Talk:Curtis LeMay

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Wonderful Obituary[edit]

This article is a slavish obituary for a man who some people would identify as one of the greatest war criminals in the history of mankind. Where is the criticism of the mistakes and excesses of LeMay, or are we all to accept the story book version of his life? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:07, 7 March 2013 (UTC)

Restoring relevant and cited contributions[edit]

Please check user's status. Thanks!Learner001 (talk) 23:24, 26 January 2009 (UTC)

Wow! I am so impressed with the AF and other folks! Thanks for making this a fantastic page!Learner001 (talk) 03:42, 21 July 2010 (UTC)

Language Neutral point of view[edit]

It struck me on consulting this page that the use of the word "the enemy" in the sentences:

"His advice was ignored. Instead, an incremental policy was implemented that focused on limited interdiction bombing of fluid enemy supply corridors in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. This limited campaign failed to destroy significant quantities of enemy war supplies or diminish enemy ambitions." (In the section - LeMay and the “Airpower Battle”)

did not reflect the sort of neutral point of view that I would expect of an encyclopaedia ... but I don't feel that I know enough about the subject to do other than add this comment and leave it for someone who has already engaged with this page to consider refining it.

Grow (talk) 12:17, 6 October 2009 (UTC) 6 October 2009

I can see where you're coming from, but I don't believe it's a problem. I believe that "enemy" is referring to the fact that the Vietcong was the enemy of the United States military forces during the conflict in Vietnam, which, in my opinion, is appropriate in an article about the head of the United States Strategic Air Command. Luke32113 (talk) 19:07, 5 February 2013 (UTC)

Minor Edit[edit]

It's small but important. 'Great Britain' does not grant honours, the United Kingdom does this...Great Britain is the name of the main island (there are several thousand of them) of the United Kingdom, not the name of the country. HM Government of the United Kingdom grants all military and civilian Honours and Awards.Iamlondon 01:18, 29 August 2006 (UTC)

Actually, the government recommends them but the Queen is the one who grants them. She would rarely if ever decline a recommendation, but since we're talking technicalities ... There are some awards within the Queen's "personal gift", which means she and she alone decides to grant them. -- Jack of Oz [your turn] 19:48, 13 September 2011 (UTC)


I'm wondering if it would be appropriate or not to fold in some of McNamara's comments and recollections about LeMay during the Cuban Missile Crisis and World War II into this entry. McNamara certainly had his own POV (quite negative) but it's pretty fascinating and could of course be attributed to McNamara. In particular I"m thinking of what McNamara says about LeMay in the documentary Fog of War.... maybe I'll read up on LeMay a bit more, he's really a fantastic Cold War figure. --Fastfission 04:13, 7 Feb 2004 (UTC)

If LeMay didn't say "bomb Vietnam back to the stone age", then where did it come from? Googling suggests Goldwater as a possibility, but I didn't see any trustworthy source. It would be good to have the definitive answer to what's starting to look like an urban legend... Stan 04:45, 25 Jul 2004 (UTC)
  • The only mention I can find in the New York Times is from a review of Noam Chomsky's "American Power and the New Mandarins" from March 18, 1969, which reads: "His greatest criticism is aimed not against the military nor the simplistic-minded jingoists, nor against the commercial interests with stakes in military expenditures or foreign markets. He expects them to behave as they do; it's the nature of the organism. A man like Gen. Curtis LeMay who wants to bomb Vietnam back into the Stone Age receives only passing mention." The NYT does not have any other "bomb back into the Stone Age" quotes attributed to anybody else, either. This doesn't of course prove anything except that this notion about LeMay and the Stone Age has been around for some time. --Fastfission 05:20, 4 Nov 2004 (UTC)
  • Nevermind, I found another quote. This one is from a New York Times review of Mission With Lemay: My Story from November 28, 1965 (in the Book Review) which quotes LeMay as saying: "My solution to the problem would be to tell [the North Vietnamese Communists] frankly that they've got to drawn in their horns and stop their aggression or we're going to bomb them into the stone age." (the parenthetical part of the quote is in the original NYT article, I did not insert it) Which seems to imply that this is a quote from his book, and is thus not completely an urban legend even if this is a different formulation than is traditionally used. I haven't seen the book though so I have no idea. --Fastfission 05:25, 4 Nov 2004 (UTC)
  • Another LeMay quote from the NYT book review (man, it is great to get a ProQuest subscription through the university):
"I'd like to see a more aggressive attitude on the part of the United States. That doesn't mean launching an immediate preventive war. ... Native analysts may look sadly back from the future on that period when we had the atomic bomb and the Russians didn't... That was the era when we might have destroyed Russia completely and not even skinned our elbows doing it.... China has the bomb... Sometime in the future--25, 50, 75 years hence--what will the situation be like then? By that time the Chinese will have the capability of delivery too... That's the reason some schools of thinking don't rule out a destruction of the Chinese military potential before the situation grows worse than it is today. It's bad enough now."

From the biography section: "Area bombardment of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia led to the deaths and maimings of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians during the wars in those countries." Are there reliable sources and numbers on this? I put the qualifier "up to" before "hundreds of thousands." --Ur Wurst Enema 03:46, 12 Dec 2004 (UTC)

The "stone age" quote is definitely in his book[edit]

. . . Mission With LeMay which was co-written with MacKinlay Kantor (the author of Andersonville). In Thomas Coffey's biography of LeMay, which was done with the cooperation of LeMay's widow, he says LeMay disclaimed this as Kantor's overwriting. But there's no reference to a print source where LeMay may have said this. And the book is generally quite fawning to LeMay.

The "stone age" passage is on pg. 565 of "Mission With LeMay." There's the suggestion that LeMay missed the passage in galley proofs, and therefore Kantor was speaking for CEL. However, it's likely that CEL endorsed the sentiment. His philosophy revolved around massive violence to end a war, saving friendly AND enemy lives. (i.e., WW II) Compare that to the "more flexible" types like Robt. Strange McNamara whose tit for tat gradualism resulted in a decade-long quagmire with escalating deaths on both/all sides.


