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Curtis Emerson LeMay (15 November 1906 – 1 October 1990) was a General in the United States Air Force and the vice presidential running mate of American Independent Party candidate George Wallace in 1968.

He is credited with designing and implementing an effective systematic strategic bombing campaign in the Pacific theater of World War II. During the war, he was known for planning and executing a massive bombing campaign against industrial cities in Japanmarker. After the war, he headed the Berlin airlift, then reorganized the Strategic Air Command (SAC) into an effective means of conducting nuclear war.


Early life and career

Curtis Emerson LeMay was born in Columbusmarker, Ohiomarker on 15 November 1906. His father, Erving LeMay was, at times, an ironworker and general handyman, but he never held a job longer than a few months. His mother, Arizona Carpenter LeMay, did her best to hold her family together. With very limited income, his family moved around the country as his father looked for work, going as far as Montanamarker and California. Eventually they returned to his native city of Columbus. LeMay attended Columbus public schools and studied civil engineering at the Ohio State Universitymarker. Working his way through college, he graduated with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. While at Ohio State he was a member of the National Society of Pershing Rifles and the Professional Engineering Fraternity Theta Tau. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Corps Reserve in October 1929. He received a regular commission in the United States Army Air Corps in January 1930. He married Helen E. Maitland (died 1994) on 9 June 1934 with whom he had one child—Patricia Jane LeMay Lodge, known as Janie.

LeMay became a pursuit pilot, and while stationed in Hawaii became one of the first members of the Air Corps to receive specialized training in aerial navigation. In August 1937, as navigator on a B-17, he located the battleship Utahmarker in exercises off California, after which the aircraft bombed it with water bombs, despite being given the wrong coordinates by Navy personnel. In May 1938 he navigated B-17s over over the Atlantic Ocean to intercept the Italian liner Rex to illustrate the ability of airpower to defend the American coasts. War brought rapid promotion and increased responsibility.

When his crews were not flying missions they were being subjected to his relentless training as he believed that training was the key to saving their lives. LeMay was widely and fondly known among his troops as "Old Iron Pants" throughout his career.

World War II

LeMay became known for his massive incendiary attacks against Japanese cities during the war using hundreds of planes flying at low altitudes.

At the entry of the U.S. to World War II, LeMay was a major in the United States Army Air Forces and commander of the newly created 305th Bomb Group. He took that B-17 Flying Fortress unit to Englandmarker in October 1942 as part of the Eighth Air Force and led it in combat until May 1943, notably helping to develop the combat box formation. He led the 4th Bombardment Wing and was its first commander when it was reorganized into the 3rd Air Division in September 1943. He often demonstrated his courage by personally leading dangerous missions, including the Regensburg section of the Schweinfurt-Regensburg mission of 17 August 1943. In that mission he led 146 B-17s beyond the range of escorting fighters to Regensburgmarker, Germanymarker, and after bombing, continued on to bases in North Africa, losing 24 bombers in the process.

The heavy losses in veteran crews on this and subsequent deep penetration missions in the autumn of 1943 led the Eighth Air Force to limit missions to targets within escort range. With the deployment in the European theater of the P-51 Mustang in January 1944, the 8th Air Force gained an escort fighter with range to match the bombers.

In August 1944, LeMay transferred to the China-Burma-India theater and directed first the XX Bomber Command in China and then the XXI Bomber Command in the Pacific. LeMay was later placed in charge of all strategic air operations against the Japanese home islands.

LeMay soon concluded that the techniques and tactics developed for use in Europe against the Luftwaffe were unsuitable against Japan. His bombers flying from China were dropping their bombs near their targets only 5% of the time. Operational losses of aircraft and crews were unacceptably high owing to Japanese daylight air defenses and continuing mechanical problems with the B-29. In January 1945 LeMay was transferred from China to relieve Brig. Gen. Haywood S. Hansell as commander of the XXI Bomber Command in the Marianasmarker.

