Ira C. Eaker was born in Field Creek, Texas, in 1896. He was appointed a second lieutenant in the Infantry Section, Officer's, Reserve Corps, and assigned to active duty with the 64th Infantry at El Paso, Texas. On Nov. 15, 1917, he was commissioned a second lieutenant of Infantry in the Regular Army.
General Eaker remained with the 64th Infantry at El Paso until March 1918, when 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, Calif.
In July 1919, he transferred to the Philippine Islands, where he served with the Second Aero Squadron at Fort Mills until September l919; with the Third Aero Squadron at Camp Stotsenburg until September 1920, and as executive officer of the Department Air Office, Department and Assistant Department Air Officer, Philippine Department, and in command of the Philippine Air Depot at Manila until September 1921.
Meanwhile, on July 1, 1920, he transferred from the Infantry to the Air Service and returned to the United States in January 1922, for duty at Mitchel Field, N.Y., where he commanded the Fifth Aero Squadron and later was post adjutant.
In June 1924, the general was named executive assistant in the Office of Air Service at Washington, D.C., and from December 1926, to May 1927, he served as a pilot of one of the planes of the Pan American Flight which made a goodwill trip around South America. He then became executive officer in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of War at Washington, D.C.
In September 1926, he was named operations and line maintenance officer at Bolling Field, Washington, D.C. While on that duty, he participated as chief pilot on the refueling endurance flight of the Army plane, "Question Mark", from Jan. 1 to 7, 1929, establishing a new world flight endurance record. In 1930, he made the first transcontinental flight with in-flight refueling.
In October 1934, General Eaker was ordered to duty at March Field, Calif., where he commanded the 34th Pursuit Squadron and later the 17th Pursuit Squadron. In the summer of 1935, he was detached for duty with the Navy and participated aboard the aircraft carrier, "Lexington", on maneuvers in Hawaii and Guam.
General Eaker entered the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Ala., in August 1935, and upon graduation the following June entered the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., from which he graduated in June 1937. He then became assistant chief of the Information Division in the Office of the Chief of Air Corps at Washington, D.C., and in November 1940, assumed command of the 20th Pursuit Group at Hamilton Field, Calif.
In January 1942, he was assigned to organize the VIII Bomber Command and to understudy the British system of bomber operations; then in December 1942, he assumed command of the Eighth Air Force in England. Later, he became commanding general of all U.S. Army Air Forces in the United Kingdom. In January 1944, he was named air commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces, having under his command the 12th and 15th U.S. Air Forces and the British Desert and Balkan Air Forces.
On April 30, 1945, General Eaker was named deputy commander of the Army Air Forces and chief of the Air Staff. He retired Aug. 31, 1947, and was promoted to lieutenant general on the retired list June 29, 1948.
General Eaker is a pilot with 12,000 flying hours in 30 years of flying. His military decorations include the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal; Army Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters; Navy Distinguished Service Medal; Silver Star; Legion of Merit; Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster; Air Medal; World War I and II Victory Medals; American Defense Service Medal; American Campaign Medal; and the European-African-Middle East Campaign Medal with bronze service stars.
General Eaker's foreign decorations include the Bolivian Order of Condor of the Andes; the Chilean Order Al Merito, Officer; Peruvian Order of the Sun of Peru, Officer; Venezuelan Order of the Liberator, Officer; Knight of the British Empire; Brazilian Order of the Southern Cross, Grand Official Order; Russian Order of Kutusov, Second Degree; Yugoslavian Partisan Star, First Class; French Legion of Honor, Grand Officer; French Croix de Guerre with Palm; Italian Grand Master of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus; British Knight Commander of the Bath; Brazilian Order of Aeronautical Merit; Polish Military Order of the Gold Cross of Merit with Swords.
General Eaker is co-author of "This Flying Game," "Army Flyer," and "Winged Warfare." Since 1962 he has authored a weekly column, carried by more than 35 newspapers, on subjects in the national security area.
On Oct. 10, 1978, the president of the United States, authorized by act of Congress, awarded in the name of the congress, a special Congressional Gold Medal to General Eaker, for contributing immeasurably to the development of aviation and to the security of his country.
Almost 40 years after his retirement, Congress passed special legislation awarding four-star status to General Eaker, prompted by Senator Barry Goldwater and endorsed by President Ronald Reagan. On April 26, 1985, Chief of Staff General Charles Gabriel and Ruth Eaker, the general's wife, pinned on his fourth star.