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Gerry asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 1 decade ago

Is there a fair comparison on Generals Ira C. Eaker and James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle?

Both were vary qualified officers; Gen. Doolittle and Eaker would receive their 4th star from President Reagan in 1985. Gen. Doolittle would insist that since he had had 10 years of broken service between 1931 and 1940 that Eaker should receive his 4th star first during the same ceremony.

The one thing I admire about Eaker was his lack in desire of bombing the Abbey at Monte Cassino; the thing I admire about Doolittle (in addition to the Raid on Tokyo) was his overall contribution to aeronautical engineering. Doolittle gets only a cursory sentence or two in reference within the 4 unabridged versions of Sir Winston Churchill's account of the Second World War; Eaker gets none at all which I find rather odd - even when considering the account is from a big picture view. Both Eaker and Doolittle led the famed 8th USAAF in England during the war at different time.

Is there a fair comparison of the two Generals? Can one even do so? Tell me what you know. No thumbs down from me by the way; I just may not thumb everyone up.

Gerry D.


Nice Pet: Thanks for showing up. I have seen other answers by you to other questions in the past and continue to be impressed with your knowledge on history. This question is ONE reason I am happy you showed up here. Thank for your insight and your knowledge.

"A Few Good Captains" by DeWitt S. Copp is another terrificly written book on the development of the U.S. Air Force (I speculate that you have read this one as well).

2 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    - Perhaps the best known American airman has been James H. ("Jimmy") Doolittle. This was due not only to his racing plane exploits and his "30 seconds over Tokyo," but also because he lived well into his nineties. Several biographies have been written about him, including several by Carroll Glines, and indeed it was Glines who ghosted Doolittle's autobiography near the end of his life. Nevertheless, despite the copious amount of ink spilled on the general, there is yet to appear a serious study that looks closely at his career and its effect on American airpower. Doolittle was one of the pioneers of instrument flying and of advanced technology, while also being an outstanding combat leader, commanding the Twelfth, Fifteenth, and Eighth Air Forces during World War II. Yet no one has addressed the issue of Doolittle's beliefs on the proper employment of airpower other than to simply state that it should not be used as a tactical weapon. Surely, Doolittle must have held some strong ideas on what German target system was most important and vulnerable to Allied attack. Even the issue of Doolittle's stand regarding the 1944 oilplan versus railplan controversy-an issue of enormous strategic importance-has not been examined. In short, the definitive biography of Doolittle's life has yet to be written.

    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!

  • 4 years ago

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