He became convinced that high-altitude, precision bombing would be ineffective, given the usual cloudy weather over Japan. Because Japanese air defenses made daytime bombing below jet stream altitudes too perilous, LeMay finally switched to low-altitude, nighttime incendiary attacks on Japanese targets, a tactic senior commanders had been advocating for some time. Japanese cities were largely constructed of combustible materials such as wood and paper. Precision high-altitude daylight bombing was ordered to proceed only when weather permitted or when specific critical targets were not vulnerable to area bombing.

LeMay commanded subsequent B-29 Superfortress combat operations against Japan, including the massive incendiary attacks on 64 Japanesemarker cities. This included the the firebombing of Tokyomarker on 9–10 March 1945, the most destructive bombing raid of the war. For this first attack, LeMay ordered the defensive guns removed from 325 B-29s, loaded each plane with Model E-46 incendiary clusters, magnesium bombs, white phosphorus bombs, and napalm and ordered the bombers to fly in streams at 5,000–9,000 feet over Tokyo.

The first pathfinder planes arrived over Tokyo just after midnight on March 10. Following British bombing practice, they marked the target area with a flaming 'X.' In a three-hour period, the main bombing force dropped 1,665 tons of incendiary bombs, killing some 100,000 civilians, destroying 250,000 buildings and incinerating of the city. Aircrews at the tail end of the bomber stream reported that the stench of burned human flesh permeated the aircraft over the target.

A "LeMay Bombing Leaflet" from the war, which warned Japanese civilians that "Unfortunately, bombs have no eyes.
So, in accordance with America's humanitarian policies, the American Air Force, which does not wish to injure innocent people, now gives you warning to evacuate the cities named and save your lives."
The New York Times reported at the time, "Maj. Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, commander of the B-29s of the entire Marianas area, declared that if the war is shortened by a single day, the attack will have served its purpose."

Precise figures are not available, but the firebombing bombing campaign against Japan, directed by LeMay between March 1945 and the Japanese surrender in August 1945, may have killed more than 500,000 Japanese civilians and left 5 million homeless. Official estimates from the United States Strategic Bombing Survey put the figures at 220,000 people killed. Some 40% of the built-up areas of 66 cities were destroyed, including much of Japan's war industry.

The remaining Allied prisoners of war in Japan who had survived imprisonment to that time were frequently subjected to additional reprisals and torture after an air raid. LeMay was quite aware of the Japanese opinion of him—he once remarked that had the U.S. lost the war, he fully expected to be tried for war crimes, especially in view of Japanese executions of uniformed American flight crews during the 1942 Doolittle raid. He argued that it was his duty to carry out the attacks in order to end the war as quickly as possible, sparing further loss of life.

Presidents Roosevelt and Truman justified these tactics by referring to an estimate that seven million American troops would be killed if Japan had to be invaded. Additionally, the Japanese had intentionally decentralized 90 percent of their war-related production into small subcontractor workshops in civilian districts, making remaining Japanese war industry largely immune to conventional precision bombing with high-explosives.

As the fire bombing campaign took effect, Japanese war planners were forced to expend significant resources to relocate vital war industries to remote caves and mountain bunkers, reducing production of war material. A young officer who served under LeMay, Lieutenant Colonel Robert McNamara, was in charge of evaluating the effectiveness of American bombing missions. Later McNamara, as secretary of defense under Kennedy and Johnson, would often clash with LeMay.

LeMay also oversaw Operation Starvation, aerial mining operations against Japanese waterways and ports that disrupted Japanese shipping and food distribution. Although his superiors were unsupportive of this naval objective, LeMay gave it a high commitment level by assigning the entire 313th Bombardment Wing (four groups, about 160 planes) to the task. Aerial mining supplemented a tight Allied submarine blockade of the home islands, drastically reducing Japan's ability to supply its overseas forces to the point that postwar analysis concluded that it could have defeated Japan on its own had it begun earlier.

Cold War

General Curtis E.

