4-136 To Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker, October 15, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 15, 1943

Subject: World War II

To Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker1

October 15, 1943 [Radio No. R-4442] Washington, D.C.


From Marshall for Devers pass to Eaker.

Dear Eaker:

I am tremendously impressed with the apparent complete destruction of the Schweinfurt ball bearing plant. This will have an effect, I believe, comparable to the Ploesti raid on the general German position. I am greatly distressed over the loss of so many of your fine fighting men and I can only hope an appreciable number reach the ground unhurt. They sacrificed themselves in an effort of vital importance to the world.2

I was intensely interested in your message describing the German rocket technique in their attack on your formations and I feel certain that you and your people will find quickly a means of reducing this hazard.3 General Arnold will move aggressively at this end of the line to meet your requests. But I want to add further that I like the tone of your message. No great battle is won without heavy fighting and inevitable losses. With your fine personnel, the pick of America, I know we can depend on their gallantry and skill to complete this victory with the destruction of the German fighter force and a demonstration of the awful power of precision bombing.

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed radio message.

1. Eaker had been promoted to lieutenant general effective September 13, 1943.

2. Eaker had reported that the October 14 raid had achieved “excellent bombing results and probable destruction of target. . . . Sixty B-17s and 593 crew members are missing.” (Eaker to Marshall, October 15, 1943, In Log, p. 139, NA/RG 165 [OPD, Message Log].)

3. “Yesterday the Hun sprang his trap,” Eaker told the War Department (Radio No. D-1383, October 15, 1943). “He fully revealed his final countermeasure to our daylight bombing. It was not unexpected since he has revealed single acts in the play from time to time in the past as he practiced and trained.” He described in detail the “perfectly timed and executed” rocket and gun attack by more than three hundred German fighters on the unescorted bomber formation. Eaker also listed the steps he planned to take to counter the new German threat and what the War Department could do to help (i.e., replace the losses, send more fighters, and ship auxiliary fuel tanks for the fighters as soon as possible). “We must show the enemy we can replace our losses; he knows he cannot replace his. We must continue the battle with unrelenting fury. This we shall do. There is no discouragement here. We are convinced that, when the totals are struck, yesterday’s losses will be far outweighed by the value of the enemy materiel destroyed.” (Ibid., pp. 141-42.) The importance and cost of the October 14 Schweinfurt mission are discussed in Craven and Cate, eds., Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK, pp. 699-705.

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 157-158.

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