Key Excerpts from:
Mission With LeMay – MY STORY – By General Curtis E. LeMay
With MacKinlay Kantor
[For more on MacKinlay Kantor see: JFKCountercoup2: LeMay's Ghostwriter MacKinlay Kantor ]
(Doubleday and Company, Inc. 1965)
Dedication: to Helen and all other courageous Air Force wives who have forever given comfort and strength to their men.
Forward: …..I have indeed bombed a number of specific targets. They were military targets on which the attack was, in my opinion, justified morally. I’ve tried to stay away from hospitals, prison camps, orphan asylums, nunneries and dog kennels. I have sought to slaughter as few civilians as possible.
…..On this Monday of 25 February, 1963, my limousine was picking me up at the door to our quarters (Quarters Number 7, over a Fort Myer on a Virginia Hill overlooking the Potomac)….I’d rather be active, doing almost any demanding interesting thing in the world, than participating in social activities.
I would rather be flying and at the same time handing the controls. One portion of my brain likes to run ahead or go back….and plan for the future, construct a solid platform on accomplishments of the past, and avoid those treacheries which might be built into the structure if one didn’t also review the mistakes of the past.
Most of all, I guess, I would rather be doing that than anything else: commanding activity in the fied, as one might say – even with no declared war in progress.
Next to that I’d rather be out hunting somewhere – maybe in Africa or Alaska, or in the Montana Rockies. Next, driving a sports car. Next maybe it would be fishing. Next – I don’t know. But not socializing…except with a few intimates, those with whom I can share a reverence for the past, and an awareness of challenges to come.
So I walked out of the front door of our quarters….the driver was there and an aide was there. A sergeant emerged from the house behind me, carrying a bag which I had to take to the office.
Helen came out in her pretty flowered housecoat, to kiss me goodbye as she always did when I was home and going to the Pentagon. She kissed me just like that when were second lieutenants on our initial duty, after our marriage in 1934.
I got into the limousine and looked a the telephone directly in front of me after I sat down….
In other decades I had commanded a squad, a section, a single aircraft, a single crew, and then later a squadron or a group;….In this February 1963 I had responsibility for the eight hundred and seventy-one thousand, five hundred and twenty-eight officers, cadets and airmen of the United States Air Force,.
But on my way to the Pentagon, and on this morning, there was no leisure for me to be considering such items or cogitating about them, So I didn’t ruminate. Just reviewed the testimony offered during two intense days of the preceding week, and wondered if I had gone wrong anywhere. Hoped that I hadn’t.
We were asking for $363,700,000 to be restored to a procurement law in order that we might accomplish properly the initial stages of our program for a new reconnaissance strike aircraft, formerly the B-70, and re-designated as the RS-70.
(BK: Notes: AKA Also know as the Valkyrie Bomber)
….Often the President of the United States and I had sat beside each other during the two years since his inauguration. I suppose if on that chilly February 25th morning some soothsayer had said grimlley to me, ‘Nine months from now, to the day, one of you two – either President Kennedy or yourself – will be buried in Arlington’ – I suppose if the soothsayer had said that will all authority, and still refused to tell whether it would be President Kennedy or General LeMay, Probably I would have through that it would be myself. Not that I ever lost any sleep over the possibility of lurking assassins; I’m sure the President didn’t either, right up to the moment the bullets struck him. But I did fly a lot, and always have, even after becoming Chief of Staff. The President also flew frequently, as we know; but you might say that we flew under somewhat different conditions.
It would have seemed weird and unforgettable to witness, in precognition, the vast weeping procession and the people watching it.
Occupied with no gloomy forebodings or even sentimental reflections on the dead already stowed in Arlington, we drove past, following the swift route to the Pentagon down the river….
….No time now for consideration of the Air Force at large, of Fort Myer and Arlington with their history, of the President himself. Fact is, I was engaged in a protracted struggle with the President’s appointee, Secretary McNamara of the Department of Defense. We were diametrically opposed in policy. Our contention, easily recognizable in 1962, had emerged again almost a year later in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.
