INTERVIEWEE: GENERAL CURTIS LEh1AY
INTERVIEWER : Joe B . Frantz
F : This is an interview with General Curtis LeMay who made his home in
just to get started . Incidentally, I'm a World War II veteran so I have
been following you for a long time. When did you first become acquainted
with Mr. Johnson? Was it in his senatorial days or was it later than that?
L: Yes, I first met President Johnson when he was Majority Leader of the
F: Yes, did you see much of him in those days or was it strictly an official
L: Well, as much as you would normally see anyone in the official functions
. I would see him occasionally because I
appeared before Washington
Congress a great number of times. Even before I was stationed in
while I was commander of SAC, I went in to appear before congressional
committees many times . This is a practice that I understand has fallen by
the wayside and I think this is bad because--
F: I would be very interested exploring that a little bit with you. Why do
you think it had fallen by the wayside?
L: They are fallen by the wayside because of the demand of the Secretary of
Defense in the McNamara days that he had control of everything and speak
for everybody and most people just threw up their hands and gave up . No
one much agreed with many of the things that he was putting into effect,
but the penalty for opposing him was more than they wanted to pay .
F: McNamara had been gone for three years and yet this system prevails . Do
L: Things moved rather slowly in our form of government, but I think that the
Commanders i,n the field appearing before the Congress to state their own
case of what's required to carry out your mission gives the Congress
information that they wouldn't get otherwise . They get another opinion
other than the military staff and below a civilian staff department of
F: Did you appear before Senator Johnson's Senate Preparedness Committee?
L: I can't remember . I appeared there so many times, but I'm sure I probably
F: But you have no clear cut memory of his presiding?
L: No .
F: As a committee chairman? When 1961 came along you had of course a new
. Now did you have any relationship at
all with the Washington
Vice President during this period when you first became head of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff?
L: He appeared at some of the meetings that we had, but remember when
President Kennedy came in, the organization was changed and the highest
security council in the land that was composed of the President and the
Secretary of War and so forth was disbanded. It wasn't used at all, and
most of the communication with the President was done through the Secretary
of Defense and very seldom did the Joint Chiefs of Staff appear over there .
Only occasionally did they go ; more often the chairman of the Joint Chiefs
went over, but I feel that many, many times the chairman didn't fully brief
the Joint Chiefs on what was going on .
F: Was this because he felt that certain things should not be given any larger
circulation, or just because he himself was busy and didn't take the time
to go further into what had happened?
L: Well I'm sure it was a little bit of both .
F: Mr . Johnson didn't sit in on any of these sessions, or seldom sat in I
should say .
L: Yes, he did I think . Quite frequently at the start, but to a lesser extent
later on .
F: Were they fairly free discussions? Everybody has his own say?
L: Yes, initially .
F: They gradually got a little tired . Were you aware at all of Mr. Johnson's
participation in the
Bay of Pigs problem?
L: Well the Bay of Pigs problem, I wasn't in on parts of it. My first contact
with it came in a Joint Chiefs meeting while I was still Vice Chief of Staff
with the Air Force . And General White was out of town on a trip overseas
visiting some of the bases . And I attended all the Joint Chiefs meetings
in his place just when he was gone of course . In this particular meeting
there was an item on the agenda which I wasn't cleared for, which surprised
me, and I think it probably went through the President . I had to get
cleared before I could discuss it . After 20 or 30 minutes of delay I finally
was cleared and we proceeded with the item, and it was on the
Bay of Pigs .
And a member of the
CIA appeared to brief the Joint Chiefs on
at hand, which was to effect that they wanted the Joint Chiefs' opinion
on changing the landing beach in Cuba of the invasion force . Now wait
a minute before I can participate in this, I would like to have a little
more background in this . And I found out that some time before the
presented to the Joint Chiefs three landing beaches and asked their opinion
on which one was the best one to land on from a military standpoint . And
as far as I knew this was all they knew about so called invasion, and
they had given an opinion . Then
CIA changed their mind and decided that
they ought to have a beach that had a landing strip on it, or close by .