Thanks for digging up - kept forgettng to look for the book in the library. The subjunctive part ("or we're going to") also makes it sound quite a bit different than the usual quote that one sees. Stan 21:33, 9 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Yes the stone age quote is in his book, but technically he had words put in his mouth. As Bill pointed out, Kantor was writing up the proofs and sending them to LeMay for approval. LeMay would alter the proofs as he saw fit, however he states that he missed the "stone age quote". His explanation can be found at;

Air Leadership: Proceedings of a Conference at Bolling Air Force Base April 13-14, 1984. by Wayne Thompson page 40;

This was started a couple of years before I had retired. After I retired, I went down to Florida and spent some time with him down there, and we finished it up. By and large I think he did pretty well, although I missed a few things in the reading which I wish I had caught, like this bombing back into the Stone Age Business. That sought of gave me the reputation of being somebody whose solution to every problem was bombing the hell out of them. That's not my idea of the solution to every problem. But by and large he did pretty well. I was happy with it.

I think the sentiment is at odds with his military philosophy.

(Boilerplater (talk) 13:49, 21 July 2008 (UTC))

ANSWERS: I have added, in the text, links to sources citing BOTH versions of this quote -- his original (in his autobiography) and his subsequent recantations/revisions, along with an explanatory, indented (blockquote) note, with multiple source citations. Best of all, perhaps, is the cited blog from etymologist Popik, whose cited web page lists (in detail) NUMEROUS sources for BOTH versions of LeMay's "...bomb them back to the Stone Age..." / "...bomb them into the Stone Age..." statement and subsequent denials/revisions.
Zxtxtxz (talk) 12:52, 19 April 2015 (UTC)

How many died from bombings in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia?[edit]

"Area bombardment of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia led to the deaths and maimings of up to hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians during the wars in those countries."

I have a feeling its more in the hundreds, or thousands. Not hundreds of thousands. But I've never studied that period in detail. --Havermayer 6 July 2005 23:38 (UTC)

You should go there... each YEAR - even now in 2005 - hundreds of Laotians and Cambodians die from UXOs, or unexploded ordinance. Especially children. The US dropped half a ton of muntions per person on Laos- the most bombed country in the world. Go there, you'll see the maimed people. They are hard to miss, sadly.

The topic was "area bombardment"--the only missions flown in SEA that could be described as "area" were B-52 missions. Tactical Air flew the "strategic" missions mentioned in the article (and that is a misnomer--it's mixing up World War II, Cold War, and Vietnam War terminology and it's not the same definitions). B-52s, with 729 exceptions in Linebacker II, did not bomb urban areas of North Vietnam, but jungle areas. The initial statement was gross error, and the replacement text in the article is misleading. Like the biographical information on World War II, it was poorly researched.--Buckboard 11:33, 23 March 2006 (UTC)

The figure of an estimated 40,000 deaths in an invasion of the Japanese mainland is clearly wrong and most likely result of someone with leftish bias over-reacting to the 1 million figure. A quick look at death and casualty figures for Iwo Jima and Okinawa should make it patently obvious that any sane estimate at the time would have been closer to 1M than 40K. I hope someone with more background than I have can attend to this.

US planning was established for an average of 100,000 casualties per month from the beginning of Operations Olympic and Coronet in Nov 1945 through the fall of 1946. Initial planning numbers for total US casualties based on the Saipan Ratio were estimated at between 1.7 million and 2 million, with the figure of 500,000 commonly used in briefings as a best case estimate. Army Service Forces estimated approximately 720,000 replacements needed for dead and evacuated wounded through Dec 1946. (source: "Casualty Projections fo the U.S. Invasions of Japan, 1945-1946: Planning and Policy Implications" by D. M. Giangreco) These of course, are estimates of US casualties only. As a grim sidenote, per Maj Gen Kiyomi Masumoto, JASDF, "the old, the infant and the females fight with bamboo spear or bows and arrows in hidden corners" as a last stand in defense of the homeland.

According to Newman in "Truman and the Hiroshima Cult", that figure of 100,000 per month from a land invasion of Japan could have been up to 300,00 per month (and that's what he listed as the MINIMUM). The 'early surrender hypothesis' for Japan was flat-out wrong--there was no way they would have surrendered by November. And the typical estimate of the deaths is about 1 million. The Japanese had prepared Kyushu and its defenses to repel the first wave, even though they admitted they probably wouldn't wint eh next waves after that. But they were ready to fight to the death. And the casualties from incendiary bombings could definitely range in the hundred-thousand ranges given a war, lots of bombs, and Lemay leading the charge. Bombing was a darn effective strategy. And that was just in Japan. Imagine later in Vietnam and all the other places, when they were more advanced. (talk) 03:44, 9 May 2008 (UTC)

Seven Days in May[edit]

While Dr Strangelove is certainly more famous now, the novel Seven Days in May and the corresponding film have a Curtis LeMay character front and centre. The DVD commentary for the film mentions the tensions of the period specifically. Template:Signature?

Seven Days in May is a very fictional piece derived from the infamous "Thirteen Days" in October, 1962 -- the Cuban Missle Crisis. For a more fact-based depiction of LeMay's conduct, in that situation, see any of the major historical memoirs, documentaries, and movies on the subject.
The most notable of the bunch, perhaps, are Robert Kennedy's memoirs, particularly his book Thirteen Days -- which gave rise to the title of Kevin Costner's docu-drama movie of the same name.
Costner's Thirteen Days movie draws (too) heavily on the memories of Costner's overplayed character (Kennedy buddy/aide Kenny O'Donnell) -- and has been accused of being overly discrediting of the military. But it draws very heavily on the actual documented history of the affair, including recorded and transcribed meetings and conversations (frequently quoted verbatim by the actors), and provides remarkably accurate recreation of it all, based on my limited (but substantial) readings on this subject, from numerous sources who where there. LeMay comes off as exceptionally belligerent, and pro-nuclear-war, in this (and almost any other) potrayal or insider eyewitness account of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Zxtxtxz (talk) 13:19, 19 April 2015 (UTC)


Like Custer, the name LeMay evokes immediate reaction by those familiar with him. Nevertheless much of the material in this article is shoddily researched, accepted at face value even when inaccurate, and appears to rely heavily on web sources when good old fashioned books have the information sought. I corrected one such example in his World War II experiences in England. If part of it is grossly wrong, how can the rest be accepted as valid? The entire part seeming to tie LeMay to bombing in Vietnam is disturbing. If it is meant to imply he developed a mindset, that's debatable here--but Douhet had more to do with it than LeMay. LeMay's legacy to the USAF in Southeast Asia was that SAC generals instead of TAC generals (World War II bomber pilots instead of jet age fighter pilots) ran the Air Force policy when it came to Rules of Engagement and micromanagement of the air war.--Buckboard 11:41, 23 March 2006 (UTC)

Well, he has been quoted about bombing SE Asia into the stone age. I realize that liberal bias extends to actual quotes - us insidious lefties are everywhere - but what in God's name are you talking about? PeteJayhawk 06:04, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

We appreciate all input that will result in an accurate depiction. Could you please point out any other inaccuracies, I have noticed some glaring ones myself. It seems the facts/info gets murky after WW2.