After World War II, LeMay was briefly transferred to The Pentagonmarker as deputy chief of Air Staff for Research & Development. In 1947, he returned to Europe as commander of USAF Europe, heading operations for the Berlin Airlift in 1948 in the face of a blockade by the Soviet Union and its satellite states that threatened to starve the civilian population of the Western occupation zones of Berlin. Under LeMay's direction, C-54 cargo planes that could each carry 10 tons of cargo began supplying the city on 1 July. By the fall, the airlift was bringing in an average of 5,000 tons of supplies a day. The airlift continued for 11 months—213,000 flights that brought in 1.7 million tons of food and fuel to Berlin. Faced with the failure of their blockade, the Soviet Union relented and reopened land corridors to the West. Though LeMay is publicly credited with the success of the Berlin Airlift, it was, in fact, orchestrated by General Lucius D. Clay and successfully implemented by Lt. General William H. Tunner, as pointed out in Andrei Cherny's 2008 book, The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America's Finest Hour. (However, as Cherny points out in his book, LeMay was happy to take the credit for the airlift, particularly after it became an international success.)

In 1948, he returned to the U.S. to head the Strategic Air Command (SAC), replacing Gen George Kenney. When he took over SAC, it consisted of little more than a few understaffed B-29 bombardment groups left over from World War II. Less than half of the available aircraft were operational, and the crews were undertrained. When he ordered a mock bombing exercise on Dayton, Ohiomarker, most bombers missed their targets by one mile or more. "We didn't have one crew, not one crew, in the entire command who could do a professional job" noted LeMay.

Commencing in 1952, The 1st Missile Division was activated, having operational control over strategic missiles. Upon receiving his fourth star in 1951 at age 44, LeMay became the youngest full general in American history since Ulysses S. Grant and is still recognized as the youngest general in modern history, as well as the longest serving. In 1956 and 1957 LeMay implemented tests of 24-hour bomber and tanker alerts, keeping some bomber forces ready at all times. LeMay headed SAC until 1957, overseeing its transformation into a modern, efficient, all-jet force. LeMay's tenure was the longest over a military command in close to 100 years.

Despite popular claims that LeMay advanced the notion of preventive nuclear war, the historical record indicates LeMay actually advocated justified preemptive nuclear war. Several documents dating from the period during which he commanded SAC show LeMay advocating for preemptive attack of the Soviet Union, had it become clear the Soviets were preparing to attack SAC and/or the United States. In these documents, which were often the transcripts of speeches before groups such as the National War College or events such as the 1955 Joint Secretaries Conference at the Quantico Marine Corps Base, LeMay clearly advocated using SAC as a preemptive weapon, if and when such was necessary. Little evidence suggests LeMay ever advocated unauthorized or unjustified nuclear attack of the Soviet Union. To the contrary, a December 1949 letter from LeMay to the Air Force Chief of Staff Hoyt Vandenberg indicates LeMay was concerned with having explicit authority from the nation's political leadership to launch a preemptive strike against the Soviet Union. This letter, in LeMay's files at the Library of Congress, indicates LeMay was not willing to operate outside the authority afforded him as a military officer and that LeMay also recognized the constitutional role political leadership played in the decision to initiate war.

One apocryphal story has it that he approached a fully fueled bomber with his ever-present cigar stuck firmly between his lips. When asked by a guard to put it out as it might ignite the fuel, LeMay growled, "It wouldn't dare." The line is actually a scene from the 1955 film Strategic Air Command. Actor Frank Lovejoy, playing General Ennis Hawkes (very clearly modeled on LeMay), is smoking around a Boeing C-97 transport and a guard expresses concern that there might be a fire. Lt Col "Dutch" Holland (played by James Stewart) simply smiles and says, "It wouldn't dare."

LeMay and the “Airpower Battle”

General LeMay was instrumental in the U.S. Air Force's acquisition of a large fleet of new strategic bombers, establishment of a vast aerial refueling system, the formation of many new units and bases, development of a strategic ballistic missile force, and establishment of a strict command and control system with an unprecedented readiness capability. He insisted on rigorous training and very high standards of performance for his aircrews, supposedly saying, "I have neither the time nor the inclination to differentiate between the incompetent and the merely unfortunate."