So they picked a couple of others and they wanted to know which was the best
of those . That was the item on that particular day . I said, "Well I
need a little more information . What's the size of your landing force?"
Seven hundred men was the answer. "And are you planning on taking
with 700 people?" Yes. "Well I don't quite understand this. I know
Henry Morgan took
with 700 people, but this seems to be a
bit different . I presume that things are well enough organized inside
chance success ." In blunt terms I was told this was none of my business.
F: I see .
L: All they wanted was an answer to a question which beach was the best . And
that's all the information I could get, so we came up with the answer of a
purely military standpoint of which was probably the best beach to land
on that had a landing strip . And that was all that took place . The next
time the subject came up that I participated in--now remember, no Vice
Chief of any of the services was aware of this item . Only the Chiefs of
each of the services was aware of what was going on . How much detail they
knew I don't know, but it was very sketchy I am sure .
F: To a great extent it was politically handled.
L: This was not a military operation--not a military operation, and the Joint
Chiefs had nothing to do with the planning of it, control of it, or anything
else . I'm sure that all that happened was they ever asked a couple of
questions, like which was the best beach to land on . They were aware of
what was going on, but the details I don't think they knew anything about .
It's true that there was some military participation along the way because
CIA had military people from all of the
services assigned to the CIA,
but working for the
CIA and not reporting back to the military
at all .
They were working as individuals over there because they had some background
training that the
CIA required to carry out their work . Also
time to time for various things that they were doing, they would ask for
people from military services with certain specialities which were furnished,
but we didn't know what they were doing . So there was military participation,
but as far as being a military operation with military planning and military
control, no, it was not an operation of this sort . Well the next I heard
of the operation is the time of the actual invasion . As a matter of fact,
a couple of days before there was a Joint Chiefs meeting which General white
was absent that I attended at which it was brought up that the activity was
going to take place a couple of days later . Landing at daylight on the
beaches, and there was a preparation to be made which they wanted to destroy
the Cuban Air Force with the Air Force such as it was that the invasion
force had of which was few B-26's . They can be gathered off of every junk
pile around the world as a matter of fact . They didn't want any of this thing
to be traced to the United States . That was our greatest fear that they
find out the United States had been dabbling in this . There was an attack
to be made on the Cuban Air Force on the ground--surprise attack by the
invasion Air Force two days before, and they cooked up some sort of a story
that two of these B-26's with Cuban markings on them would take off from
our base down in Central America and bomb the air fields in Cuba . And
then Cubans would land over in Florida and say that they were Cuban Air Force
people that had defected, and they had participated in the bombing and so forth .
This got tied up and wasn't very well executed . The whole mission wasn't
very well executed, and they failed in destroying the Cuban Air Force, and
only one of them got to Florida . But they didn't fool very many people,
I am sure . Anyway they failed in the mission of destroying the Cuban Air
Force, but decided to go ahead with the landing anyway . The landing force
was supposed to have air cover during the landings which meant that they
had to take off around midnight in Central America to get up there by
daylight . And the night before, this air cover was called off because of
the failure of the story they had worked out looked too much like American
participation, so they called it off . No one knew anything about this in
the Joint Chiefs of Staff until the morning of the invasion when there
wasn't a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff . And I knew this was coming
up so I went down early to try to find out what was going on, and I found
out then about 15 minutes before the meeting that Secretary Rusk had called
it off, or he said the President had called it off . Maybe the President
did call it off, but the story I heard was from Pre Cabell (General Charles
P .), who was the deputy of CIA and at the time he was an Air Force General
Officer and was a deputy of the CIA . And when the air cover was called
off, he knew the implications of this, of course, and went personally to
Rusk, who gave him the same cavalier treatment that most military people
got from the administration, to the effect that : "Well, the President is
now dressing to attend a party . If you want to interrupt him, you can go
to him, but he has already made the decision to call this off ." Well I
think Pre made a mistake by not going to him, but here again he had been
butting his head against a stone wall I guess for a long enough he didn't
think it would do any good . Anyway it had been called off . Mr . McNamara
was supposed to be at the meeting that morning at the Joint Chiefs, but he
didn't come down . Mr . Gilpatric came down to represent him . As soon as he
came in, I went right to him before the meeting ever started and said : "Look
you have just cut the throat of every man on the beach down there . Without
this air cover, there can't be any success ." And he said, "Well I didn't
know anything about it ." Said, "Well it is done ." Sure enough the invasion
force did catch them by surprise, and they were doing quite well until they
ran out of ammunition . And of course what happened the Cuban Air Force
came over and sunk the ships that had the reserve ammunition on them, and
when they ran out of ammunition, that was all ; the whole force was captured
of course .
