He attended Southeastern State Teachers College in Durant, Oklahoma, and then joined the United States Army in 1917.
Commissioned 15 Aug 1917 as an infantry reserve officer, he was given an RA commission on 15 Nov 1917 (ibid.) and won his wings as a pursuit (fighter) pilot in Oct 1918. Turning to bombardment, and working to extend the effective range of airplanes, Capt Eaker and with Maj Carl Spaatz set an endurance record of almost 151 hours in 1929. In 1936 Eaker made the first flight across the American continent navigating solely by instruments. Eaker and H. H. “Hap” Arnold collaborated on developing new concepts of strategic air war to include daylight precision bombing, and they were co-authors of three books: This Flying Game (1936), Winged Victory (1941), and Army Flyer (1942).
Getting his first star in Jan 1942, Brig Gen Eaker was concurrently named to head what became the 8th Bomb Cmd of Lt Gen Spaatz’s 8th AF, the latter being activated 28 Jan 1942 (AA, 219). Reaching England on 20 Feb 1942 and reporting two days later to the CG US Army Forces in the British Isles (USAFBI). Eaker set up the “US Army Bomber Cmd, USAFBI”. As the first US air headquarters in Europe, it was located from 15 Apr 1942 at High Wycombe, 29 mi WNW of London. Promoted again the following September Maj Gen Eaker succeeded Spaatz on 1 Dec 1942 as CG 8th AF, which became the major instrument of American air power in Europe.
“There is nothing that can be destroyed by gunfire that cannot be destroyed by bombs,” the airman said in an early press conference (CB 42). Against considerable opposition from US and UK planners, Eaker and Spaatz won approval at Casablanca, 14-23 Jan 1943, of the “Eaker Plan,” officially the combined bomber offensive. This called for round-the-clock air assault in w'hich US heavy bombers (B-17s and B-24s) would attack by day while the RAF continued to strike at night. Despite excessive US losses initially and doubts about the accuracy of bomb drops, the Eaker plan proved to be effective. (The record is summarized under Doolittle, who was CG 8th AF from 6 Jan 1944.)
Eaker was promoted to lieutenant general on 13 Sep 43 and, while retaining command of the 8th AF, was designated CG USAAF in the UK on 16 Oct 1943. This reorganization occurred when Lewis H. Brereton’s 9th AF became the USAAF’s tactical arm in the ETO. In preparation for the Normandy invasion, Spaatz took command of the USAAF in Europe on 22 Dec 1943 and Eaker was named to succeed Tedder as head of the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces (MAAF), turning over the 8th AF to Doolittle. But Eaker delayed his departure from England until 6 Jan 1944 to help Spaatz and Doolittle get up to speed. Reaching his new command in mid-Jan 1944, Eaker spent the rest of the war as CG MAAF. He was among the senior US commanders given honorary British knighthood (KCB) in 1945.
Ordered to Washington as deputy commander of the Army Air Force, Eaker became the first CofS of the independent USAF after unification of the armed forces in 1947. Lt Gen Eaker retired on 31 Aug 1947 to become a VP of the Hughes Tool Co, 1947-57, then was head of Douglas Acft, 1957-61. He died 6 Aug 1987.
Married Ruth Huff Apperson, November 23, 1931.