On LeMay's departure, SAC was composed of 224,000 airmen, close to 2,000 heavy bombers, and nearly 800 tanker aircraft.

LeMay was an active amateur radio operator and held a succession of call signs; K0GRL, K4FRA, and W6EZV. He held these calls respectively while stationed at Offutt AFBmarker, Washington, D.C.marker and when he retired in Californiamarker. K0GRL is still the call sign of the Strategic Air Command Memorial Amateur Radio Club. He was famous for being on the air on amateur bands while flying on board SAC bombers. LeMay became aware that the new single sideband technology offered a big advantage over Amplitude Modulation for SAC aircraft operating long distances from their bases. In conjunction with Art Collins (W0CXX) of Collins Radio, he established SSB as the radio standard for SAC bombers in 1957.

LeMay was appointed Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force in July 1957, serving until 1961 when he was made the fifth Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force on the retirement of Gen Thomas White. His belief in the efficacy of strategic air campaigns over tactical strikes and ground support operations became Air Force policy during his tenure as chief of staff.

As chief of staff, LeMay clashed repeatedly with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Air Force Secretary Eugene Zuckert, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army general Maxwell Taylor. At the time, budget constraints and successive nuclear war fighting strategies had left the armed forces in a state of flux. Each of the armed forces had gradually jettisoned realistic appraisals of future conflicts in favor of developing its own separate nuclear and nonnuclear capabilities. At the height of this struggle, the U.S. Army had even reorganized its combat divisions to fight land wars on irradiated nuclear battlefields, developing short-range atomic cannon and mortars in order to win appropriations. The United States Navy in turn proposed delivering strategic nuclear weapons from supercarriers intended to sail into range of the Sovietmarker air defense forces. Of all these various schemes, only LeMay's command structure of SAC survived complete reorganization in the changing reality of postwar conflicts.

Though LeMay lost significant appropriation battles for the Skybolt ALBM and the B-52 Stratofortress replacement, the XB-70 Valkyrie, he was largely successful at preserving Air Force budgets. He expanded the service into satellite technology and pushed for the development of the latest electronic warfare techniques. By contrast, the U.S. Army and Navy frequently suffered budgetary cutbacks and program cancellations by Congress and Secretary McNamara.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, LeMay clashed again with U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Defense Secretary McNamara, arguing that he should be allowed to bomb nuclear missile sites in Cubamarker. He opposed the naval blockade, and after the end of the crisis, suggested that Cuba be invaded anyway, even after the Russians agreed to withdraw. LeMay called the peaceful resolution of the crisis "the greatest defeat in our history."

LeMay's dislike for tactical aircraft and training backfired in the low-intensity conflict of Vietnam, where existing Air Force interceptor aircraft and standard attack profiles proved incapable of carrying out sustained tactical bombing campaigns in the face of hostile North Vietnamese antiaircraft defenses. LeMay said, "Flying fighters is fun. Flying bombers is important." Aircraft losses on tactical attack missions soared, and Air Force commanders soon realized that their large, missile-armed aircraft were exceedingly vulnerable not only to antiaircraft shells and missiles, but also to cannon-armed, maneuverable Soviet fighter jets.

LeMay advocated a sustained strategic bombing campaign against North Vietnamese cities, harbors, ports, shipping, and other strategic targets. His advice was ignored. Instead, an incremental policy was implemented that focused on limited interdiction bombing of fluid enemy supply corridors in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. This limited campaign failed to destroy significant quantities of enemy war supplies or diminish enemy ambitions. Bombing limitations were imposed by President Lyndon Johnson for geopolitical reasons, as he was afraid that bombing Soviet and Chinese ships in port and killing Soviet advisers would bring the Soviets more directly into the war and destabilize the European Cold War.

