Portal became chief of Bomber Command in April 1940, initiating the first RAF raids against Germany. He was knighted that July. On 25 October 1940, Portal was named chief of the air staff and air chief marshal (the highest RAF post; he was the youngest staff chief). In addition to his Air Ministry duties directing the policy and operations of the RAF, Portal participated in all the summit conferences as a member of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. Portal supported Sir Arthur Harris's controversial stewardship of Bomber Command and the policy of area bombing (until it was halted by Prime Minister Winston L. S. Churchill in March 1945). A strong believer in air power, he saw the role of the RAF and its American Army Air Forces allies as destroying Germany's ability to resist invasion. Portal was made a baron (Lord Portal of Hungerford) in August and served as RAF chief until 31 December 1945. Churchill's verdict on Portal was that he was the "accepted star of the air force."
From 1946 (when he was raised to Viscount) to 1951, Lord Portal was responsible for administering the atomic research facilities at Harwell. He served as chairman of the British Aircraft Corporation from 1960 to 1968. He died 23 April 1971 in Chichester, England. He was one of the few senior wartime leaders to leave no memoirs.
Christopher H. Sterling
Richards, Denis. Portal of Hungerford. London: William Heinemann, 1977.; Terraine, John. A Time for Courage: The Royal Air Force in the European War, 1939–1945. New York: Macmillan, 1985.