An interesting point and information. Mission with LeMay may be a good book to use for this. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:40, 15 December 2007 (UTC)

I'm always concerned when someone feels that a public figure's autobiography is a good source. It's relevant for superficial and trivial points, perhaps, and an especially noteworthy (if imperfect) source for confessions. But for the other important, major isues, autobiography is a notoriously unreliable source.
Let's put it this way, LeMay fans: If I were editing a Wikipedia article on President Obama, and decided that the best source on his Senate career was his own autobiography, would you agree? Should the Wikipedia article on Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev be based chiefly on Krushchev's own memoirs? Of course not. Neither should LeMay's, on exactly the same principle.
Zxtxtxz (talk) 13:28, 19 April 2015 (UTC)

Vietnam Policy[edit]

The first sentence of the following paragraph is confusing and unclear to me. Does this mean that many B-52 bombers were shot down over the North by ground to air missiles and fighters? This paragraph needs a rewrite badly.

"LeMay's dislike for tactical aircraft and training backfired in the low-intensity conflict of Vietnam, where existing Air Force interceptor aircraft and standard attack profiles proved incapable of carrying out sustained tactical bombing campaigns in the face of hostile North Vietnamese anti-aircraft defenses. LeMay said, "Flying fighters is fun. Flying bombers is important."[5] Aircraft losses on tactical attack missions soared, and Air Force commanders soon realized that their large, missile-armed aircraft were exceedingly vulnerable not only to anti-aircraft shells and missiles, but also to cannon-armed, maneuverable Soviet fighter jets."

Trojancowboy (talk) 04:45, 10 February 2008 (UTC)

I think its fairly clear what it means. It seems to say, basically that the tactical missions suffered because he focused on strategic resources. Basically the B-47 and B-52 got his focus instead of the smaller, lighter aircraft that were used more often in Vietnam. It does however seem to be making the assertion that this is what caused the USAF and USN's air losses as opposed to say competitiveness from Soviet military hardware in North Vietnams hands. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Senor Freebie (talkcontribs) 03:40, 20 April 2010 (UTC)

No Mention of Korean War[edit]

This entry makes no reference to Curtis LeMay's role as an architect of the Korean War (1950-1953). Where that should be mentioned, the section titled "Cold War" jumps from 1949 to 1957. This is a major omission. The Korean War was the first shot of the Cold War and the most decisive world-political event after World War II. -- Samuel Kozulin, 20 September 2006


The entry makes no such reference because Curtis LeMay played no such role as an "architect" of about anything in the Korean War, Samuel: LeMay spent the entirety of that conflict at home overseeing the ongoing formation of Strategic Air Command. In point of fact, he resented the drain of financial resources away from SAC that the Korean War entailed for the military, and when asked to send SAC B-29 units to help fight it, tasked his worst squadrons. He believed the Korean conflict was a "little war," and that SAC shouldn't be involved because they were training for the "Big War" with the Soviet Union. Hope that clears that particular misconception up for you.--Carthago delenda est 08:24, 20 September 2006 (UTC)


Thank you for your response, Carthago. I am not particularly averse to correction, but let us talk about this a bit. Bruce Cumings has referred to General LeMay as an architect of the air war in Korea. Now, while LeMay did not control all strategic airplanes when they were dispatched to Korea, he did propose "under the carpet" to Pentagon officials that SAC be turned loose with incendiaries on North Korea.

That proposal was initially rejected in fear that it would result in excessive civilian casualties. But in the course of the three-year war, LeMay’s proposal was eventually implemented . . . with a bomb tonnage of 678,000 tons and some 1,300,000 civilian and military casualties in North Korea. That seems to still make him "an" architect of the air war, does it not? -- Samuel kozulin 15:41, 6 October 2006 (UTC)


Happy to oblige, Mr. Kozulin. "Bruce Cumings" may have referred to LeMay as "architect" of the air war in Korea, and he is entitled to his opinion. However, the historical record does not sustain this belief (color me *not* surprised that, after a quick check, he turns out to be a professor in Chicago with a leftist bent).

Indeed, the historical record is clear that, if anything the air strategy pursued in the Korean War infuriated LeMay. We'll start with what LeMay himself said in his autobiography "Mission with LeMay," co-written with MacKinlay Kantor in 1965.

He relates his tangential involvement in the conflict on pages 458-464 (a total of six pages out of five-hundred and eighty one). He discusses the units he was ordered to release (even baldly stating that they were "low-priority wings"), and then goes on to state what his strategy would have been: massive strategic bombing of targets in China and Manchuria along the order of what he had previously done in Japan.

He then says flatly that "we didn't get anywhere with the idea." After philosophizing a bit on the puzzles (to him) of the "Oriental" mind, including telling several anecdotes, he wraps the matter up by recounting the total number of casualties on both sides, and hints in conclusion that had his strategy been adopted "That war...could have been terminated almost as soon as it began. I will always believe this."

Whatever Bruce Cumings might think, LeMay didn't consider himself an "architect" of about anything during the Korean conflict: indeed, he found "infuriating" the fact that his plans were given short shrift.

Thus with what LeMay himself had to say about his involvement in the Korean War.

We then turn to John Toland's "In Mortal Combat, 1950-1953," a definitive (and reputable) one volume account of the conflict. Curtis LeMay's name appears not once in its 624 pages.

