Rickenbacker’s not infrequent outbursts during this long ordeal aroused the enmity of his fellow castaways. After these excoriations, the men thought more of their resentment for him and less about their suffering. When their will to live was flagging, Rickenbacker’s raging stirred their anger to the point that they fought to live only to spite him. It was a cruel motivational tactic, but, maybe, a necessary one in these unforgiving circumstances.
In late October 1942, the celebrated Eddie Rickenbacker along with two other passengers and five crew members were castaways adrift in a vast ocean. As a result of a confluence of navigational issues, their B-17 was lost and ditched shortly before it ran out of fuel. The life rafts had saved their lives—at least in the short term, but they had run out of their only ration (four oranges). Moreover, sharks, the elements, the enemy (the Japanese), and—most of all—thirst remained threats to their survival.
The plane carried five crew members and three passengers including the celebrated Eddie Rickenbacker--retired race car driver, past owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, World War One "Ace of Aces!" and Medal of Honor recipient, and, then, President of Eastern Airlines. The Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, had commissioned Rickenbacker to travel to the Pacific theater on an inspection and evaluation tour. He also had a secret message to "personally communicate" to General Douglas MacArthur from the Secretary of War.