I sat in on the critique of the operation for General White too in
which the President attended, the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense,
CIA, and all the rest of them . And it got around to the point that the
lack of air cover was what caused the failure . Secretary Rusk was asked
about the cancellation of air cover . The President turned to him to see
what his answer was . He said, "Well, I didn't know anything about the
importance of this," and that ended the discussion . All these articles
that you have seen that have been written by the great brains of the
Kennedy Administration, including Robert Kennedy, on the Bay of Pigs as
to the bad military advice and the betrayal of the military to President
Kennedy is just a bunch of hogwash because it was not a military operation
. The Joint Chiefs as far as I know were not asked to participate
except as I mentioned, and it was not a military operation--it was a
civilian operation from start to finish .
F : No one in Cuba doubted where it came from or would have I think under any
circumstances . What do you get that this feeling that this is just kind
of a bunch of amateurs wanting to--that they were playing toy soldiers?
L : Well, I try not to exaggerate but everyone that came in with the Kennedy
Administration and is the most egotistical people that I ever saw in my life .
They had no faith in the military ; they had no respect for the military at
all . They felt that the Harvard Business School method of solving problems
would solve any problem in the world . They were capable of doing it ; they
were better than all the rest of us ; otherwise they wouldn't have gotten
their superior education, as they saw it . And the fact that they had it
entitled them to govern the rest of us, and we shouldn't question their
decisions . I try not to exaggerate but that's exactly the case . So all
during the administration we found it impossible to get experience or
judgment cranked into the solution of any problem . As a matter of fact,
I have had a man tell me, "No, General, this is not the kind of weapon
system that you want to use, this is what you need ." This man was in knee
pants when I was commanding the division in combat . He had no experience
on the use of weapons at all . And certainly the military are not without
knowledge of the use of computers and other methods of gathering statistics
and solving problems and so forth . But war is an art, not an exact science,
and you are dealing with people, and judgment and experience are very
valuable in solving that kind of problem . And we couldn't get those factors
ever ground into the solution .
F : Did you have anyone in the Kennedy Administration that you could use as a
sort of a pipeline to get on to the President, or were you in a sense
completely shut out?
L : No . The Joint Chiefs of course had access to the President, but this is
the right by law . But you're practically taking your life in your hands when
you do this . The Secretary of Defense didn't like it, the Chairman of-the
Joint Chiefs of Staff didn't like it either . I did talk to the President on
these issues, and I'm sure he understood my feelings on the thing . And how
many times the others saw him alone I don't know . I never asked and they
never mentioned it . But we were all unhappy with the situation . Mr .
McNamara was always very careful to tell the Congress that he never arrived
at any decisions without consulting the Joint Chiefs of Staff and this was
probably true . What he failed to mention was that many times this
consultation took place after the decision was made and the order was
issued . As many times when we received a paper of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff for consideration which we would consider and give our opinion on,
when we knew the decision had already been made and orders issued several
days before .
F : That must have really bred some resentment because you had to do the work
without any feeling you'd get heard . Did you get to observe the Vice
President at all during this period? Did he ever volunteer any opinions
or did he sit and listen when he was in on the conference that you attended?
L : Well I'm sure he participated occasionally . But--
F : He had no great impact though?