A check of "Four Stars: The inside story of the forty-year battle between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and America's civilian leaders" by Mark Perry shows LeMay's name first surfaces on page 74: the events of the Korean War were dealt with by the author starting on page 22 through page 48. LeMay factors into nothing of importance even worth a mention regarding the Korean conflict by the author.

I could go on (and will be happy to, if you wish), but the bottom line is that Curtis LeMay, whatever else he was an "architect" of during his extraordinary career, was a bit player, *at best*, during the conflict that you want edit him in as an "architect" of. He may, indeed, have been such an architect--but I have yet to see a reputable published source regarding the Korean War make such a claim. That is the key: reputable, published source. Find one and I'll be happy to listen.Carthago delenda est 23:28, 8 October 2006 (UTC)


Thank you again for the response, Carthago. Please do not take anything here personally. I am not. My reference to Curtis LeMay’s proposal to the Pentagon to drop incendiaries on North Korean towns is taken from his interview in Strategic Air Warfare (United States Air Force, 1988). These are his own words from the interview: “Right at the start of the war, unofficially I slipped a message in ‘under the carpet’ in the Pentagon that we ought to turn SAC loose with incendiaries on some North Korean towns” (p. 88). This proposal was initially rejected, but later adopted.

You are correct to say that he ordered “low-priority wings” to Korea. Again, here are his words: “We picked the low-priority outfits, the lowest ones on the totem pole. [. . .] Because I did not want to destroy the capability that we had built up for a strategic war if we had to go to war” (p. 87). Perhaps if LeMay’s plan to bomb North Korea is not mentioned in his co-authored Mission with LeMay (1965), this is either omission by accident or design. As for John Toland’s lack of reference to LeMay even once in In Mortal Combat (1991), this reflects a shortcoming of his method.

Apparently, the problem of LeMay and the Korean air war is that, officially, his contribution to its planning is interpreted by a particular school of historians as not particularly significant, and is subsumed under the names of Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg, Lt. Gen. George E. Stratemeyer, Maj. Gen. Emmet O’Donnell, Jr., and others.

Regarding Professor Bruce Cumings, he is an authoritative name in Korean Studies and Korean War history and is a well-known representative of the so-called “revisionist school.” All historians have political leanings, just as they have shortcomings. But what is most important is method. So, this is not an issue about Cumings per se, but an issue of historiographical science. His reference to LeMay as an “architect” of the air war is a very challenging proposition. But it is not insupportable and it questions an official paradigm of Korean War history and its actors and supporting actors.

Anyway, this is academic and interesting, but let us not drag things out. I suggest that the Curtis E. LeMay entry on Wikipedia should simply state that LeMay did play some role in the Korean War, though the extent of his role as one of the architects of the air war is under debate. -- Samuel kozulin 14:42, 15 October 2006 (UTC)


I agree completely with the suggested edit in your final paragraph, Mr. Kozulin: that seems the perfect way to handle this very debatable area of LeMay's career. Carthago delenda est 01:00, 17 October 2006 (UTC)


Strike my previous paragraph: having just finished an exhaustive search and/or review of numerous reputable published sources, all primary texts, regarding the Air Campaign during the Korean War, there is not to be found a scintilla of evidence that General LeMay had anything other than an extremely tangential - at best - role in the way airpower was used during that conflict. Any attempt to edit the article to indicate that General LeMay was some kind of "architect" or hidden hand mastermind or whatever else it is he supposedly did and/or was during the Korean War (according to revisionist historians of Professor Cumings non-neutral POV stripe), will be immediately reverted. Thanks. Carthago delenda est 19:44, 13 January 2007 (UTC)


the page says:

He is credited with designing and implementing an effective systematic strategic bombing campaign in the Pacific Theatre of Strategic Air Command.

SAC was not formed till after WW2, on 21 March 1946 according to the wikipedia SAC article. Perhpas some one knows the proper command structure during WW2 and can fix.

Length of tenure at SAC[edit]

"LeMay's tenure was the longest over a military command in close to 100 years." LeMay led SAC for nine years; William Tecumseh Sherman. was General-in-Chief of the U.S. Army from 1869 till 1883, ca. 14 years. This should be corrected in the article Strategic Air Command as well. Jperrylsu (talk) 23:41, 16 January 2010 (UTC)

-- The statement remains true (1865-1965 = ~100yrs) "in close to 100years..." is what the statement said. So still functionally true. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:22, 16 November 2011 (UTC)

Rank and Postings[edit]

Lemay went through many ranks and postings. Would it be good to have a section that lists them in chronological order along the lines of the decorations section? This might help people better understand his career in a concise format.

Comments on Japanese war crimes[edit]

The few sentences before LeMay suggests he would be tried of war crimes if the US lost the war talk about the way the Japanese treated shot down American pilots. They seem out of place as what the Japanese did isn't in the least bit related to LeMay. He didn't bomb Tokyo because of Japanese war crimes (or its not mentioned in the article if he did) and the Japanese didn't commit war crimes because of LeMay's actions. Someone probably put that there to justify LeMay's actions but I don't think we're not supposed to justify actions just describe them. What do others think of this? Hammy 12:01, 6 January 2007 (UTC)

Unacceptable - and any such changes will be immediately reverted. The reason the bit about the American pilots being executed is included has nothing to do with "justifying" LeMay's actions during the bombing campaign he conducted against Japan - indeed, they do not need "justification" as he was carrying out the lawful orders of his superiors during a legitimately declared war. The reason is to highlight a historical fact associated with LeMay's bombing campaign, to wit, that the Japanese executed many of the pilots from his command that they captured. Only 262 survived, in fact, to be liberated after the war's conclusion. This is a small, but essential, part of the objective history of LeMay's career. Thanks. Carthago delenda est 15:55, 11 January 2007 (UTC)

Wwahammy, I agree with you, particularly regarding the objectivity of this statement:

"LeMay referred to his nighttime incendiary attacks as "fire jobs." The Japanese nicknamed him "Demon LeMay". In violation of the rules of war, like the fire bombings themselves, shot-down B-29 aircrews were frequently tortured and executed when captured by both Japanese civilians and military."

