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GEN. CURTIS E. LEMAY

Posted 6/25/2009 Printable Fact Sheet
 
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Gen. Curtis E. LeMay
Gen. Curtis E. LeMay. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Gen. Curtis LeMay was born in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 15, 1906. He attended Columbus public schools and The Ohio State University, graduating with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. In 1928 he entered the Armed Services as a flying cadet. He completed pilot training at Kelly Field, Texas, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Corps Reserve in October 1929. He received a regular commission on Feb. 1, 1930.

General LeMay's first tour of duty was with the 27th Pursuit Squadron at Selfridge Field, Mich. He served in various assignments in fighter operations before transferring to bomber aircraft in 1937. General LeMay participated in the first mass flight of B-17 Flying Fortresses to South America in 1938. This won for the 2nd Bomb Group the Mackay Trophy for outstanding aerial achievement. Prior to the United States' entry into World War II, General LeMay pioneered air routes over the South Atlantic to Africa and over the North Atlantic to England.

General LeMay organized and trained the 305th Bombardment Group in 1942 and led that organization to combat in the European theater. He developed formation procedures and bombing techniques that were used by B-17 bomber units throughout the European Theater of Operations. These fundamental procedures and techniques were later adapted to the B-29 Superfortresses that fought the war to its conclusion in the Pacific.

As commanding general of the Third Bombardment Division (England), he led the famed Regensberg raid -- a B-17 shuttle mission that originated in England, struck deep in Germany and terminated in Africa. In July 1944 he was transferred to the Pacific to direct the B-29 heavy bombardment activities of the 20th Bomber Command in the China-India-Burma theater. He later commanded the 21st Bomber Command with headquarters on Guam, and still later became chief of staff of the Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific. At the conclusion of WWII, he returned to the United States piloting a B-29 Superfortress on a nonstop, record flight from Hokkaido Island, Japan, to Chicago, Ill. He was then transferred to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., to become the first Deputy Chief of Air Staff for Research and Development.

In October 1947 General LeMay was selected to command the U.S. Air Forces in Europe with headquarters at Wiesbaden, Germany. He organized air operations for the Berlin Airlift. A year later he returned to the United States, assumed command of the newly formed Strategic Air Command and established its headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. This central location was to become the nerve center of a worldwide bomber-missile force.

Commanding SAC for nearly nine years, he built, from the remnants of WWII, an all-jet bomber force, manned and supported by professional airmen dedicated to the preservation of peace. Under his leadership and supervision, plans were laid for the development and integration of an intercontinental ballistic missile capability.

In July 1957 General LeMay was appointed Vice Chief of Staff of the USAF and served in that capacity until July 1961, when he was appointed Chief of Staff.

General LeMay holds Honorary Doctor of Law degrees from John Carroll University, Kenyon College, the University of Southern California, Creighton University and the University of Akron; Honorary Doctor of Science degrees from Tufts University, The Ohio State University and the University of Virginia; and an Honorary Doctor of Engineering degree from Case Institute of Technology. His fraternal organizations include Sigma Tau, Tau Beta Pi and Theta Tau.

General LeMay's distinguished service has won him many awards and decorations from his government, as well as from foreign governments. He is rated a command pilot and is qualified to fly jet aircraft. During his career, General LeMay held aircraft observer, combat observer and technical observer aeronautical ratings, which were later replaced by the current navigator or aircraft observer rating.

Click here to view a listing of General LeMay's awards and decorations.

Click here to return to the People of the Air Force index.







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