I went into the Pentagon and stood before the blank elevator door and felt for my key. (We get in by means of a key, no one without a key can operate that elevator.) The elevator can take you down to the Command Post, far underneath the ground. That’s a bomb shelter supposed to be proof against any violent explosion up above. But I had no need to go down there at the moment, so I pressed the button for up.
The elevator brought me to the fourth floor and to my office suite adjoining, Offices of al the Chiefs of Staff and Secretaries included in the DOD (Department of Defense) lie in a given portion of the Pentagon, but on different floors. So this whole arrangement is as convenient for one as for another.
…I had not been in te financial and organizational side of the automobile business. I had been active in the airplane business, in crowding the maximum performance from all equipment and personnel I commanded.
Thus it may be believed that Secretary McNamara and I would hold different views on the matter of manned aircraft.
In the official report which came before the public in March, 1962, it was noted that the House Armed Services Committee had rewritten the Pentagon’s major authorization bill in strong language.
Such language had not been used previously in any directive of the sort. ‘
To quote from the report: “It means exactly what it says: i.e., that the Secretary of the Air Force, as an official of the executive branch, is directed, ordered, mandated, and required to utililze the full amount of the $491 million authority granted ‘to proceed with production planning and ong leadtime procurement for an RS-70 weapon system.’”
Sounded good, but in the end it really didn’t mean a thing. President Kennedy himself intervened before the whole project came to a vote in the House. The President got the House to withdraw the language which derived from this recommendation by the House Armed Services Committee, and which would have made it mandatory for Secretary Zuckert to go ahead with the RS-70 plans.
We were not only up against the President. We were up against his Secretary of Defense as well – his appointee, Robert S. McNamara, formerly of the Ford Motor Company. McNamara said flatly that funds authorized for the construction of further RS-70s would not be used, even if voted by the Congress. ….
…..Secretary McNamara had his own beliefs and his own attitude. These did not coincide with the beliefs and attitude of the majority of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Al of us excepting a recent appointee, General Maxwell D. Taylor, were in favor of the RS-70 program as I recited it in testimony before the Committee.
….I managed to go trough routine motions at my office. An aide came in with details of the day’s arrangements where I should be, at what time. The manuscript of my next talk at the War College was presented….
But it is strange how one can proceed with a given mechanical task and at te same time entertain capable recollections of the problems which have occupied him during recent days, and which still persist. Such challenges surmount the ordinary activity of an office or even a command, and – thanks – be! – do not appear every day in a commander’s life….
At eevn so early a stage of the game, I should like to make clear to the reader of this book that I have never quarreled about civilian control per se.
We know in America that, under law and by tradition, we are commanded by civilians. We are a nation composed chiefly of civilians. So we in the military, at the time I’m talking about, did not raise a blanket objection to being overruled. Sincerely we wanted to play on Secretary McNamara’s team.
What we did object to was the Secretary’s saying, “No,” to something the military wished to do, and giving a military reason for his action. Palpably thus he and his coterie were setting themselves up as military experts….
My mother and father came from farm families in southern Ohio. My father, Erving LeMay, was born in Union County near the village of Wadkins. Mother was born at Great Bend, down on the Ohio river in Meigs County. They met when my father’s family bought a farm in that same country, and moved down there….
…It was the fall of 1924. Can’t recall how much I had to plank down for tuition in order to get started at Ohio State, but I had saved enough for that…..My first ambition was to get a degree in civil engineering….First week on campus, I’d join the ROTC. It al looked pretty good to me. I couldn’t see anything wrong with a Government’s or a university’s requiring young men to have a little military training….
One of my old classmates from Kelly (Air Field) was Herb Tellman….It was in the spring of 1931 that he finally arranged a couple of blind dates for us: Helen Maitland and another girl….Helen says, “I’ll take the fat one.”
But Helen inspired me a desire to emulate her frankness of conversation, her honesty of recollection….
Back on the job again, we reported to Washington and sat down with Tooey Spaatz to talk about what we were going to do….It was decided that I’d be te one to go to Wright Field….I was going to be Deputy Chief of Air Staff for Research and Deveopment….
Also we started Project Paper Clip.
