Eddie Rickenbacker was America’s most decorated ace in World War I. Man of courage and faith, he shot down 26 aircraft. After that war, he raced cars, ran Eastern Airlines. During the next, he crashed in a B-17, survived 24 days on a raft. As life ebbed, he prayed for food. A seagull landed within reach, keeping him alive. Rescued, he fed gulls the rest of his life. He wrote, too – with uncanny insight.
By chance, three private letters fell into my hands – all written by Rickenbacker to a friend, all-around Christmas – one in 1944 before WWII ended, one after in 1946, one 20 years later.
The three are stunning in their clarity, empathy, love of country, and concern for the future. In the first, he worries for those in uniform. In the third, he describes the best presidential candidate.
In the second, shortly after World War II ended – he worries for America’s future. His caution is worth recalling. Rickenbacker’s foresight is arresting, words compelling – and on target.
In that second letter, written in 1946, Eddie Rickenbacker muses to a friend, glad that WWII is over, concerned about what may next happen. Relief is good, but wars cast long shadows.
The flow of Rickenbacker’s thoughts is captivating. He lays out the case, at war’s end, for thinking about what winning took. “For many years past … the main objective of our leadership … was to teach the American people … how to hate” our enemies. He concedes the need.
He continues. “On V-E Day and finally on V-J Day, the guns were silenced … Thousands have gone home … a signal for Peace, Love and Good Will toward men, but since the hate was instilled in the hearts and minds of millions … we started … to hate ourselves.”
“Republicans hate Democrats, and Democrats hate Republicans. Communists … Fascists are being hated… Employees have been taught to hate the boss, the company for which they work, and the stockholders who own it.”
“Switching the strife from the battlefields of foreign lands to the battle fields on the home front, is bringing about disorganization, industrial strife, misery and … poverty.” Poverty is material and spiritual, a sense that hardened hearts are now permissible.
“Let us … take inventory of ourselves and our pet hates as we approach the Holiday Season, with the hope that we may again recapture our respect and admiration for our fellow man …”
Rickenbacker, old ace, gets specific. With uncanny foresight, he writes: Let us “eliminate the hates from our hearts and minds, and proceed with the teachings of Christ, so that once again we may enjoy the Peace and Tranquility of the laws and liberties of this great land of ours.”
He offers wishes for a good holiday season, one that might just as well be ours. He knows what it takes to win. He has steeled his nerves, resolved to win, known lesser evils to beat greater ones.
But he is now concerned for winning peace, for long-term peace among his fellow Americans, a return to empathy, mutual identification, congeniality, respect, restored order, even admiration. He is concerned about the power of “taught hate” to diminish “this great land of ours.”
The singular question Rickenbacker poses, although not expressed, is: Can Americans unlearn taught antipathy, hatred, demonization of our fellow man? In his view, survival depends on it.
Good news: We did unlearn it with conscious effort. Bad news: We seem to have forgotten how much damage is done by teaching division, disfavoring a group, race, faith, position, or opinion, ignoring the heart’s dominion. We need to remember; Rickenbacker was right.
We hope you've enjoyed this article. While you're here, we have a small favor to ask...
Support AMAC Action. Our 501 (C)(4) advances initiatives on Capitol Hill, in the state legislatures, and at the local level to protect American values, free speech, the exercise of religion, equality of opportunity, sanctity of life, and the rule of law.Donate Now
What a great example of a hero in America! We need to return, as he said to our Lord Jesus Christ!
All must decide for peace. Only one is required for war. Just saying “we all need to get along” doesn’t cut it. At some point, those with hate in their hearts must either be convinced or destroyed. That’s just the way it is.
There’s only one view that correctly expresses what is to be loved and what is hated. God our creator. He hates: see Proverbs 6:16-19.
Salvation is of the Jews Messiah: John 3:3, 15-16, 1 John 4:8, John 14:6, Acts 4:12. I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation…Romans 1:16
How may I read the letters myself?
God is our eternal hope and our Savior ; especially in these turbulent and uncertain times !!!
Tell all that to Anti-fuh who the FBI is now covering for. Tell that to B L M. Tell that to the American communists ( D ). There was a line drawn in the sand. It is now NOT about hate but about survival.
Thanks O’Biden and Oboingo.
I read the last comment in this current thread, and it has just come to me how we view the Arab Islamic world. I learned that the Islamic religion is a distorted version of God’s way for His Creation to live by. I’ve never read the Quran, maybe I should…..but I digress, my point is, as American’s hating Muslim’s for what they believe we see as normal. Just like how we hate the Communists who have taken over our government.
What I’m saying is, from the time they are able to utter a single word, Muslim children are brainwashed to ‘HATE THE GREAT SATAN.’ Of course through the years this has been the cycle for their religious belief of the teaching from THEIR holy book.
Our Holy Book teaches love and physical constraint which those in our own part of the world have been ‘brainwashed,’ or ‘indoctrinated’ to believe in their twisted reality that Christianity is all about exclusivity and hate.
(It is clear in my understanding that God took care of this extraordinary man. God’s wisdom emanates from his writings. It is no coincidence that we have been introduced to him through his letters. ‘There is a reason for everything).’ I’m learning too that we can easily twist our own emotions of hate towards those who we’ve heard or seen as people who are nothing but killers and terrorists. Every behavior of mankind is ‘learned.’ Muslim babies are driven by those who were brainwashed before them to hate us….our own children are driven by those before them who’ve been brainwashed to hate all who believe in God or any who simply oppose their agenda.
God teaches us we are all brothers and sisters and to reserve judgement for Him. We are so guilty of not doing that! Maybe now we can have a clearer view of how each of us got to where we are in this life. In reality, we are all to blame because of our ‘sin nature.’ Bad behavior is learned as so is good behavior by example….and we have been given another reminder from the hand written letters of ‘God’s Wisdom’ through one of His chosen examples to follow.
Thanks AMAC for this article.
Without a moral compass and belief in a greater power, hate becomes the preferred tool of those seeking the destruction of civility and love.
Too many choose this path to fill the void in their life and convince themselves it’s everyone else, not them who is on the wrong road.
Courageous thoughts from a true American hero.
Thanks for sharing!
When one does not have religious faith; an individual has NOTHING–‘ NO SUSTENANCE –‘ WITHIN THIS WORLD !!!
Yes, I believe that to be true
prophesy for sure & values
Eddie was on a raft in the pacific with several others after crash landing. There was conflict among the survivors. Eddie took command and enforced order by the power of his will. He was a harsh taskmaster because he knew the only way they would make it was if they focused on how much they hated him. It worked and he is credited with saving the castaways. Now we are locked in a desperate struggle with communism. One man stood up to take the heat, to be the punching bag, to absorb the venomous hate that only the left can produce. Many were so offended by his personality that they stood aside or even voted for a husk who never had any scruples to lose. Can we learn from this episode in our history to consider not living by our feelings? There’re only imperfect choices. If we get this wrong the opportunities in the future will likely involve even more difficult choices.
Rickenbacker, who at one time owned the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, sounds like a wise man. In today’s world it’s pretty obvious where 90% of the hate comes from. They hate God, the USA, babies, and normal mores!