Military historians have argued that LeMay's theories were eventually proven correct. Near the war's end in December 1972, President Richard Nixon ordered Operation Linebacker II, a high-intensity Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps aerial bombing campaign, which included hundreds of B-52 bombers that succeeded in widespread destruction of previously untouched North Vietnamese strategic targets. These arguments state that the intense bombing compelled the communist government to quickly conclude negotiations that finally ended America's longest war. Others believe the impact was smaller, as the peace negotiations were only temporarily stalled and the North Vietnamese were trying to get better terms.

The memorandum from LeMay, Chief of Staff, USAF, to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 4 January 1964, illustrates LeMay's deep thinking: "It is important to recognize, however, that ballistic missile forces represent both the U.S. and Soviet potential for strategic nuclear warfare at the highest, most indiscriminate level, and at a level least susceptible to control. The employment of these weapons in lower level conflict would be likely to escalate the situation, uncontrollably, to an intensity which could be vastly disproportionate to the original aggravation. The use of ICBMs and SLBMs is not, therefore, a rational or credible response to provocations which, although serious, are still less than an immediate threat to national survival. For this reason, among others, I consider that the national security will continue to require the flexibility, responsiveness, and discrimination of manned strategic weapon systems throughout the range of cold, limited, and general war."

Additional evidence of LeMay's thinking is that in his 1965 autobiography, co-written with MacKinlay Kantor, LeMay is quoted as saying his response to North Vietnam would be to demand that "they’ve got to draw in their horns and stop their aggression, or we’re going to bomb them back into the Stone Age. And we would shove them back into the Stone Age with Air power or Naval power—not with ground forces."


Owing to his unrelenting opposition to the Johnson administration's Vietnam policy and what was widely perceived as his hostility to Secretary McNamara, LeMay was essentially forced into retirement in February 1965, and seemed headed for a political career. Moving to Californiamarker, he was approached by conservatives to challenge moderate Republican Thomas Kuchel for his seat in the United States Senate in 1968, but he declined. For the presidential race that year, LeMay originally supported Richard Nixon; he turned down two requests by George Wallace to join his American Independent Party that year, on the grounds that a third party candidacy might hurt Nixon's chances at the polls. (By coincidence, Wallace had served as a sergeant in a unit commanded by LeMay during World War II.) However, LeMay gradually became convinced that Nixon planned to pursue a conciliatory policy with the Soviets and to accept nuclear parity, rather than retain America's first-strike supremacy. This led him to not only throw his support to Wallace, who advocated a strong military, but also accept the spot as his running mate. The general was dismayed, however, to find himself attacked in the press as a racial segregationist because he was running with Wallace; indeed, LeMay had been a strong advocate for desegregating the armed forces, and he had never considered himself a bigot. When Wallace announced his selection in October 1968, LeMay opined that he, unlike many Americans, clearly did not fear using nuclear weapons. His saber-rattling did not help the Wallace campaign.

During the 1968 campaign, LeMay became widely associated with the "Stone Age" comment, especially because he had suggested use of nuclear weapons as a strategy to quickly resolve a deeply protracted conventional war which eventually claimed over 50,000 American lives, plus millions of Vietnamese and which war the U.S. had committed itself under the SEATO Treaty, and the corresponding International Law governing treaty obligations. This reputation did nothing to diminish perceptions of extremism regarding the Wallace-LeMay ticket. General LeMay disclaimed the comment, saying in a later interview that “I never said we should bomb them back to the Stone Age. I said we had the capability to do it."

The Wallace/LeMay AIP ticket received 13.5 percent of the popular vote, higher than most third party candidacies in the United States, and carried 5 states for a total of 46 electoral votes, but this was not enough to deny Nixon his election as 37th President of the United States. Following the 1968 election, LeMay returned to private life, including pursuing several charitable projects. He declined further suggestions to run for political office.