….A few intelligent deeds had been done, and that was what Project Paperclip was all about. The moment enemy resistance collapsed in Europe we overran some of the research centers, and started gathering up papers and fies – and the scientists – and trying to get them bak to the States. Unlike the Russians, we didn’t bring anyone over here who didn’t want to come. It was all a matter of convincing them that they woud be happy in the United States, and have a better future career over here than over there. And we had to guarantee to al of them that we would take good care of their families in Germany.
But the only way we could get them into this country was as Prisoners of War. It so happened that an effective majority of our scientists didn’t want them around. Not so unbelievable as it seems. Frankly, I think that many of our scientists were frightened of their own deficiencies. They didn’t welcome any German competition. Nevertheless, we did get quantities of them over here. I even found one batch behind barbed wire….
It may come as a shock and surprise to some readers to learn that Werner Von Braun was one of these people, and also his old teacher and boss, General Dornberger. Think of that, and it really makes you sit up and take notice. Wonder where we’d be today, if we’d let those people languish in the pen.
Before we get off among the jackals and the elephants, I’ll have to tell about Author Godfrey. We first met when I was out at Offutt (AFB), and he came there to take a look at SAC and see what it was all about. As all his widespread audiences know by this time, Godfrey was in the United States Navy when he was a kid. In fact, he was a high school dropout at sixteen…..In later years, as a successful performer and commentator on the air, he became acquainted with General Vandenberg…..Godfrey flew his own airplane to Offutt, and began to look around….Result was that eventually he resigned his Reserve commission in the Navy and moved over to the Air Force – lock, stock and barrell. In the end we were able to give him a commission in the Air Force Reserve (Retired)….
Eary in 1957, Godfrey came around to me with Jim Shepley from Life magazine, and the late Dick Boutelle, president of Fairchild. Tey said, “We want to go on an African unt. Could you arrange one?”
I told them, “Boislambert told me that if I ever came to Africa he’d fit it up. O.K. Let’s lay one on.”
It started like that. I dent off a note to Boislambert, telling him that I would like to go on a little hunt, and bring Boutelle and Shepley and Godfrey along, and could he arrange it?
He said, “Certainly,” and went ahead and planned a modest hunt – commensurate with my salary, since I was the poorest of the bunch. I think originally it was going to cost us about five hundred dollars apiece.
Claude had hunted in French Equatorial Africa every year, except during the war, since he was nineteen. He had some equipment there – enough to suit moderate tastes and needs. He would be our outfitter and guide and everything else, and that was adequate….he knew al the tribes down there, all the local people.
Then the thing started growing like a puffball in the yard. First thing that happened was Jim Shipley…. “Look, we may not get to go to Africa again. We ought to have some good pictures of this hunt, and we all know that you can’t shoot and take pictures at the same time. Why don’t I take one of our Life photographers aong? He can get the pictures; we can all have copies of them. Then, if we find anything good – Maybe I can do a spread for Life.”
It was Arthur Godfrey who came up with the next bright idea. “If he’s going to take still pictures, we ought to get some movies too. I might be able to use the movies in a television show.”
So we borrowed some movie cameras, and planned to turn them over to the still photographer, who was a wonderful still photographer and had won many awards on is work. Just the same, he was an extra man- anoter man on the expedition.
Godfrey got his next notion. It was to save time by flying over the desert in his DC-3. We should send the airplane in advance to Tripoli. With the weather the way it is in wintertime down there, you sometimes have to wait for favorable conditions, until you can start out with a DC-3. However, this grand plan was going to save us a lot of time, because we could go over to Tripoli in one of the big planes in a jiffy; and then fly the DC-3 straight across the Sahara to Fort Lamy in the Lake Chad area. That was just about the limit of range for a C-47, as I knew (A DC-3 is the civilian version of the military C-47).
“Arthur, if we are going to cross the Saraha Desert, we’d better have a single sideband radio put in that airplane. Then I can always get into the SAC net. If we should be so unlucky as to go down in the desert, we can tell them where we went down, and somebody will look for us.”
