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Curtis E LeMay

Military

306th Temporary Deputy Commander at Wendover, then transferred as Group Commander of 305th BG 4-Jun-42 to 15-May-43.
Commanding General of the 3rd Air Division 13 September 1943 to 20 June 1944. Post-war Commanding General SAC 16 October 1948 to 30 June 1957. 1961-1965 he was Air Force Chief of Staff. Retired 1 February 1965.

In 1928 Curtis LeMay joined the USAAC as a flying cadet. He was commissioned in 1929-30 as 2nd Lieutenant. In 1937 he was transferred to bombers. As Lt Colonel he led 305th Bombardment Group to England in 1942 as part of the 8th Air Force. He was well known for his development of defensive formations, such as the combat box, which was used to minimise aircraft losses in combat. These formations were used by B-17 bombers during missions over occupied Europe.
The following memories were recorded by the Daily Telegraph supplement, The Yanks, about his time in England…

“The brave boys based at Chelveston had more than their fair share of triumphs and tragedies during their 18 month stay in rural Northamptonshire.
After flying several missions from Grafton Underwood, the first job facing the 305th Bomber Group (Heavy) was to perfect the best bombing height and formation to keep down losses.
Under Colonel Curtis LeMay, this was achieved with a staggered box formation and adopted successfully by all American squadrons throughout the 8th Air Force.”

As commander of the 4th Bombardment Wing, LeMay was promoted to Brigadier General in 1943 and transferred to 3rd Bomb division. Brave in combat, LeMay led several missions, notably the Schweinfurt-Regensburg raid in 1943 and later he led 146 B-17s to their target in Germany and on to bases in Africa.

In August 1944 he was transferred to the China-Burma-India theatre as leader of 21st Bomber Command. Believing that Japan’s manufacturing industry had to be destroyed if America were to launch a successful invasion of Japan, he supported fire raids which would destroy whole sections of cities associated with manufacturing. Always prepared to be controversial he is quoted as saying,
“Killing Japanese didn’t bother me very much at the time…. I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal….. every soldier thinks something of the moral aspects of what he is doing. But all war is immoral and if you let that bother you, you are not a good soldier.”

After the war, LeMay served in administrative positions before being assigned to command US Air Forces in Europe and organising air operations for the Berlin Airlift. Later he returned to the United States to lead Strategic Air Command for nine years. LeMay began the process of adding intercontinental ballistic missiles as an element of the national nuclear arsenal.

He later became Chief of Staff for the US Air Force promoting the idea that strategic air campaigns were always the favoured option. In the 1960’s he began to utilise satellite technology and maintained strong views regarding the use of missiles in Cuba and strategic bombing in Vietnam. His attitude was, “If you kill enough of them, they stop fighting………. All war is immoral and if you let that bother you, you’re not a good soldier.”

In February 1965, and unable to agree with government policy, LeMay retired from the USAF. He retired from public life in 1968 having failed to secure the necessary votes to run for vice-president.

DSC, DSM w/2Oak Leaf Cluster, DFC w/2Oak Leaf Cluster, SS, AM w/3Oak Leaf Cluster, ADSM, NDSM, ACM, EAME w/3 stars, APCM w/4 stars, WWII VM, Army of Occupation Medal with the Berlin Airlift emblem, Medal for Human Action

Service

Units served with

  • 3rd Air Division

    3rd Air Division

    Division

  • 305th Bomb Group Can Do

    305th Bomb Group Can Do

    Group
    The 305th Bombardment Group (Heavy), nicknamed "Can Do" was activated 1-March-1942 at Salt Lake City Air Base, Utah which was their primary training base until 11-Jun-1942 when they relocated to Geiger Field, Washington until 29-Jun-1942, then on to...

Aircraft

  • 42-29780 'Silver Queen'

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Denver 17/2/43; Gore Fd 8/3/43; Gulfport 31/3/43; Assigned 334BS/95BG [BG-P] Alconbury 5/4/43; 335BS [OE-P]; 6m, transferred 92BG Alconbury 12/6/43 but switched to 3BD HQ as hack for Curtis Le May; Returned to the USA Grenier 26/12/44;...

Associated Place

  • Chelveston

    Military site : airfield
    Chelveston was adapted and expanded in preparation for the arrival of American forces. Rather than heavy bombers, the first aircraft to fly from its runways were C-47 Skytrains that were flown by the 60th Troop Carrier Group in July 1942. The first...

  • Grafton Underwood

    Military site : airfield
    Grafton Underwood was built in 1941 by George Wimpey and Co. Ltd. It was the first airfield in England to receive an Eighth Air Force flying unit, when in May 1942 personnel of the 15th Bomb Squadron took up residence. As a satellite airfield for...

Events

Event Location Date
Born Columbus, Ohio 15 November 1906
Died 1 October 1990
Buried Air Force Academy Colorado Springs

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
30 September 2017 16:22:39 Al_Skiff Changes to media associations
Sources

Roger Freeman Photo.

Date Contributor Update
23 February 2016 15:31:58 Anne Hughes Changes to biography
Sources

Daily Telegraph Supplement 1992 - The Yanks
Curtis LeMay - C N Trueman- historylearningsite.co.uk
militaryhistory.about.com -Kennedy Hickman
Curtis LeMay Quotes - webpage

Date Contributor Update
23 November 2014 20:14:02 Lee8thbuff Changes to biography, awards and place associations
Sources

Lee Cunningham 23-Nov-2014. Awards listed: from previous ingest information; CO 305BG dates: http://www.usaaf.com/8thaf/bomber/305bg.HTM

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:06:41 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / The Mighty Eighth by Roger Freeman; Combat Crews page 141;

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