Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Montsec, France, April 29, 1918. Captain Rickenbacker attacked an enemy Albatross monoplane, and after a vigorous fight in which he followed his foe into German territory, he succeeded in shooting it down near Vigneulles-les-Hatton Chatel.

Second Distinguished Service Cross citation

    The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), U.S . for extraordinary heroism in action over Richecourt, France, on May 17, 1918. Captain Rickenbacker attacked three Albatross enemy planes, shooting one down in the vicinity of Richecourt, France, and forcing the others to retreat over their own lines.

Third Distinguished Service Cross citation

    The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), US Army, for extraordinary heroism in action over St. Mihiel, France, on May 22, 1918. Captain Rickenbacker attacked three Albatross monoplanes 4,000 meters over St. Mihiel, France. He drove them back into German territory, separated one from the group, and shot it down near Flirey.

Fourth Distinguished Service Cross citation

    The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), US Army, for extraordinary heroism in action over Boise Rate, France, on May 28, 1918. Captain Rickenbacker sighted a group of two battle planes and four monoplanes, German planes, which he at once attacked vigorously, shooting down one and dispersing the others.

Fifth Distinguished Service Cross citation

    The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), US Army, for extraordinary heroism in action on May 30, 1918, 4,000 meters over Jaulny, France. Captain Rickenbacker attacked a group of five enemy planes. After a violent battle, he shot down one plane and drove the others away.

Sixth Distinguished Service Cross citation

    The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), US Army, for extraordinary heroism in action in the region of Villecy, France, September 14, 1918. Captain Rickenbacker attacked four Fokker enemy planes at an altitude of 3,000 meters. After a sharp and hot action, he succeeded in shooting one down in flames and dispersing the other three.

Seventh Distinguished Service Cross citation

    The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edward Vernon Rickenbacker, Captain (Air Service), US Army, for extraordinary heroism in action in the region of Bois-de-Wavrille, France, September 15, 1918. Captain Rickenbacker encountered six enemy planes, who were in the act of attacking four Spads, which were below them. Undeterred by their superior numbers, he unhesitatingly attacked them and succeeded in shooting one down in flames and completely breaking the formation of the others. 






I didn't notice much difference between the MOH citation and the rest.
 

*Shamelessly stolen from a pretty darn good movie

33 comments:

  1. "Let's see...Democrat, New Deal, Socialism, trampling Freedom of Speech...Yep, not much has changed. Stay on Target, juvat!"

    Who can blame a man for picking low hanging fruit? I mean, if nothing else it's a target of opportunity. Why else would someone wire 2 of their 8 fifties on a separate switch??

    "We Heard The Angels Sing" was a book on the reading and discussion list on our homemade home-school curriculum. My kids still remember that book. His wife was a real "strong" lady. It was by her force of will that they kept looking!!

    E.V. Rickenbacker is/was one of my heroes. I'm partial to a lot of autodidacts.

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    1. Dang, STxAR, Autodidact? I had to go look it up.

      He's one of my heroes also, but there were a lot of things I didn't know about him other than 26 kills in the article.

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    2. Autodidactic polymath actually.

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    3. Aww geez. Another trip to the dictionary!

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  2. Left aboard a crashed plane because he was thought to be too injured to live, EMT procedures have improved thankfully since then. Tough man that Rickenbacker. A government ordering a private business, ya... regulated by that government, to stifle the free speech of a citizen, who knew?!? A good posting juvat especially highlighting this man's post WWI life. Watch those ladders juvat, seen too many fail vids involving ladders.

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    1. Most of my college summers were spent in Mississippi painting houses. Been up and down a lot of ladders, although lately they seem higher and harder to climb. Only fell off one once.

      As for EMT's, yeah, I think I'll stay with the ones today rather than yesteryear.

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  3. Not sure why one DSC was converted to the Medal of Honor, though I suspect politics was involved. (No! Really?) But in Eddie Rickenbacker's case, it's a fine lifetime achievement award.

    He's always been a hero of mine, since I was a little kid.

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    1. My working hypothesis is this. Since Luke, Goettler, and Bleckley were all posthumous recipients and the movement to create a separate air force was forming, the Mitchells and Arnolds needed a live hero to help carry the banner. Just my hypothesis.

      He's one of mine also. A model of his airplane (complete with thread "wires") hung from my ceiling as a kid.

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  4. There are stories he "unofficially" flew against Japanese while employed as a civilian advisor.

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    1. I suppose that's possible, although his two crashes took quite a lot out of him and took quite a time to recover from.

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    2. Actually that was Charles Lindbergh.

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    3. Ahh, Rickenbacker would have been 51 in 1941, which sounds young to me know, but that's ancient in fighter pilot years. Lindbergh would have only been 39, so much more feasible.

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    4. Don't tell him THAT! He already thinks he is. Besides, it was a history quiz, You know him and history.

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  5. It's a great movie, and a great way to live.

