General Curtis LeMay

General LeMay was one of the most well known generals of the Air Force following World War II. He was probably the best known as the Commander in Chief and architect of Strategic Air Command. Born on November 15, 1906 in Columbus, Ohio. As a boy he saw the aerobatic show of Lincoln Beachy, a well known aviator of the day. LeMay never forgot this aerial display. Like all boys of his day he had a great fondness for mechanical devices. In 1919 he and a friend bought a Model T ford for twenty five dollars. Eventually he bought out his partner and was sole owner of the automobile. He kept it running for many years. His desire to fly led to his college career. He knew that the best flight training he could get would be in the Army, but he was unable to secure a congressional appointment to West Point. As a second choice he joined the ROTC unit at Ohio State, seeking a commission. He knew this would give him the eventual opportunity to join the Army Air Service. LeMay was an honor graduate of ROTC training, but due to his long hours at the job that supported his college career, he had failed some courses and found himself 15 credits short of graduation. As an honor graduate he was given a reserve comission, but found this would not allow him the chance at entering the Air Corps flying schools. He discovered, however, that by entering the National Guard would provide him a chance at flying. Explaining his desire to the Ohio Commander of the National Guard, he was given a commission as a second lieutenant. His application for flying school was quickly processed and in November 1928 he was on his way to March Field in Riverside, California as a flying cadet. On October 27, 1929 LeMay was awarded his wings as an Air Corps pilot. During this period of The Great Depression, little thought was given to the expansion of the military. By 1938 the Air Corps began to lobby hard for funding for new aircraft. The Air Corps planned a mission to Buenos Aires, for the inauguration of the newly elected Argentine president. This was an opportunity to gain publicity for the newly acquired B-17. Lieutenant LeMay was selected as the Lead navigator for this goodwill flight of six fortresses. All aircraft made the round trip without mishap. In that day this feat of crossing the Andes was quite a pioneering effort. As an indication of the state of the Air Corps at the time, LeMay used National Geographic maps to plan his mission. A few months later the Air Corps, in another publicity move, planned a mission of three B-17s to intercept the Italian luxury liner Rex, 700 miles at sea, to demonstrate the ability of the Air Corps to find and destroy enemy ships. Again, LeMay was selected as the lead navigator. Despite nearly impossible odds this mission was as success and infuriated the fascists on board the Rex.

Return to AF History Page

Home

Curtis Lemay page (UNDER CONSTRUCTION 6 Jun 99)