I would think that Wikipedia would require a source footnote if the author of the article is going on record as calling the fire bombings of Japan a violation of the rules of war.(Historical fact? Where?) Would that mean that the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki also would fall under such "rules"? That smacks of revisionist history to me. Wikipedia prides itself on remaining neutral and non-political in its entries. This particular entry on Curtis LeMay doesn't do Wikipedia much service with respect to that standard.

--Seo122 20:13, 2 March 2007 (UTC)

"Agree" all you wish, but any changes along the lines "Hammy" suggests will be immediately reverted. General LeMay committed no "war crimes" in the sense that the term was understood in 1945, and any suggestion that he did so is not only ahistorical and revisionist, but also in violation of NPOV. Carthago delenda est 21:40, 2 March 2007 (UTC)

Carthago, thanks for making my point for me. I merely wanted to know how the statement about the U.S. fire bombings being a violation of the rules of war could be allowed to remain in the article under the Neutral Point of View rules. I don't know who you are, or what your role/affiliation with Wikipedia is, but it appears you have taken ownership of this particular Wikipedia entry, so you're more than welcome to pull rank. I just don't like the smarmy bits as addressed above in my complaint, and feel they do Wikipedia a great disservice under the NPOV.

--Seo122 00:39, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Feel free to to cleanup the "smarmy bits" of this entry as you see fit; I have no objection and, more importantly, no special authority of any kind to override such efforts. What would be objected to, and reverted, is an attempt to turn this biography into an ongoing debate about the "morality" of the War as it was waged against the Axis Powers by such as Curtis LeMay and other Allied officers during World War II. That is what has been suggested - by "Hammy," among others - and is precisely what will be reverted. Thanks. Carthago delenda est 05:38, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

No "no innocent civilians" quote[edit]

The "no innocent civilians" quote should be struck, unless an attribution can be verified. The only attribution I have been able to find via Google has been to an issue of Time magazine, and the attribution appears to be incorrect as per Time's archive site.

The "no innocent civilians" quote is attributable to "Colonel Harry F Cunningham" who was a spokesman for the 5th Air Force. here's some links that I found in Google reader:,M1

Apparently the Weekly Intelligence Review was a circular issued to air crew.

If you type Harry F Cunningham into Google and the quote there are plenty of other links.

(Boilerplater (talk) 05:19, 21 July 2008 (UTC))

Curtis LeMay is a first class war criminal and the fact should be highlighted in the article.[edit]

As a follow up to the note above: The bombing of Japanese cities including nuclear bombs that fell over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, must be seen as the cruelest war crime during the WW2. The phrase “no innocent civilians” is as ridiculous as to justify the killing of Jews because they were not innocent. The justification that bombing would save many American soldiers life lacks logic as Americans never needed to invade Japan. Curtis LeMay is one of the worst war crimial during the war, which should be highlighted in the article.

Le May had a very tough task to accomplish in bringing about the speediest surrender of the Japanese. The initial bombing missions were notorious failures because the "Divine Wind" that protecting the Japanese from invaders of yore, also blew the bombs so far off course as to render them useless. LeMay had to think of something, so he lowered the altitude significantly of the bombers, and also used incendiaries because many Japanese cities were constructed of wood. The strategy worked, but to utterly devastating effect. If you've seen the documentary "The Fog of War", you'll see that Robert MacNamara gave some stunning statistics on what percentage of Japanese cities were burned to the ground with this strategy. It was obviously something that troubles MacNamara to this day. Was LeMay a remorseless sociopath? Probably so. However, this strategy did help defeat an utterly intractable enemy who were prepared to fight to the last man standing. War is a cruel thing, and this was a war that neither LeMay, nor the US, started. His job was to finish it, and he figured out a way to hasten the end. Therefore referring to LeMay as a "first class war criminal" I find a good bit heavy handed, and not particularly objective, or taking into account all the facts.I can certainly see why some people hate LeMay for what happened, but that sentiment is not fitting for an encylopedia article. Googie man (talk) 17:55, 4 June 2008 (UTC)

(To Mr. Unsigned Comment) Could you clarify why you think an invasion of japan would not have been necessary? Worldruler20 (talk) 01:53, 11 September 2008 (UTC)

LeMay has yet to be indicted by any court for any crime. This seems a classical example of —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:02, 8 October 2008 (UTC)

After any war, it is the Victors who try the Vanquished as "war criminals," not the other way around.
Zxtxtxz (talk) 13:44, 19 April 2015 (UTC)

Someone here is speaking al qaeda talk (revenge against Japan attacks). Nobody goes on about WW2 strategies anymore besides those that are ready to do worse to 'Americans' since they ended that war. LeMay was the greatest hero of the last hundred years and he didn't put up with this PC nonsense that would've given the Soviets a win without a fight. But hey, anti-American is 'cool' online now within real posters and trolls, so that's how it is. (talk) 09:33, 13 December 2008 (UTC)

"LeMay was the greatest hero of the last hundred years..." If this is really what you believe, then you obviously can't be objective enough to participate here. You're certainly not neutral where LeMay is concerned. (talk) 03:34, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

What do you want to add? Something like say... Between March and August of 1945, 38-year-old Gen. Curtis LeMay ordered the deaths of more civilians than any other man in U.S. history.

Right? Hcobb (talk) 04:02, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

LeMay involvement in Kennedy assassination[edit]

There are sources reporting that LeMay was clearly visible at the initial Kennedy autopsy smiling and smoking a cigar.. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Nunamiut (talkcontribs) 00:34, 12 May 2009 (UTC)

OH GIVE ME A BREAK! Noone said you had to like General LeMay, but accusing him of helping to murder the President years after he died! This is absurd by any definition. Curtis LeMay was one of America's most honored and dedicated defenders. He helped stop Hittler and ended the war with the Japaneese. Lemay also organized the Berlin Airlift which fed thousands of people. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:10, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

The poster was NOT "accusing him of helping to murder the President." READ THE POST !!!
As for LeMay's character, did he not also advocate and direct the burning alive of MILLIONS of civilians -- men, women and children.? (And, yes, I recognize that his superiors, all the way to FDR & Truman, were as much (or more) responsible). If any Japanese or German general had done the same, would you omit it from HIS biography on Wikipedia???
The job of a Wikipedian is NOT to advocate or glorify (or condemn) a person. It is to report on them analytically, dispassionately, and from a NEUTRAL point of view. This is NOT a venue for patriotic flag-waving, for ANYone from ANY country. It's an encyclopedia, not a political website.
If you want to celebrate someone, do it on your OWN website; don't abuse Wikipedia for your partisan purposes.
Zxtxtxz (talk) 14:00, 19 April 2015 (UTC)

