Before he reached the age of 30, Theodore R. "Ross" Milton led vast armadas of American aircraft on some of World War II's most famous bombing missions, including the first successful daylight raid on Berlin. Born in 1915 on Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, this future leader grew up in a military family. Milton enlisted in the US Army in 1934 and was later appointed to the US Military Academy. Graduating in 1940, he entered flying training and earned his pilot's wings the following year. In early 1943, after flying the Consolidated LB-30 (B-24) Liberator on submarine hunting patrols from Langley Field, Virginia, Milton was sent to England as the operations officer of Eighth Air Force's 351st Bombardment Group (BG).
Flying the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress , he gained invaluable experience running the gauntlet of Axis flak and fighters. On 12 August 1943, Milton led 22 B-17s against a German refinery at Gelsenkirchen (Milton's own crew included Hollywood great Clark Gable). This mission's success was followed up on 14 October with the epic raid on Schweinfurt's ball bearing industry. After confusion over the English Channel, Milton took 291 B-17s deep into Germany without fighter escort. In two waves, this force dropped over 2,800 bombs. The raid was not without a price, however, as 60 B-17s were lost and over 600 airmen were killed, wounded, or missing. Nevertheless, the Allies began to close in. On 6 March 1944, Milton led 730 B-17s and B-24s on the historic first successful US Army Air Forces daylight raid on Berlin.
He left Europe in 1945 as the Commander of the 384 BG. As the Cold War intensified, Milton played an important role as Chief of Staff, Combined Airlift Task Force during the Berlin Airlift. He later served as Director of Operations for the new Military Air Transport Service and Executive Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force. From 1958 to 1965, Milton's assignments included commanding the 41st Air Division in Japan and the Thirteenth Air Force in the Philippines. After two staff tours, Milton served as the US Air Force's Inspector General and Comptroller. In 1969, he returned to Europe as Deputy Chairman, NATO Military Committee. After gaining his fourth star, he was named the US representative to the committee.
Milton retired in 1974 after an illustrious 40-year career. He has received many decorations including the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf clusters, British Distinguished Flying Cross, the French Croix de Guerre, and the Purple Heart. Milton continues to inspire today's military leaders as the author of numerous articles in Air Force magazine and other professional journals.
"No bomb shall fall on German soil," was the brash claim made by Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering before the start of World War II. The boastful Nazi went on to proclaim, "If enemy bombers ever appear over Berlin, you can call me Meier." In the spring of 1944, the Eighth Air Force was ready to take the war to the German capital. Thanks to the heroism of Ross Milton who continually led his wing from the front position, 6 March 1944 became the day that they called Goering Meier.