He was honored by several countries, receiving the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the French Legion of Honor and the Silver Star. On 7 December 1964 the Japanese government in an ironic gesture conferred on him the First Order of Merit with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun. He was elected to the Alfalfa Club in 1957 and served as a general officer for twenty-one years.


He died on 1 October 1990 at March Air Force Basemarker in Riverside County, Californiamarker and is buried in the United States Air Force Academy Cemeterymarker at Colorado Springsmarker, Coloradomarker. He was survived by his wife, Helen. She followed him in death in 1994.

LeMay and UFOs

The 25 April 1988 issue of The New Yorker carried an interview with retired Air Force Reserve Major General and former U.S. Senator from Arizona, Barry Goldwater, who said he repeatedly asked his friend General LeMay if he (Goldwater) might have access to the secret "Blue Room" at Wright Patterson Air Force Basemarker, alleged by numerous Goldwater constituents to contain UFO evidence. According to Goldwater, an angry LeMay gave him "holy hell" and said, "Not only can't you get into it but don't you ever mention it to me again."

LeMay and sports car racing

General LeMay was also a sports car owner and enthusiast (he owned an Allard J2); as the "SAC era" began to wind down, LeMay loaned out facilities of SAC bases for use by the Sports Car Club of America, as the era of early street races began to die out. He was awarded the Woolf Barnato Award, SCCA's highest award for contributions to the Club, in 1954. In November 2006, it was announced that General LeMay would be one of the 2007 inductions into the SCCA Hall of Fame.

Rank history

Curtis LeMay’s first contact with military service occurred in September 1924 when he enrolled as a student in the ROTC program at Ohio State University. By his senior year, LeMay was listed on the ROTC rolls as a "cadet lieutenant colonel" but had not actually received an appointment in the regular United States military.

On 14 June 1928, the summer before the start of his senior year, LeMay accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the Field Artillery Reserve of the United States Army. In September 1928, LeMay was approached by the Ohio National Guard and asked to accept a state commission, also as a second lieutenant, which LeMay accepted. This created a unique situation in LeMay's service record since in 1928 it was then unusual for a person to hold a commission both in the National Guard and the Army Reserve.

On 29 September 1928, LeMay enlisted in the Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet under the service number 6650359. For the next thirteen months, LeMay was listed not only on the enlisted rolls of the Regular Army, but also still held a commission in the National Guard and Army Reserve. Thus, for this short period in LeMay’s career, he was technically an officer and enlisted soldier at the same time, a practice no longer permitted in the U.S. military. The matter was resolved on 2 October 1929 when LeMay’s Guard and Reserve commission were terminated. According to his service record, these commissions were revoked "by telephone" after an Army personnel officer realized that LeMay was holding officer and enlisted status simultaneously and called him to discuss the matter.

On 12 October 1929, LeMay finished his flight training and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Corps Reserve. This was the third time he had been appointed a second lieutenant in just under two years. He held this reserve commission until June 1930 when he was appointed as a Regular Army officer in the Air Corps.

LeMay experienced slow advancement throughout the 1930s, as did most officers of the seniority-driven Regular Army. By 1940, he was still a captain but, beginning in 1941 began to receive temporary advancement in grade in the expanding Army Air Forces. LeMay advanced from captain to brigadier general in three years and by 1944 was a major general. When World War II ended, he was appointed to the permanent rank of brigadier general in the Regular Army but held his temporary rank of major general in the Army until promotion to lieutenant general in the now separate United States Air Force in 1948. He then was promoted to full general in 1951 and held this rank until his retirement in 1965.