L : The national defense council was never convened as such . At most all
meetings I attended in the White House the Attorney General was present
but rarely the Vice President .
F : During this period the paring down the B-70 came up, as you know, and
finally discontinuance of the B-70 program . Back when Senator Johnson
had been chairman of the Senate Preparedness Subcommittee, he had
backed the B-70, and now he is Vice President and the administration is
not going to and I gather this too that the Joint Chiefs except for you
pretty well backed Mr . McNamara on this . He was the only one who . . . .
C : Not necessarily . At one time I actually had Mr. Gilpatric sign on the
dotted line to proceed with the B-70 during the absence of Mr . McNamara .
And I think we pretty well got to the civilian elements of DOD sold on
the B-70 .
F : Now Congress had directed Mr . McNamara to go ahead with the B-52 .
L : Well they had voted the money . Three times as a matter of fact they voted
the money to proceed on my recommendation, over the recommendation of the
Secretary of Defense . This particular time Mr . Gilpatric signed off on it
while Mr . McNamara was gone . I think we had most of the people in the
Department of Defense--I'm talking about the civilian not professional--
al l agreed to the B-70 ;program . But when Mr : McNamara came back, he immediately
cancel l ed i t . So i t l ooked to me l i ke we had everyone to agree except Mr . McNamara
himself, but finally there was so much delay in the program that it was
too late to do anything about it . Because if we would start new with the
knowledge we had gained during this delay period, we could have built the
B-70's with the same performance characteristics about half the size and
weight . There is no use going on with it . So we dropped it and started
work on another one .
F : Did you have any opportunity at all to notice whether Vice President
Johnson who was very close to Congressman Vinson was able to sort of
smooth over this semi-confrontation between the administration and
Congress on this .
L : I don't know whether they were together or not, but I presume that they
did . Mr . Vinson was very much respected by all members of Congressboth
houses . He had served upon the defense committee for 50 years before
he retired . He knew little bit about it!!
F : We've interviewed him incidentally . I was afraid he might get over the
hill before we made it, but we did get it . Did Secretary Zuckert back
up the military on this? Or did he tend to go down the line with Secretary
L : I'm sure that he believed much of what the military was trying to say, but
he would never battle very hard against Mr . McNamara . This is true of all
the civilians in the Pentagon .
F : Is this because of the power of the Secretary of Defense or because of
Mr . McNamara's own personal projection about this?
L : No, because the absolute ruthlessness of these people . They wouldn't
stand for any opposition .
F : Incidentally, I think that Secretary McNamara once served under you in
World War II . Did you know him in those days?
L : Yes, he was in the analysis section for a short period of time with my
headquarters over in India and also in Guam when we moved over there, but
only for a short period of time and then he went back to Washington . I
did not know him then .
F : You had no particular reason to . . . .
L : I don't . . . . I never came in contact with him, no .
F : Then you get into the Cuban military crisis in 1962 . We had this problem,
you know, of how much of SAC is on alert and what percent is in the air . In
other words, were we ready to go, or were we playing around as we did in the
Bay of Pigs again with inadequate potential response as to what might occur?
L : Well, about the time the administration came in, '61, SAC normally had onethird
of their available force on the alert, a percentage of people . The
centers of your resources that you could keep on alert depended on many
things and that's the training of the people you had, the status of the
equipment you had, the need for the alert and so forth. But of course you
can't keep 100% on the alert because your people have to train and keep in
practice or they deteriorate . You have to maintain the airplanes . You have
to use some of them for training and so forth . So just the stage of the life
of the airplanes which really means how much work you have to do on them to
keep them in commission is one of the vital factors and how many you can keep
on the alert over a period of time . So we had started out in the early
days of SAC with a small number on the alert and we've worked up to 30%
which we considered adequate at the time, but we had a capability of doing
much more .