Please pay attention[edit]

This shows how many revisions the phrase "LeMay was portrayed in Dr. Strangelove as the character General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden), and certainly NOT as General “Buck” Turgidson (George C. Scott)." has been in the references section of the article. Since June the article has had commentary which belongs at best on a footnote. If you have this page watchlisted please take care to review edits like these and either remove them or add them to the appropriate place in the text. Thank you. Protonk (talk) 21:42, 14 September 2009 (UTC)

"Superfortress" added as a Reference.[edit]

This is a terrific book, essentially a combination of a first person narrative by LeMay of his B-29 operations, and the history of the B-29 by Bill Yenne. The book makes clear that LeMay had almost nothing to do with Operation Silverplate, the atomic bombing of Japan. The mission was essentially led by Col. Paul Tibbetts, and LeMay's Bomber Command only provided ancillary help. And so I have removed the phrase in the World War II section implying that LeMay directed the atomic bombing of Japan. LeMay also never once refers to the firebombing of Japan as "fire jobs" in this book. He may have in one of the other references, but that should be listed by whoever posted that comment. Same thing with the claim that the Japanese called him "Demon LeMay". Hence the "citation needed" additions. Did the Japanese even know who he was during the firebombings? In the 1960s, the Japanese rather obsequiously gave LeMay a medal honoring him for service to the Japanese Defense Forces, for having helped them re-organize the JDF.DarthRad (talk) 08:29, 8 November 2009 (UTC)

The Berlin Airlift.[edit]

Once again the Cold war section of the biography is incorrect.

The Airlift was not orginised by Lucius Clay. It was originated by Lucius Clay, initially organised by LeMay, and who them felt a transport expert would be better than him, W.H Tunner. The initial airlift was organised by Lemay.

Lucius Clay rang LeMay asking if he could "haul coal", Le May thought that it was going to be small amounts initially, but as the project got bigger, he arranged for Tunner run the Airlift.

He freely gives acknowledgment to him in Mission with LeMay(1965) page 416, 3rd Paragraph

"That was when we yelled for Bill Tunner to come over and take the chore. He was the transportation expert to end transportation experts. He had run those ferries over the Hump in the CBI and he had headed Ferry Command for a while...............But it must have been a month or so after we actually started to fly the Lift, before Bill got over there."

LeMay actually flew quite a few missions carrying coal to Berlin.

In fact according to Clay's memoirs, he initiated the Airlift(as LeMay acknowledges in his book) because he had no direction from Washington, which at the time was paralyzed with regard to what to do. Clay did not think that the Airlift was feasible in the long term.(Lucius Clay an American Life, p497) He had actually entertained an idea that He would march a column of troops along an autobahn into Berlin (p496) and should the Russians even think of attacking, LeMay was going to launch a pre-emptive strike against their airfields. (p496)

Clay also gives credit to LeMay, P 500.

"Q:Did this come as a surprise to Lemay?" Clay: I think it did,yes". Not only did it come as a surprise, but I don't think at that moment he quite realized what he was getting into. He did it very quickly, though. It was a very short conversation, really--not more than two or three sentences. Everybody knows LeMay. Tough. Hard-boiled. Down-to-earth. The image he created is one of a tough commander, which he was. But I think it fails to give him the credit for a very high intelligence and a very high degree of administrative competence. He's a very able person. Actually he was promoted [to head the Strategic Air Command] and moved out before the airlift was over. Q:Was your prewar experience building airports in the CAA a factor in your decision. Clay:Possibly. I think more important than that, though, was a visit I made to China in 1943, where I'd seen the movement of goods by air from India over the Himalayas to China. This was General [William H.] Tunners's outfit. And so LeMay bought Tunner over to Germany and put him in charge of the airlift." —Preceding unsigned comment added by Boilerplater (talkcontribs) 11:51, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

Vietnamese mentions odd[edit]

I noticed that the mentions of his policies related to Vietnam seemed to significantly imply that the bombing campaign was against the North. Two thirds of the bombs dropped on Vietnam during the war were dropped on the South. In fact the North wasn't involved in the war for the majority of the conflict. Tactical strikes and raids against "Viet Cong" villages were atypical of the earlier stages. As the war progressed it became more conventional, with both the Viet Cong and the North adopting heavier weaponry and the USA launching less specific, carpet bombing.--Senor Freebie (talk) 03:53, 20 April 2010 (UTC)

U.S. war in Vietnam[edit]

I think that the following sentence oversimplifies the circumstances related to the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war. I do not believe that the U.S. was required to participate in the war in the way that it did because of the SEATO Treaty and international law. I don't see why the reason for trying to explain why the U.S. fought in Vietnam in this part of the article about LeMay. Vietnam is a controversial war I don't think the reasons can be adequately expressed in a single phrase so I am removing the portion that I've highlighted in bold below. If anyone wants to put it back please include a reference and explain why you think the SEATO treaty was the main factor for the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war. I don't dispute that the treaty existed, but I think it was a secondary not a primary factor.

During the 1968 campaign, LeMay became widely associated with the "Stone Age" comment, especially because he had suggested use of nuclear weapons as a strategy to quickly resolve a deeply protracted conventional war which eventually claimed over 50,000 American plus millions of Vietnamese lives, a war the U.S. had committed itself to under the SEATO Treaty and the corresponding International Law governing treaty obligations. --Wikiuser1239 (talk) 21:17, 25 July 2010 (UTC)

It is an oversimplification, but it was also irrelevant to the subject of that paragraph, so should not be restored even with a reference. Beyond My Ken (talk) 21:22, 25 July 2010 (UTC)

Resurrection Day[edit]

Is General Curtis in the book Resurrection Day a reference to LeMay? Ozdaren (talk) 06:45, 7 August 2010 (UTC)

A "Controversy" section should be included[edit]

There is a clear POV attempt to aggrandize Curtis LeMay through systematic deletions of the fact that his command decisions resulted in massive "collateral damage" to civilians. ("Collateral damage" itself being a POV euphemism for "civilian deaths".)

