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Burnside, Ambrose Everett (23 May 1824–13 September 1881), soldier and businessman, was born in Liberty, Indiana, the son of Pamelia Brown and Edghill Burnside, a law clerk and farmer. The Burnsides had nine children and only a modest income, so Ambrose received no more than a rudimentary education before starting work as an apprentice tailor in 1840. His father took advantage of a term in the state legislature to have the boy appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point, which he entered on 1 July 1843. He graduated eighteenth out of thirty-eight cadets in the class of 1847 and was commissioned second lieutenant in the Third U.S. Artillery. His battery was serving in the Mexican War, and he joined it in Mexico City, too late to see action. Bored, he gambled away six months’ pay. Further embarrassment was prevented by a posting, in spring 1848, to Fort Adams, Rhode Island....

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Chennault, Claire Lee (06 September 1893–27 July 1958), military officer and airline executive, was born in Commerce, Texas, the son of John Stonewall Jackson Chennault, a small-scale cotton grower, and Jessie Lee. Chennault grew up on a small farm in Franklin Parish in northeastern Louisiana. His mother died when he was eight years old. Two years later, his father married Lottie Barnes, a local schoolteacher. Educated in the nearby town of Gilbert, he entered Louisiana State University in 1909. Shortly thereafter, his stepmother, who had persuaded him to continue his education, died. “I was alone again,” he later wrote, “and really never found another companion whom I could so completely admire, respect, and love.”...

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Porter, Horace (15 April 1837–29 May 1921), soldier, businessman, and diplomat, was born in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, the son of David Rittenhouse Porter, a businessman, politician, and governor, and Josephine McDermott. Educated at Lawrenceville Academy and the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard (1854–1855), he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (1855), graduating third in the class of 1860. Commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the Ordnance Branch, he remained at the academy as an artillery instructor before being assigned to the Watervliet Arsenal at Troy, New York....

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Rickenbacker, Edward Vernon (08 October 1890–23 July 1973), aviator and airline executive, was born in Columbus, Ohio, the son of William Rickenbacher, a construction worker and bridge builder, and Elizabeth Baseler. The son of Swiss immigrants, “Eddie” Rickenbacker’s formal education ended when he was thirteen and in seventh grade, after his father was fatally injured in a construction accident. He dropped out of school and began working twelve-hour night shifts in a factory to help support his family. His only academic preparations after that came from correspondence courses in mechanical and automotive engineering. He worked in a machine shop, an automobile garage, and for the Frayer-Miller Company, which manufactured automobiles....