LeMay, Curtis , born 15-11-1906 in Columbus, Ohio, was of English and distant French Huguenot heritage. His father, Erving Edwin LeMay, was at times an ironworker and general handyman, but he never held a job longer than a few months. His mother, Arizona Dove (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 Montana and California. Eventually they returned to his native city of Columbus. LeMay attended Columbus public schools, graduating from Columbus South High School, and studied civil engineering at The Ohio State University.
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. While finishing at Ohio State, he took flight training at Norton Field in Columbus, in 1931–32. On 09-06-1934, he married Helen Maitland.
He became was the “Father of the Strategic Air Command.” LeMay worked his way through Ohio State University. In 1928 he was commissioned without completing his degree, which he completed later. In the 1930s, LeMay helped develop the ideas and equipment America used in World War II. He participated in the Army’s support of the Civilian Conservation Corps; he helped fly the mail when Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered the Air Corps to deliver it; and he was one of the pioneers of aerial navigation. He was the B-17 navigator who in 1937 found the battleship Utahand in 1938 found the Italian liner Rexin demonstrations of the ability of aircraft to find ships. These exercises were important in the battle to build the Air Corps as well as in the evolution of the science of aerial navigation. In 1936 LeMay had moved from fighters to bombers, because he saw the future of military aviation in bombers— the aircraft that could take the offensive and carry the battle to the enemy. Shortly after becoming a bomber pilot he met General Robert Olds. Olds, who died on 14-06-2007, taught LeMay two important lessons: first, that the peacetime Air Corps existed only to be ready to fight when and where the elected representatives of the American people directed; and second, that readiness required constant training. LeMay later built these lessons into the Strategic Air Command. In the hectic days of early 1943, while preparing the 305th Bomber Group in California for the European war, LeMay allowed the members of the group, including himself, to take only every other weekend off and thus earned for life the nickname of “Iron Ass.” While leading the 305th to Europe, and still training hard, LeMay was struck by Bell’s Palsy, leaving his face frozen for life. This frozen face and his no-nonsense attitude about combat readiness gave him an undeserved reputation for cold-bloodedness and indifference to subordinates’ problems. In the summer of 1944 LeMay moved from B-17 operations against Germany to B-29 operations against Japan. That August he took command in India of B-29s which refueled in China for missions against Japan. LeMay reorganized the command’s training, maintenance, and operations, but the logistics arrangements were impossible and ensured that the India-based B-29s’ contribution to the American war effort was merely a token. Major General Curtis LeMay with General of the Air Force Henry H. Arnold and Lieutenant General Barney M. Giles and Brigadier General Emmett O. Donnell. On 18-01-1945, LeMay left India and moved to Guam to command B-29s operating from the Marianna Islands against Japan. Once again LeMay reorganized an outfit, exercising his leadership and teaching his techniques and doctrines. The weather over Japan kept the precision bombing doctrines used in Europe from producing comparable results. LeMay, without telling his superiors and in the face of his flyers’ concerns about their losses, started low level firebombing of Japanese cities. These tactics destroyed the Japanese urban areas and, in LeMay’s opinion, made possible the surrender of Japan without an invasion after the dropping of the atomic bomb. After the defeat of Japan in 1945, LeMay played a central role in the development of the United States Air Force (USAF). He first moved to the Pentagon and guided the creation of the Air Force’s research and development organization. In 1947 he became the commander of the USAF units involved in the occupation of Germany and in 1948 started the USAF efforts in the Berlin Airlift. He was the Cold War’s fiercest warrior. His very first war plan drawn up in 1949, proposed delivering, “the entire stockpile of atomic bombs in a single massive attack.” That meant dropping 133 A-bombs on 70 cities within 30 days. He argued that, “if you are going to use military force, then you ought to use overwhelming military force. Use too much and deliberately use too much.. you’ll save lives, not only your own, but the enemy’s too.”
Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis E. LeMay with U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Strategic Air Command’s Commander General Thomas S. Power at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.
Death and burial ground of LeMay, Curtis Emmerson “Iron Ass”.
The old warrior died on 01-10-1990, age 83. He is buried in the United States Air Force Academy Colorado Springs, Colorado. Also buried there are the General, who directed the development of the United States’ original jet engine and jet aircraft. Benjamin Chidlaw Chidlaw, Air Force Lieutenant General. Commander 5th Bombardment Wing, Joseph Atkinson, General Lieutenant, Commander Sixth Air Force, Hubert Reilly Harmon, Commander 15th Air Force, Emmet “Rosie” O’Donnel Jr, Lieutenant General, Chief of Air Staff, George Edward Stratemeyer and Navy Bomber Squadron Leader, Clarence Wade McClusky.