The historically factual recognition of the massive civilian deaths that resulted from Curtis LeMay's command decisions are clearly relevant and expurgating them from the record is clearly a POV attempt to revise and conceal factual history.

The context for those command decisions are relevant as well.

The firebombing of civilian populations in Japan was partially justified by Curtis LeMay as being required because the Japanese military had decentralized it's war manufacturing into those civilian populations, making precision bombing of those war manufacturers impractical.

Nonetheless, the censoring of the fact that Curtis LeMay's command decisions resulted in the deaths of multiple tens-of-thousands of civilians is a discredit to both Wikipedia and those editors which are doing the censoring. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:55, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

The subject is dealt with adequately in the article. Any additional discussion of the issue would have to take place in the context of the war in toto and the actions and decisions of commanders (political and military) on both sides in regard to strategic bombing and the "collateral damage" of civilian deaths. LeMay does not stand alone in that respect, nor were his "command decisions" taken without the complete support of his superiors, all the way up the line. Such a discussion would more properly take place in the Strategic bombing article, and it would have to be meticulously supported by citations to avoid those with a strong and obvious POV, such as yourself, from turning it into a political/ideological/moral rant. That's not what we're here for, and that's not "censorship", it's responsible editing. Beyond My Ken (talk) 01:35, 12 August 2010 (UTC)
The civilian deaths were not collateral; they were the purpose, the aim. In killing so many hundreds of thousands of people, LeMay cut Tokyo's industrial output in half. That was a laudable goal in total war. If LeMay had not shifted to firebombing, other methods of reducing Japan (killing civilians) would have taken their toll. Let's imagine March to August 1945 seeing only the fairly ineffective so-called "precision" bombing from B-29s by land. There would have been this same number of months of starvation by submarine blockade and aerial mining, and then the twin shocks of Soviet attack on the mainland and atomic bombs on test cities. Would the Japanese have been brought so low by that time that the twin shocks would have forced surrender? I think not. Noble and military observers say that the Emperor was impelled by the horror of March 1945's Tokyo firestorm to set aside any thought of victory. If no firestorm, he might have been stoic about Nagasaki, Hiroshima and the Soviets in Manchuria, remaining resolute in the defense of Japan against invasion. I think MacArthur would have had his 500,000 Purple Heart medals used up by the time the land invasion was complete, and a terrible number of Japanese civilians would have perished. LeMay quickened the pace, making the war end sooner. I think LeMay's solution was more humane, with less death on all sides. This view has been published by reliable sources, the which I am too hurried right now to look up for you—it is not purely my take on things. Binksternet (talk) 03:11, 12 August 2010 (UTC)
Your argument gets no argument from me. An invasion of the Japanese mainland would have been horrific; of course, had it happened, it would never have collected the amount of moral angst that the firebombing and atomic bombing have done, because the invasion would have been much closer to warfare as usual during WW2, with (citizen-)soldiers doing most of the dying. Beyond My Ken (talk) 03:19, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

There is no "Controversy" about his existence, which is fairly well documented. So any issues are with specific issues and should be dealt with as close as possible to the mention of such things. But do we have an infobox template for mass murderers and for those who commit crimes against humanity? Hcobb (talk) 13:38, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

EXTREME POV in this article is discrediting the authors pushing the POV[edit]

The controversy over whether Curtis LeMay's command decision to fire bomb vast civilian populations in order to eliminate Japanese war manufacturing that had been spread out into those populations is tremendously controversial.

The POV authors are deleting and censoring clearly valid facts in order to pretend that fire bombing civilian populations in order to eliminate war manufacturing isn't controversy.

Erasing facts by invoking the "total war" doctrine leads to some very murky POV areas (both POV censorship and an unfortunate case of the logical fallacy of "special pleading" where the 'winners write the history' that celebrates things that, had their opponents engaged in the exact same tactics, would have been called "war crimes" [a phrase I carefully avoided in my original comment in order to avoid the inevitable charge of POV from those authors whose POV are systematically censoring this article]).

Your OPINION that the massive civilian deaths were justified doesn't eliminate the fact that massive civilian deaths were a direct result of Curtis LeMay's command decisions and an indelible part of his legacy.

When noting the factual reality that Curtis Lemay's command decisions resulted in massive civilian deaths and casulaties is ridiculed as a "political/ideological/moral rant", clearly the author isn't aware of their own EXTREME POV and their contributions risk discrediting both the article, and to a larger extent, the mission of Wikipedia.

Also, if _critical_ comments are going to be pushed to the bottom of the article, then reording ALL the comments in chronological order is required instead of leaving just _positive_ comments at the top while burying _critical_ comments. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 13:42, August 16, 2010

"It has been speculated by authorities who have examined the evidence that had the bombs not convinced the Japanese government to surrender millions would have perished in Japan from starvation or disease due to the famine of the 1945–46, Rice Year... the Pacific War could have dragged on for another two to five more years-perhaps longer. The overall cost would have easily exceed 5 million deaths in Japan by conservative estimates and equal or double that number among all the nations and peoples caught in the protracted agony... the belief was 'the surviving Japanese people would have languished in poverty and bitterness for decades. Thus, some justify the use of the atomic bomb, "for all its horror, was the 'least abhorrent choice.'"'" Binksternet (talk) 05:26, 17 August 2010 (UTC)

Binksternet, when you responded to "A "Controversy" section should be included" you claimed that "The civilian deaths were not collateral; they were the purpose, the aim."

That supports my point that it deserves a special section in the Curtis LeMay article.

Again, I'm NOT making a POV assertion regarding the _merits_ or _demerits_ of the command decision to incinerate more than 60 cities (the article you point to explicitly states that "more than 60 of her [Japan's] cities [were] incinerated"), I'm pointing out that Curtis LeMay's command decisions to firebomb civilian populations have been controversial for decades (which is a FACT) and that it should receive a special section in the article.

Instead of a separate "Controversy" section perhaps it would make those protecting Curtis LeMay's legacy feel better to simply include two subsections: A "Firebombing Japanese Cities" section and a "Firebombing Tokyo" section.