Dates of rank

  • Army ROTC Cadet: September 1924
  • Second Lieutenant, Field Artillery Reserve: 14 June 1928
  • Second Lieutenant, Ohio National Guard: 22 September 1928
  • Flying Cadet, Army Air Corps: 28 September 1928
  • Officer Commissions Terminated: 2 October 1929
  • Second Lieutenant, Air Corps Reserve: 12 October 1929
  • Second Lieutenant, Army Air Corps: 1 February 1930
  • First Lieutenant, Army Air Corps: 12 March 1935
  • Captain, Army Air Corps: 26 January 1940
  • Major, Army Air Corps: 21 March 1941
  • Lieutenant Colonel, Army of the United States: 23 January 1942
  • Colonel, Army of the United States: 17 June 1942
  • Brigadier General, Army of the United States: 28 September 1943
  • Major General, Army of the United States: 3 March 1944
  • Lieutenant General, United States Air Force: 26 January 1948
  • General, United States Air Force: 29 October 1951
  • General, USAF (Retired): 1 February 1965

According to letters in Curtis LeMay's service record, while in command of SAC during the 1950s, several petitions were made by Air Force service members to have LeMay promoted to the rank of General of the Air Force. The Air Force leadership, however, felt that such a promotion would lessen the prestige of this rank which was seen as a wartime rank only, to be held in times of extreme national emergency.

Per the Chief of the Air Force General Officers Branch, in a letter dated February 28, 1962:

"It is clear that a grateful nation, recognizing the tremendous contributions of the key military and naval leaders in World War II, created these supreme grades as an attempt to accord to these leaders the prestige, the clear-cut leadership, and the emolument of office befitting their service to their country in war. It is the conviction of the Department of the Air Force that this recognition was and is appropriate. Moreover, appointments to this grade during periods other than war would carry the unavoidable connotation of downgrading of those officers so honored in World War II."

Thus, no serious effort was ever made to promote LeMay to the rank of General of the Air Force and the matter was eventually dropped after his retirement from active service in 1965.

Awards and decorations

LeMay received recognition for his work from thirteen countries, receiving twenty-two medals and decorations.

U.S.S.RmarkerOrder of the Patriotic War—1st Degree



  • (with MacKinlay Kantor) Mission with LeMay: My Story (Doubleday, 1965) ISBN B00005WGR2
  • (with Dale O. Smith) America is in Danger (Funk & Wagnalls, 1968) ISBN B00005VCVX
  • (with Bill Yenne) Superfortress: The Story of the B-29 and American Air Power (McGraw-Hill, 1988) ISBN 0-07-037160-1

Film and Television

As himself

As portrayed by actors

Fictional references



  • Atkins, Albert Air Marshall Sir Arthur Harris and General Curtis E. Lemay: A Comparative Analytical Biography. AuthorHouse, 2001. ISBN 0-7596-5940-0.
  • Craig, William The Fall of Japan. The Dial Press, 1967. Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 67-10704.
  • Coffey, Thomas M. Iron Eagle: The Turbulent Life of General Curtis LeMay. Random House, 1986. ISBN 0-517-55188-8.
  • Kozak, Warren LeMay: The Life and Wars of Curtis LeMay. Regnery, 2009.
  • LeMay, Curtis E. "Mission with LeMay: My Story". Doubleday, 1965
  • LeMay, Curtis E., Yenne, Bill Superfortress: The Boeing B-29 and American Airpower in World War II. Westholme Publishing 2006, originally published by Berkley, 1988
  • McNamara, Robert S. In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. Vintage Press, 1995. ISBN 0-679-76749-5.
  • Moscow, Warren "City’s Heart Gone". The New York Times. 11 March 1945: 1, 13.
  • Narvez, Alfonso A. "Gen. Curtis LeMay, an Architect of Strategic Air Power, Dies at 83". The New York Times. 2 October 1990.
  • Allison, Graham. Essence of Decision:Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (1971 – updated 2nd edition, 1999). Longman. ISBN 0-321-01349-2.
  • Rhodes, Richard Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb. Simon & Schuster, 1995. ISBN 0-684-80400-X
  • Tillman, Barrett. LeMay. Palgrave's Great Generals Series, 2007. ISBN 1-4039-7135-8
  • USAF National Museum, "Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, Awards and Decorations"
  • USAF Service Record of Curtis LeMay, Military Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, MO
  • 456 Fighter Interceptor Squadron Webpage, [10379]

External links

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