Assigned to flight instruction at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas, Eaker had to complete a cross-country, three legged flight from San Antonio, to Beaville, then Honcho and back to Kelly Field. While Eaker was approaching Beaville, his motor malfunctioned and he landed the plane gently in a rice paddy. A cowboy rode up on his horse and Eaker asked him to telegram the operations officer at Kelly Field. “It turned out that the nearest small town was named West, Texas. So my telegram said: ‘Landed three miles east of West in a rice paddy, please send propeller.’” The reply Eaker received was: “Sober up and come home and all will be forgiven.” The operations officer was joking and a propeller and mechanic arrived the next day.
- In 1926, awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his participation in a Pan-American goodwill fight to South America.
- In 1929, he was chief pilot of the Question Mark which set an in-flight refueling record of 150 hours.
- Was given command of the 8th Air Force in 1942 and was a proponent of precision daylight bombing.
- The “Eaker Plan” for combined bomber offensive commenced in January 1943 with the Americans bombing by day and British by night.
- Took over as commander in chief of Mediterranean Allied Air Forces in 1944.
Upon earning his Army Air Service wings in 1918, Eaker first served in the Philippines, and then moved up in command at Mitchell Field. While executive assistant in the office of the Air Service in 1924, he first embraced the concept of an independent Air Force.
After competing in the 1926 National Air Races, Eaker took part in the Pan American Goodwill Flight in 1926-27, then served as executive assistant to the Assistant Secretary of War. In 1929, he served as chief pilot of the Question Mark, which set an inflight refueling endurance record of 150 hours. After competing in the 1931 National Air Races, he commanded two pursuit squadrons and operated Air Mail Route 4 in 1934. He took part in the Pacific naval maneuvers in 1935 and made the first blind transcontinental flight in 1936. Completing the tactical school and the command and general staff school, he served as the Air Corps’ Assistant Chief of Information. In 1940, he led the Twentieth Pursuit Group. During World War II, Eaker organized the VIII bomber command and led the first heavy bomber raids over Europe. He commanded the Eigth Air Force, which then consisted of all U.S. Army Air Forces in the United Kingdom. He led the Mediterranean Allied Air forces during the invasion of Italy and southern France, then became deputy commander of the Army Air Forces and Chief of the Air Staff.
In 1947, he retired as a lieutenant general in the Air Force and became a syndicate writer on national security and air power and an aircraft firm executive.
Ira Eaker died on August 6th, 1987.
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