Eddie Rickenbacker's Bird's Eye View of Peace

Rickenbacker and his Spad, in World War I.

This isn't from the Bible, but it's good. It happened 100 years ago.

On November 11th, 1918, World War I ended. Here's how Eddie Rickenbacker, America's leading flying ace, described it in his memoir:

"In the morning orders came down that all pilots should stay on the ground. It was a muggy, foggy day. About 10:00 I sauntered out to the hanger and casually told my mechanics to take the plane out on the line and warm it up to test the engine. Without announcing my plans to anyone, I climbed into the plane and took off. Under the low ceiling I hedgehopped towards the front. I arrived over Verdun at 10:45 and proceeded on toward Conflans, flying over no-man's-land. I was at less than 500 feet. I could see both Germans and Americans crouching in their trenches, peering over with every intention of killing any man who revealed himself on the other side. From time to time ahead of me on the German side I saw a burst of flame, and I knew that they were firing at me. Back at the field later on I found bullet holes in my ship.

"I glanced at my watch. One minute to 11:00, thirty seconds, fifteen. And then it was 11:00 A.M., the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. I was the only audience for the greatest show ever presented. On both sides of no-man's-land, the trenches erupted. Brown-uniformed men poured out of the American trenches, gray-green uniforms out of the German. From my observer's seat overhead, I watched them throw their helmets in the air, discard their guns, wave their hands. The all up and down the front, the two groups of men began edging toward each other across no-man's-land. Seconds before they had been willing to shoot each other; now they came forward. Hesitantly at first, then more quickly, each group approached the other.

"Suddenly gray uniforms mixed with brown. I could see them hugging each other, dancing, jumping. Americans were passing out cigarettes and chocolate. I flew up to the French sector. There it was even more incredible. After four years of slaughter and hatred, they were not only hugging each other but kissing each other on both cheeks as well.

"Star shells, rockets and flares began to go up, and I turned my ship toward the field. The war was over."

Capt Edward V. Rickenbacker
Commander, 94th Pursuit Squadron, (The Hat in the Ring Squadron)
U.S. Army Signal Corps
Medal of Honor recipient


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