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Lt. Gen. USAF
Founding Pioneer of
U.S. Air Power
Born Field Creek, Texas
April 13, 1896-August 6, 1987
Ira Clarence Eaker received a degree from Southeastern State Teachers College, Durant, Oklahoma in 1917. After studying law at Columbus University from 1924-1926, he received his degree in Journalism in 1938.
Called to active duty in mid 1917, he requested aviation duty and received his wings as Military Aviator in September 1918. This was the beginning of an odyssey that was to see the name of Ira Eaker in the forefront of aviation for the next three decades.
After duty in the Philippines and the Staff of the Chief of Air Service, he was selected as one of the pilots of the Pan American Goodwill Flight of 1926-27. For this, he became one of the first to be awarded the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross. Known as a pilot's pilot, Eaker was chosen as a primary crew member of the historic 1929 Army endurance flight of 150 hours aloft in the Fokker monoplane Question Mark.
Recognized as an officer of high command potential, Major Eaker was selected to attend the elite Air Corps Tactical School in 1936 and the War College in 1937. In the same year, he made the first transcontinental flight entirely on instruments.
With Gen. H.H. Arnold, he co-authored the first of his books, This Flying Game. In 1941, Colonel Eaker, while commander of the 20th Pursuit Group, published two additional books, Winged Warfare and Army Flyer.
In January 1942, Brig. General Eaker was assigned the task of organizing the Eighth Air Force Bomber Command, which was to be the backbone of U.S. airpower in the European Theater. On August of that year, he personally led the first strike on continental Europe, continuing to lead the Eighth Air Force until January 1944 when Lt. Gen. Eaker was assigned to command all Allied Air Forces in the Mediterranean area.
In the postwar years, he served as Deputy Commander of the Army Air Forces and was a principal architect of the new separate air arm, the United States Air Force. Retired from active duty in 1947, he joined Douglas Aircraft as Vice President until 1961. Ira Eaker remained a sage adviser and author on U S. air power affairs until his death.
Invested 1981 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame
From "These We Honor," The International Hall of Fame; The San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, CA. 1984
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Updated: April 21, 2004