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Ira Clarence Eaker
Birth: Apr. 13, 1896
Death: Aug. 6, 1987

US Air Force General, Aviation Pioneer. He is remembered as the World War II chief architect of a strategic bombing force that ultimately numbered forty groups of 60 heavy bombers each, and supported by a subordinate fighter command of 1,500 aircraft, most of which was in place by the beginning of 1944. Born in Field Creek, Texas, his father was a tenant farmer. He attended Southeastern State Teachers College in Durant, Oklahoma prior to joining the US Army in 1917. He was appointed a second lieutenant of Infantry in Officer's Reserve Corps, and was assigned to active duty with the 64th Infantry Regiment at Camp Bliss, El Paso, Texas. In November 1917 he received a commission in the Regular Army. In March 1918 he was placed on detached service to receive flying instruction at Austin and Kelly Fields in Texas. Upon graduation the following October, he was rated a pilot and assigned to Rockwell Field (now Naval Air Station, North Island), California. In July 1919 he was transferred to the Philippine Islands, where he served with the 2d Aero Squadron at Fort Mills, the 3d Aero Squadron at Camp Stotsenburg, an executive officer of the Department Air Office, Department and Assistant Department Air Officer, Philippine Department, and finally as commander of the Philippine Air Depot at Manila. During this time, he was commissioned as a captain in the Air Service and in January 1922 he returned to the US for duty at Mitchel Field (now decommissioned) on Long Island, New York, where he commanded the 5th Aero Squadron and later was post adjutant. During this time, he studied law at Columbia University in New York City, New York. In June 1924 he became executive assistant in the Office of Air Service at Washington, DC, and from December 1926, to May 1927, he served as a pilot of one of the Loening OA-1 float planes of the Pan American Goodwill Flight that made a 22,000 mile voyage around South America and, with the other crewmembers, was awarded the Mackay Trophy. He then became the executive officer in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of War at Washington, DC. In September 1926 he was named operations and line maintenance officer at Bolling Field (now part of Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling), Washington, DC. While there, he participated as chief pilot on the endurance flight of the Army plane, "Question Mark" (a modified Atlantic-Fokker C-2A aircraft) from 1 through 7 January 1929, establishing a new world non-stop flight endurance record of 150 hours, 40 minutes, and 14 seconds, as part of the US Army Air Corps' experiment with aerial refueling. For this achievement, he and the crew (including future General Carl Spaatz), were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. In 1930, he made the first transcontinental flight entirely with instruments. In October 1934 he was assigned to at March Field (now March Air Reserve Base), California, where he commanded the 34th Pursuit Squadron and later the 17th Pursuit Squadron. While there, he returned to college at the University of Southern California and received a degree in journalism. In the summer of 1935, he was detached for duty with the Navy and participated aboard the aircraft carrier USS Lexington, on maneuvers in Hawaii and Guam. In August 1935 he entered the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field (now Maxwell Air Force Base), Alabama and upon graduation in June 1936 he entered the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, graduating in June 1937. During his time at Ft Leavenworth from June 3 through 7, 1936, he made the first blind (instruments only) transcontinental flight from New York to Los Angeles. In June 1937 he became assistant chief of the Information Division in the Office of the Chief of Air Corps (OCAC) at Washington, DC, during which he helped plan and publicize the interception (a training exercise) of the Italian liner "Rex" at sea, using B-17 Flying Fortress bomber aircraft. In November 1940 he became commander of the 20th Pursuit Group at Hamilton Field, California (now closed) and was promoted to the rank of colonel the following year. In January 1942, after the US entry into World War II, he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and was assigned to organize the VIII Bomber Command (which became the 8th Air Force) in England and to understudy the British system of bomber operations, assuming command of the 8th Air Force in December 1942. Much of his initial staff was composed of former civilians rather than career military officers, and the group became known as "Eaker's Amateurs." His position as commander of the Eighth Air Force led to his becoming the model for the fictional 'Major General Pat Pritchard' in the 1949 movie "Twelve O'Clock High" that starred Gregory Peck. Throughout World War II, he was an advocate for daylight "precision" bombing of military and industrial targets in German-occupied territory and ultimately Germany, striking at the enemy's ability to wage war while minimizing civilian casualties. The British considered daylight bombing too risky and wanted the Americans to join them in night raids that would target wider areas, but he persuaded British Prime Minister Winston Churchill that the American and British approaches complemented each other in a one-page memo that concluded, "If the RAF continues night bombing and we bomb by day, we shall bomb them round the clock and the devil shall get no rest." He personally participated in the first US B-17 bomber strike against German occupation forces in France, bombing the city Rouen on August 17, 1942. In September 1943 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general. However, as American bomber losses mounted from German defensive fighter aircraft attacks on deep penetration missions beyond the range of available fighter cover, he may have lost some of the confidence of US Army Air Force Commanding General Henry "Hap" Arnold. In December 1943 General Dwight D. Eisenhower was named Supreme Allied Commander, and he replaced Eaker with Lieutenant General Jimmy Doolittle, and reassigning him as the Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces, which included the 12th and 15th Air Forces along with the British Desert and Balkan Air Forces. In April 1945 he returned to the US and was named deputy commander of the Army Air Forces and Chief of the Air Staff in Washington DC. He retired on August 31, 1947 with 30 years of continued military service in the US Army and US Army Air Corps. Among his military decorations and awards include the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Army Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, and the Air Medal. He also received numerous foreign service medals and accumulated 12,000 flying hours as a pilot. After his retirement, he became a vice president of Hughes Tool Company and Hughes Aircraft (from 1947 until 1957) and of Douglas Aircraft (from 1957 until 1961). On June 29, 1948 he was promoted to lieutenant general in the newly established United States Air Force on the retired list. Almost 40 years after his retirement, Congress passed special legislation awarding him four-star status in the US Air Force, prompted by then retired Air Force Reserve Major General and Republican Senator Barry Goldwater and endorsed by President Ronald Reagan and on April 26, 1985, he received his fourth star. With Henry "Hap" Arnold, he co-authored the books "This Flying Game" (1936), "Winged Warfare" (1937), and "Army Flyer" (1942). In 1962 he began writing a weekly column on military affairs that was carried by many newspapers. In 1970 he was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame, in Dayton, Ohio. In 1978 he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his distinguished career as an aviation pioneer and Air Force leader. He died at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland at the age of 91. Blytheville Air Force Base, Arkansas was renamed Eaker Air Force Base (now closed) in his honor on May 26, 1988. The General Ira C. Eaker Award is given by the Civil Air Patrol in his honor to cadets who have completed the requirements of the final phase of the cadet program. The award is accompanied by promotion to the grade of Cadet Lieutenant Colonel, the second highest grade in the program. (bio by: William Bjornstad) 
Family links: 
  Yancey Young Eaker (1870 - 1949)
  Ladonia Graham Eaker (1881 - 1929)
  Ruth Apperson Eaker (1908 - 1995)*
  Ira Clarence Eaker (1896 - 1987)
  Henry Grady Eaker (1899 - 1982)*
  Claude Les Eaker (1903 - 1973)*
*Calculated relationship
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington County
Virginia, USA
Plot: Section 30, Site 490-2
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Originally Created by: Bill Heneage
Record added: Jul 24, 2002
Find A Grave Memorial# 6634056
Ira Clarence Eaker
Added by: William Bjornstad
Ira Clarence Eaker
Added by: Bill Heneage
Ira Clarence Eaker
Added by: Bill Heneage
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