Another of the great pioneer airmen was Ira C. Eaker. He met Arnold and Carl A. Spaatz at Rockwell Field in 1918, and the three became friends and colleagues for life. Eaker was one of the premier pilots between the wars, participating in the Pan American flight of 1926-27 and piloting the Question Mark in the recordbreaking air refueling flight of 1929. He was also politically well connected, serving not only as an aide to Maj Gen James Fechet, the Air Corps chief, but also as the private pilot of Gen Douglas MacArthur. An excellent writer with a graduate degree in journalism, he figured prominently in airpower public relations efforts during the 1930s and coauthored several aviation books with Hap Arnold. During World War II he joined Spaatz in England to head the VIII Bomber Command and eventually the Eighth Air Force. In early 1944 Eaker moved down to Italy to command the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces. James Parton, Eaker's aide through much of the war, tells this story in, "Air Force Spoken Here": General Ira Eaker and the Command of the Air (Bethesda, Md.: Adler & Adler, 1986).
Fortunately for the country, but perhaps unfortunately for Eaker, the task of organizing and standing up the Eighth was extremely daunting. Eaker's talents as a leader and manager were essential. Strategic bombing was not a proven concept, the Eighth was entering combat green against an enemy already battle tested, and the prodigious production capacity of America had not yet manifested itself. Moreover, just as it appeared the Eighth was strong enough to play a major role in the war against Germany, it was stripped of men and machines for operations in North Africa and then Italy. Arnold badgered Eaker unmercifully to do more, while at the same time throttling the resources necessary to do so. In what many (including Eaker himself) considered a "kick upstairs," Eaker was promoted and moved to Italy, while his place at Eighth was taken by Jimmy Doolittle. Soon after, Eaker's labors bore fruit: air superiority over the Luftwaffe was gained, the invasion of France took place, and the sweep across northern Europe began, which eventually led to victory.
Parton relates Eaker's trials and challenges very well. Because he was there, he has a familiarity with the people and issues few others possess. And because he has a flare for history, he understands the context and significance of those issues. The main objection to this book is its unabashed admiration for Eaker. Apparently, the only mistakes the general ever made were on those occasions when he was too loyal to his subordinates or superiors-a weakness that would be seen by many as a character strength. In truth, for whatever reason, it was clear by the end of the war that Eaker was not in line for a fourth star (although he eventually received one in 1985). Clearly, there was something in his performance or personality that led Arnold, Spaatz, and Stuart Symington (the first Air Force secretary) to look elsewhere. Eaker retired and became a wealthy businessman and a prolific writer on airpower matters. Admiration aside, this is an extremely wellwritten and wellresearched book about a very important airman.
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the US Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.
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