Curtis Emerson LeMay

Military

Object Number - UPL 24757 - Signed photo of General Curtis E. LeMay, commander of the Bomb Division of the Eighth Air Force.

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 minimize 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 organizing 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 favored option. In the 1960’s he began to utilize 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.

Awards: DSC, DSM w/ 2 Oak Leaf Cluster, DFC w/ 2 Oak Leaf Cluster, SS, AM w/ 3 Oak 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.

Connections

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Units served with

  • Unit Hierarchy: Division
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment

People

  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 3rd Bomb Division 303rd Bomb Group 360th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: O-430990
  • Highest Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
  • Role/Job: Pilot
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 305th Bomb Group Can Do 381st Bomb Group 422nd Bomb Squadron 535th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: O-437872
  • Highest Rank: First Lieutenant
  • Role/Job: Pilot, Co-Pilot

Aircraft

  • Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress
  • Nicknames: Silver Queen
  • Unit: 92nd Bomb Group Fame's Favoured Few 95th Bomb Group 334th Bomb Squadron 335th Bomb Squadron

Places

Events

Event Location Date Description

Born

Columbus, Ohio 1906-11-15 Son of Erving Edwin and Arizona Dove [Carpenter] LeMay.

Buried

United States Air Force Academy Cemetery Colorado Springs, El Paso County, CO 1990-10-05 United States Air Force Academy Cemetery Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Colorado Plot Section 3, Row D, Grave 75

Died

March Field, Riverside County, California, USA 1990-10-01 (aged 83)

Revisions

Date9 Oct 2021 19:07:13
Contributorjmoore43
Sources

Updated middle name and Died and Buried events per Find-a-grave Memorial ID 9654.
SOURCE: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/9654/ctisur-emerson-lemay

Date9 Oct 2021 18:57:22
Contributorjmoore43
Sources

Corrected a typo in the "Summary biography" - “utilize” was misspelled.

Date30 Sep 2017 16:22:39
ContributorAl_Skiff
Sources

Roger Freeman Photo.

Date23 Feb 2016 15:31:58
ContributorAnne Hughes
Sources

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

Date23 Nov 2014 20:14:02
ContributorLee8thbuff
Sources

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

Date27 Sep 2014 18:06:41
ContributorAAM
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;

Curtis Emerson LeMay: Gallery (18 items)