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Overview (4)

Date of Birth 15 November 1906Columbus, Ohio, USA
Date of Death 3 October 1990Riverside, California, USA
Birth NameCurtis Emerson LeMay
Nickname Bombs Away

Mini Bio (1)

Curtis LeMay was a US Air Force general who was credited during World War II with developing the strategic bombing campaign against the Japanese that greatly helped in the conclusion of the war. He was also credited with reorganizing the Strategic Air Command into an effective force that became capable of waging a nuclear war against the Soviet Union if that option became necessary. However, LeMay also gained notoriety later in life for his involvement in ultra-right-wing politics, his fanatic anti-Communist views (he outraged many both inside and outside the military for what they saw as his attempting to use the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 as an excuse to instigate a nuclear war with the Soviet Union), his unrelenting advocacy of the use of nuclear weapons in Vietnam and his close personal and, eventually, political association with former Alabama governor and white supremacist George Wallace.

LeMay was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, and attended Ohio State University. His enrollment in the ROTC program there resulted in his being made a second lieutenant when he joined the US Army Air Corps in 1930. In 1937 he transferred from fighters to bombers and found his calling, as he showed outstanding capabilities in bombing tactics and strategies.

When World War II broke out LeMay was a lieutenant colonel in Eighth Air Force. He was given charge of the 305th Bomber Group in Europe, and the spectacular results he achieved there resulted in his being placed in command of the 3rd Bombardment Division in late 1942. His record of achievements there got him transferred to the Pacific Theater in 1944, where he was promoted to major general and given XXI Bomber Command. LeMay was in charge of the B-29 bomber operations against Japan, and his strategies resulted in the massive bombing campaign--which LeMay nicknamed "fire jobs"--against more than 60 Japanese cities, including Tokyo. The overwhelming and virtually nonstop bombing raids in the four-month period between March 1945 and the end of the war in August of that year are estimated to have resulted in the deaths of more than one million Japanese civilians.

After the war LeMay was transferred to the Pentagon but in 1947 was sent back to Europe as USAFE (US Air Force-Europe) commander, and in 1948 was assigned as Chief of Operations for the Berlin Airlift, which resupplied the isolated city of West Berlin when Russian and East German Communist authorities shut down land access to the city in an attempt to starve it out and force the Allied powers to abandon it. In 1949 LeMay was transferred back to the US and placed in charge of SAC (Strategic Air Command), with orders to transform it into a force capable of conducting a nuclear war should the need arise, a task he performed with great effectiveness. He headed SAC until 1957, when he was appointed Vice Chief of Staff of the US Air Force. In 1961 he was promoted to Chief of Staff.

LeMay's success on the battlefields of Europe and Japan did not carry over to success on the battlefields of Washington. His loud, overly aggressive and belligerent style at first annoyed and eventually angered many in the Washington defense community, and his ultra-right-wing politics, unrelentingly rabid anti-Communist views and advocacy of the use of military force--especially nuclear--as a first resort (in direct opposition to American government policy, which was to use it as a last resort) resulted in bitter and repeated clashes with many of his military and civilian colleagues and superiors. Also, he incurred the wrath of many in the defense community when they saw what they believed to be his transparent attempt to use the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 as a pretext to launch a war against Cuba and the Soviet Union--he strongly urged President John F. Kennedy to attack both Cuba and the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons--and that cost him much support in military circles, as did his policy of massive bombing campaigns against North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia that resulted in tens of thousands of civilian deaths but which put no appreciable dent in the North Vietnamese war effort.

LeMay retired in 1965 and almost immediately became involved in radical right-wing politics. This resulted in his being selected as the vice-presidential candidate of arch-segregationist former Alabama governor George Wallace during his presidential campaign of 1968. However, LeMay made a string of reckless and alarming statements--such as declaring that the people of the US may have been afraid of nuclear war with the Soviet Union, but he was not--that cost the Wallace campaign much support. These and other even more defiantly bellicose statements by LeMay alarmed many voters and lent credence to charges by his and Wallace's opponents that the campaign was headed not only by a white supremacist but also by an extremist who eagerly looked forward to a nuclear war (a charge which, for once in a political campaign, was not an exaggeration). The campaign lost much steam and support after statements like that and crushed Wallace's chances of being taken as a serious contender.

After the disastrous Wallace campaign, LeMay continued his involvement in ultra-right-wing politics, but not to the extent he had been. He wrote several books railing against the influence of "radicals" and "liberals" in American cultural and political circles. He died in 1990.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: frankfob2@yahoo.com

Spouse (1)

Helen Maitland (9 June 1934 - 3 October 1990) (his death) (1 child)

Trivia (5)

US Air Force general.
US Air Force Chief of Staff, 1961 -1965.
US Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, 1957 -1961.
Vice presidential candidate in 1968 on the ticket of the American Independent Party of presidential candidate and Alabama governor George Wallace.
He was the inspiration for warmongering General Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964).

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