2 World War II

   2.1 Firebombing Japanese Cities
   2.2 Firebombing Tokyo

For comparison on what currently merits it's own subsection see:

   6.2 LeMay and sports car racing

Keep in mind, Curtis LeMay's development of systematic firebombing of cities were his most salient additions to military tactics and military strategy.

In fact, Binksternet, you yourself assert on this page that "Noble and military observers say that the Emperor was impelled by the horror of March 1945's Tokyo firestorm to set aside any thought of victory."

Since those actions are what make him ESPECIALLY _noteworthy_, even by your own estimation, providing separate (sub)sections to highlight those actions are particularly important.

Beyond that, Curtis LeMay's command decision to firebomb Tokyo, even by _conservative_ estimates, immediately resulted in far more civilian deaths than either of the nuclear bombs.

That itself makes the issue of Curtis LeMay's decisions to firebomb cities worth breaking out into it's own (sub)section on the Curtis LeMay page.

  1. New comments and their threads go at the BOTTOM of the page, not at the top. Please stop moving it.
  2. Please sign your comments by using 4 tildes (~~~~) at the end.
  3. This talk page is for discussions about the article, not for general discussion about the subject. Please make sure that your commentary adheres to that requirement.
  4. Decisions on Wikipedia are made by consensus, and consensus will be difficult to come by if you approach other editors as if they were your enemy. You need to convince others of the correctness of your point of view, not bludgeon them to death. Beyond My Ken (talk) 15:06, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
"Keep in mind, Curtis LeMay's development of systematic firebombing of cities were his most salient additions to military tactics and military strategy." I certainly disagree he developed firebombing of cities, systemic or otherwise. The RAF Bomber Command Harris started area bombing with incendiaries years earlier and first succeeded with a firestorm in Hamburg during the summer of '43. His stated strategy for Bomber Command over the course of the next year was to duplicate this in other Germany cities. Just because Harris didn't have the wherewithal to accomplish this, doesn't mean it wasn't his strategy. The only thing I see LeMay initiated in Japan was low-level bombing by strategic bombers.
TL36 (talk) 21:45, 26 January 2014 (UTC)
Where the RAF's "Bomber" Harris led the way with firebombing Germany, LeMay focused on it, and made it the United States' core strategy for winning the war against Japan -- incinerating vastly more civilians than Harris ever did. And you accidentally overlooked this trivial thing that LeMay "initiated in Japan": nuclear war -- against civilians.
The poster at the start of this section is absolutely correct. This Wikipedia article on LeMay smacks of right-wing cheerleading and censorship, throughout. It's not so much a Wikipedia article, as it is a right-wing political manifesto. That's a theft of Wikipedia for partisan purposes.
Zxtxtxz (talk) 14:27, 19 April 2015 (UTC)

Political career[edit]

General LeMay's political career actually began prior to becoming George Wallace's running mate in 1968. In 1967, three Mt. Vernon, Ohio, residents--Shirley Fletcher, Dr. William Steffan, and attorney Bart Blair--enlisted General LeMay to run for president. The LeMay for President National Headquarters was based in the old Curtis Hotel in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. Don Gingerich of Middletown, Ohio, became the campaign manager. The campaign attracted national attention, but was disbanded in 1968 after it became apparent that there wasn't enough support to win the presidency. Later, General LeMay ran on George Wallace's ticket. Citation: No Prize for Second Place, by Don R. Gingerich, 1971. Parker04530 (talk) 01:54, 27 July 2011 (UTC)

Discrepency in wife's death age[edit]

Early in the article it says his wife Helen died in 1994, later following his death it says 1992. I don't know which is right, but they both can't be. Davepl (talk) 21:02, 2 August 2011 (UTC)

It's been fixed. 1994 was a typo. In the future please put new comments at the bottom of a talk page per WP:TALK. Buffs (talk) 22:19, 2 August 2011 (UTC)

Advice given to and criticism of JFK during Cuban Missile Crisis[edit]

I've been read materials reporting that LeMay, as a member of the joint chiefs of staff, repeatedly pushed for bombing of Cuba, voiced a ready willingness to start the nuclear war, and openly baited and mocked JFK when the crisis was underway. I think this should be given much greater prominence -- if he had his way, the entire human race might now be living in the Stone Age. He strikes me as one of the most dangerous men (if not the absolute most dangerous) to ever hold military power in US history.

A lot of inflammatory quotes are created by opponents; these meetings were recorded, so if declassified you could source it. My hunch is that he would have been eager to start military action, but not nuclear war. But my "guess" is as good as yours, which is to say, not useful. Keep in mind the LeMay had the power, but not the right - he was a military leader, not a policy maker. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Davepl (talkcontribs) 03:20, 24 April 2012 (UTC)

"Rank History" revisited[edit]

IMO, the first two paragraphs of this section of the article are confused.

The first graph says that in his senior year, LeMay was Cadet LTC, but had not "actually" been commissioned. Of course not; commissioning generally happens upon graduation, so this states the usual situation as if it is somehow anomalous.

The second graph, however, states that LeMay was commissioned, not once but twice, before his senior year, as the date of rank table indicates. That would be unusual, but the dates given contradict the statement in the lead graph.

I'm inferring, btw, that his senior year was 1928-29, but if that's not right, these two paragraphs still conflict.  ????

Terry J. Carter (talk) 00:39, 4 February 2012 (UTC)

Suggestions (Japan-Washington flight, and Dates of Rank[edit]

Hi, just some suggestions here: 1) the section about his Japan-Washington flight seems out of place. I don't think the article explains its significance. Is it? How?

2) Dates of Rank section-the lists switches format in the middle. For consistency, it should probably list simply "US Army" and "US Air Force," OR "Army Air Corps" and "Air Force [branch of Air Force]." Currently, it says has Army and branch of Army with Air Force but not branch of Air Force. I suggest one way or the other. -- (talk) 21:55, 19 November 2012 (UTC)

The Japan-Washington flight was LeMay's big, showy return home from the war, covered by lots of news organizations. It was a time when LeMay was able to offer his opinion about new possibilities in long-distance air travel and how it related to the coming Cold War against the USSR. Binksternet (talk) 22:15, 19 November 2012 (UTC)