So the high-frequency radio – the single sideband – was installed in the aircraft. After Arthur saw it – “Why, isn’t this the same kind of thing we use in a ham radio, on the ham bands?”
“Sure. Same set.”
“Well, why don’t we get a generator and take this along on the hunting trip? We can do some hamming in the ham bands.”
I told him that we could do this, but it would call for more equipment, and I’d better check with Boislambert.
Next Godfrey had an idea. “Whey can’t I get a commercial show set up? Why can’t I pipe radio shows out from Darkest Africa?”
I agreed that this would be possible; but for anything commercial of that sort, you’d have to have to get on the commercial frequencies. You’d have to arrange with one of the communications companies to do that. It would be just like sending a wire on a commercial telegraph. But if we did this, it meant a radio operator must go along. Also we’d require another truck for the generator. More extra men.
Godfrey owned a Bell Helicopter. He says, “Why don’t we take the helicopter? We ought to be able to get some good pictures that way, of game and things, and we could use it for transportation to un-get-at-able places.”
So, check with Boislambert once more. Claude responded with enthusiasm. “This is superb! We can reach some remarkabe locations, utterly unspoiled, where hunters have never been before. We couldn’t get there otherwise, except in this helicopter.
O.K. on the helicopter. So we ship that chopper by boat to Douala on the African west coast, just off the Gulf of Guinea, and then have it flown up from the coast to Fort Archambault in the interior. That meant that we needed a mechanic to put the thing together up there…..
Then Godfrey decided that he couldn’t hunt and fix up the radio program, and do all those other things related to his project, and still do a the flying in the helicopter. So we borrowed a pilot from the Bell company.
In the end it wasn’t any modest little five-hundred-dollar-per-head hunt, such as Boislambert had originally projected. It was Godfrey’s party, pure and simple, and I can’t even estimate what it cost. He had taken over the financing of the whole thing. He shipped quantaties of his sponsors’ products into Fort Arcambault via Air France. Fruit juices, Lipton’s tea, Lord knows what. But we didn’t use the DC-3 after all. Just the sideband radios.
Instead of being mobie and roving, we were compelled to have a static camp. We built one, on the River Aouk, a hundred and fifty miles or so northeast of Fort Arcambault. Our static camp boasted a population of seventy-five peope. Not much ike Boislambert’s original conception.
But we were enabled to camp in this untouched area soley because of the helicopter. We used it as a reconnaissance vehicle, and spied out a route which the trucks could travel. French officials had decared that it would be impossible to get any trucks in there. The helicopter pointed the way; and the trucks got in there after five days – and quite a lot of hacking of bush, in order to clear a path.
Then they set up te permanent camp on the river, with thatched huts and everything. There on the Bahr Aouk, not too far from the Sudanese boarder.
We were in Africa from March 4th to 27th. We lived literally surrounded by herds of antelope and wildbeest, troops of wart-hogs….practically every other variety of good table meat, except Zebra. Guess we could have stood up on camp stools and shot everything we needed, if we’d wished to do so.
Once again I found myself shooting for the pot. Sparrows would have done no good. Seventy-five hungry people, most of them heathy hard-working Africans, will eat a ot more meat than one Emeryvillle tomcat.
Butch Griswold was minding the manse at Omaha. Even when we were remotely in the bush, I would get on the radio at least once a day and talk with SAC Headquarters. Sometimes electrical conditions didn’t permit me to reach them directly; but I could always get in to one of our North African bases, and then they would rebroadcast right to SAC HQ. If anything had come up, I could have flown out in the helicopter to Fort Archambault and been picked up there. There was plenty of runway. That’s the way we came to the country, by Air France from Paris, via Tripoli. ….
…..I accumulated two huge, loose-leaf volumes with back covers. These were kept under lock and key, and they weighed about a ton. They were tantamount to a daily diary of my work during the C of S years. Wish I had gotten such a record together for the Vice Chief period, but we just didn’t do it. There are exactly seven hundred and twenty-eight items in those folders, ranging from TOP SECRET to Unclassified. By far the largest portion, naturally, are Classified documents. It is likely that the bulk of those won’t be downgraded for years to come. Therefore they may not be used in this book.