Paid Advertisement
Historynet/feed historynet feedback facebook link Weider History Group RSS feed Weider Subscriptions Historynet Home page

World War II: March 2001 From the Editor

Originally published by World War II magazine. Published Online: August 19, 2001 
Print Friendly
1 comment FONT +  FONT -

Aviation pioneer Ira C. Eaker was an architect of the Eighth Air Force.

On August 17, 1942, American heavy bombers conducted their first raid against occupied Europe when 12 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses, escorted by Royal Air Force (RAF) Supermarine Spitfire fighters, attacked the rail yards at Rouen, France, northwest of Paris. The American bombers dropped only 18 1/2 tons of bombs on the yards and nearby repair facilities that day. All the Flying Fortresses returned safely to their English base. Of course, this initial mission was dwarfed by the size of later raids. It was, nevertheless, a harbinger of the death and destruction that would ravage the cities of Germany in the coming months.

Nearly as notable as the raid itself were two of its participants. Major Paul Tibbetts piloted the lead aircraft. Three years later, he would find himself on the other side of the world at an American air base on the island of Tinian in the Pacific. One of the Mariana Islands, Tinian was home to a fleet of gigantic Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers. On August 6, 1945, Tibbets piloted the B-29 Enola Gay, which dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

Subscribe Today

Subscribe to World War II magazine

Also participating in the Rouen raid was 46-year-old Brig. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, the commander of VIII Bomber Command and later the entire Eighth Air Force. Eaker's philosophy was simple: "I don't want any American mothers to think I'd send their boys someplace where I'd be afraid to go myself."

Eaker had always been something of a risk taker. In 1929 he and three other pilots had set an endurance record for flying. He was the first to make a transcontinental instrument flight in 1936. He had served as a member of the defense team during the court-martial of vehement air power advocate Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell. He and friend General Henry "Hap" Arnold, commander of the U.S. Army Air Forces, had co-authored three books on aviation.

In the early days of American involvement in World War II, Eaker proved equal to myriad logistical and training tasks as American airmen and planes arrived in England. He was also a tireless supporter of daylight bombing. He firmly believed that American bombers had been constructed to defend themselves against marauding German fighters during daylight attacks, and that precision bombing by day was the best way to achieve the desired results.

After a second raid over occupied France, Eaker assessed the results and concluded, rather optimistically, that 10 percent of the bombs dropped had hit their aiming point precisely and that as many as 90 percent had fallen within a mile of it. Assessments of the RAF's accuracy achieved under the cloak of darkness revealed much poorer results. "It is safe and conservative to say, therefore," Eaker concluded, "that high-level day bombing will be at least 10 times as effective for the destruction of definite point targets as night area bombing."

When the British tried to push the Americans into adopting a night bombing strategy similar to their own, it was Eaker who convinced Prime Minister Winston Churchill to give him the opportunity to continue his strategy. Churchill had come to Casablanca to confer with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in January 1942.

A one-page memorandum from Eaker, which he delivered to the British prime minister during a face-to-face meeting, contained the sentence, "By bombing the devils around the clock, we can prevent the German defenses from getting any rest." Churchill seized upon this single comment and responded to Eaker, "Young man, you have not convinced me you are right, but you have persuaded me that you should have further opportunity to prove your contention."

The next day, the "Casablanca Directive" called for bombing Adolf Hitler's Europe night and day. Although Eaker's bomber force sustained heavy losses at times, he remained a staunch advocate of the strategy. His actions at Casablanca very likely saved the Eighth Air Force as an independent fighting force.

Later in the war, Eaker went on to command Allied air forces in the Mediterranean. His most famous and controversial raid during the Italian campaign was the bombing of the abbey at Monte Cassino during the Allied drive toward Rome. He returned to the United States in the spring of 1945 as deputy commander of the Army Air Forces and played a pivotal role in constituting the U.S. Air Force as a separate branch of the armed services. A grand old man of the Air Force, he died in 1987 at the age of 91.


Michael E. Haskew, Editor, World War II


One Response to “World War II: March 2001 From the Editor”


  1. 1
    Pat Skelly says:

    From I quote,
    "FRIDAY, 12 JUNE 1942 – MTO, HALPRO Detachment:
    13 B-24's of the HALPRO detachment (the bombing detachment for the
    China-Burma-India Theater) under command of Colonel Harry A Halverson enroute
    from US to China take off during the night of 11/12 Jun from Fayid, Egypt to
    bomb oilfields at Ploesti, Rumania. Only 12 attack at dawn; 4 of the 13 land at
    a base in Iraq which was designated for recovery of the flight, 3 land at other
    Iraq fields, 2 land in Syria, and 4 are interned in Turkey. Though damage to
    the target is negligible, the raid is significant because it is the first AAF
    combat mission in the European-African-Middle East (EAME) Theater in World War
    II, and the first strike at a target which later will be famous."
    This quote, in turn, was extracted from http://paul.rutgers.edu/~mcgrew/wwii/usaf/html/

    HALPRO Detachment never made it to the CBI Theater, but became half of the newly created US Army Middle East Air Force (USAMEAF) on 28 June 1942.

    HALPRO Detachment was renamed "Hal Bombardment Squadron" on 17 July 1942, and then assigned to USAMEAF's 1st Provisional Group under Col. Halverson's command on 20 July 1942. USAMEAF in turn became the Ninth Air Force on 13 November 1942.

    A more extensive prose history of HALPRO and Halverson is found in the "World War II Campaign Brochure – Egypt-Libya", http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/072/72-13/CMH_Pub_72-13.pdf.

    Please overlook any departures from protocol; this is my first post here.

    Pat Skelly
    Senior Historian
    34th Infantry Division Assn.



Leave a Reply

Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.


Related Articles


History Net Images Spacer
Paid Advertisement
Paid Advertisement
History Net Daily Activities
History net Spacer
History net Spacer
Historynet Spacer
HISTORYNET READERS' POLL

Which of these wars resulted in the most surprising underdog upset?

View Results | See previous polls

Loading ... Loading ...
History net Spacer
STAY CONNECTED WITH US
RSS Feed Daily Email Update
History net Spacer History net Spacer
Paid Advertisement

Paid Advertisement
What is HistoryNet?

The HistoryNet.com is brought to you by Weider History, the world's largest publisher of history magazines. HistoryNet.com contains daily features, photo galleries and over 5,000 articles originally published in our various magazines.

If you are interested in a specific history subject, try searching our archives, you are bound to find something to pique your interest.

From Our Magazines
Weider History

Weider History Network:  HistoryNet | Armchair General | Achtung Panzer! | StreamHistory.com
Today in History | Ask Mr. History | Picture of the Day | Daily History Quiz | Contact Us

Copyright © 2014 Weider History. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Advertise With Us | Subscription Help | Privacy Policy