    I read that story in second or third grade during reading time in the library. I was utterly amazed that human beings could survive such a trial, and the thought of being hungry enough to eat a raw seagull or thirsty enough to drink sea water really re-calibrated my brain toward a quest to understand and participate in reality. I had to be sneaky to slip a book out of the "big kids" shelves. The librarian was all about saving the chirruns from reality (read socialism). She was utterly correct as it turns out because I learned to hate communism and despise the behavior of it proponents and practitioners before the social studies teacher could brainwash me. I was deep behind enemy lines and had to learn to never give in, never surrender. It was cool!

    Thanks for a great post and for sparking memories of my time as a POE -- Prisoner of Edmucatin'.

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    1. Fortunately, I got along pretty well with the Base Librarian at Webb, and the library had an extensive collection on Flying (say it ain't so at an Undergraduate Pilot Training base, whoda thunk?). I got to pick and choose pretty much anything I wanted. She'd even hold some new books back for me to read. Good times.

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  6. The Neuport 28's were supposed to be really sweet birds to fly, though a little too easily damaged. A nimble, elegant plane, especially compared to what England was flying. The Spads were, from what I was told, a tad more stodgy, but still a better plane than most Brit birds.

    To survive and thrive in an environment where survival was measured in hours was amazing.

    As to protecting Mitchell, the two of them were much the same. Good, forward thinkers not afraid to cheat one bit.

    Yeah, FDR... I'm decorating today so I won't go off on America's Hitler too much, the frackin socialist bastige. We were pulling slowly out of the Depression until he stirred the mess and, like any progressive authoritative dictator, screwed the pooch so bad it took us fighting a war to the knife to fix things. Too bad he didn't die during his first term.

    Pacific adventures, well, doesn't take much today to miss a small island in the middle of nowhere. Back then without all the electronic doo-dads, one small math mistake or equipment malfunction and it was your life. He's lucky to have been rescued, along with most of the crew.

    Good man. Fortunate man. Bold enough to succeed, smart enough to tone back his boldness. Shame he wasn't awarded the MoH in a timely fashion. But ranting on about the awards structure is best left to someone who was in the service, rather than an interested observer. Though tales from officer-type bloggers about the awards system from inside the system would be interesting, though y'all have touched it a couple times.

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    1. Udvar Hazy has one suspended at eye level along the mezzanine. It was surprising how small it was, and you're right, it did look like a good sneeze would tear it apart.

      On our deployment to Korea from Moody, I'll confess to a feeling of relief when Wake Island came into view. Similar feeling several hours later when Kadena's Tacan locked on. Course that could have had something to do with the numbness in my butt.

      Texas has a program where you can get a license plate with your highest award on it. I haven't seen one with THE medal, but I have seen a few with the Service Cross (Air Force Cross, Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Cross), as well as Silver Stars and Bronze Stars. I'm ok with all that. However, I've seen a lot of Meritorious Service Medals (which according to WEB Griffin is awarded to a Field Grade Officer who PCS's without having come down with the Clap). Yesterday, I saw one with the Commendation Medal (Same criteria as the MSM only it's a Company Grade Officer. My highest was a Defense Meritorious Service Medal (which is same thing as the others except you had to be on a Joint Staff). The only one I gave a crap about was the Humanitarian Service Medal I received at the completion of my tour in Hawaii.

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    2. I see tons of Legion of Merit tags around here. Those are for 10 multi-page reports without a paper cut, right?? Only issued to Majors and above??

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    3. Colonels and above... No paper cuts, but more important... no Clap.

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  7. Rickenbacker was originally deployed to Europe as General Black Jack Pershing's driver so he also had to get the permission from the American Commander in order to fly in combat. He ended up the war as the top American Ace with 26 confirmed kills. A record that was equaled in WWII by another great hero - Joe Foss.

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    1. Yep, air power and air to air combat had matured quite a bit by the time WWII was over. There were quite a few folks (from all sides) with more than 26. Which does not lessen Rickenbacker's achievement, 26 total victories in 6 months with 20 of them happening in 6 weeks would be hard to beat.

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  8. When I retired I had to be aware of Tuesday, the garbage truck showed up around 0600 on Wednesday!

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    1. Living in the country, the 4 houses on our road share a dumpster, so that's one less worry I have. Not sure I've got the mental capacity any longer for that routine breaking rhythm. Sunday, NotSunday, Garbage, NotSunday, NotSunday,NotSunday, NotSunday.
      I'm in awe of your mental stamina, Sir! :-)

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  9. One helluva interesting man. And the MOH was well deserved, if a tad late. Re WWII, it was Lindberg that flew in combat in a P-38.

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  10. I know I read about his being lost in the Pacific and floating around for days some time in grade school.
    I'd forgotten about his racing career.
    If it wasn't documented his story would read like fantastic fiction.

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    1. I would say he was perfectly positioned for his point in history.

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  11. (Don McCollor)...somewhere I recall reading that what kept one of other survivors alive was waiting for the pleasure of burying that cantankerous old SOB at sea...

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    1. I have read that an effectie leadership technique is to make your fellows hate YOU more than Death....Perhaps...

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  12. Great post. Goes to show that a college education isn't all that it's cracked up to be. I once read something about why Chuck Yeager still alive, it's because God must Love Chuck Yeager. I think the same goes for Rickenbacker, have having him lived such a long life with so many brushes with death.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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