As a matter of fact one of the first things I had told Mr . McNamara to
make him aware of Air Force potential, potential of the Strategic Air
Command in particular, was that we had the capability of putting 50% on
alert maintaining it indefinitely . And he ordered this done . As a matter
of fact this was one of the things he claimed credit for--increasing the
strength of the country . Actually it was there all of the time if you wanted
to do it . He told us to do it, so at the time of the Cuban missile crisis
it was normal procedure to have half of the force on the alert at all the
time . This wasn't easy . It meant that everybody in SAC was working
70-90 hours a week . Of course, this is normal for that command anyway and
had been for several years . But at the time of the missile crisis of course
practically 100% of the Strategic Air Command was on the alert . You can't
maintain this for very long, of course, but that means that everybody is on
the alert . And you're not going to have any flying at all, any training .
Airplanes are sitting on alert loaded with bombs ready to go, so you can't
maintain them . But we got every airplane in commission except those that
were undergoing major overhaul--ready to go, so SAC was practically 100%
on alert .
F : Did you get any feeling that President Kennedy was somewhat awed by Secretary
L : Somewhat .
F : Awed that Secretary McNamara sort of had an undue influence on him than
most secretaries . Did he listen to him more?
L : He had a great deal of influence over him . Yes . Mr . McNamara was a very
impressive man . He had a tremendous memory . And he could quote figures
and statements and paragraphs from documents and things of that sort and
have all that right at his finger tips, which is a very impressive
F : What Mr . Johnson? Do you think that he listened unduly to Secretary
L : Well that I can't answer . I wasn't close enough to Mr . Johnson to know .
But it's very difficult to argue with Mr . McNamara . He would overwhelm
the audience with what he called facts and figures and so forth that may
or may not have been correct .
F : But you don't have anything to balance it .
L : But to back up the questioning of it at a meeting where there was just
talking going on was quite difficult .
F : During this last Kennedy year when Johnson was still Vice President, he
handed his TFK award to General Dynamics down in Fort Worth . Now there
is a lot of criticism that this was given to General Dynamics, despite
the fact that he had this lower Boeing bid, because of Mr . Johnson's own
Texas background and so forth . Did you get the feeling that this did
play a part in it? In other words this was a political decision rather
than a sort of hard and fast and military efficiency decision .
L : Well I can give you the full story on that because this happened while I
was in there . For several years the Air Force had a requirement for a
tactical fighter but could never get it funded . Mr . McNamara just flatly
requirement for similar type airplane to fly
was no to that . At one meeting Mr . McNamara
could get together and build one airplane to
fill this requirement, well maybe we could come up with the funds for that ."
said no . The Navy also had a
off carriers . And the answer
said, "Well if the two of you
Well this is not the way to do it, because it shouldn't surprise anyone
to know that this has been tried long before Mr . McNamara came around .
Everytime we tried it, it turned out to be the wrong decision . We usually
wound up by spending more money for less desirable airplanes--it just
never worked out . So, we all felt that this wasn't the way to do it . My
staff came to me one day and said, "Look, we have been trying for years
to get this requirement filled and haven't been able to, and it doesn't
look like we are going to be able to get it done in the future . Mr .
McNamara said however that we could get together with the Navy and both
of us fill the requirement with the same airplane, why he may consider it .
We have made some preliminary studies of the situation and it looks like
the state of the art is such that we can compromise our requirements and
build an airplane that the Navy can use and we can use, that will be better
than what we have . It certainly isn't as good as we could build if we
stuck to our own requirement . And it won't be as good for the Navy as they
could build following their own requirements but it will be better than
each of us have now . This is not the way to do it, but if we don't do it
this way we won't get anything ."
"So let me talk it over with George Anderson, who was then the Chief
of Naval operations, and let them take a look at it and if they agree, why
we'll see if we can't get together and work out something ." Well, I talked
it over with George and his staff, and they finally agreed we could build
an airplane that will be better than what each of us had . Considerably
better than what each of us had . And granted that's not the way to do it .
Our experiences in the past had been bad in this, but we felt we had to have
something in this category, and we couldn't get it any other way, so let's
try it and give it to Mr . McNamara and see what he says . So we did work
with the Navy to come up with a compromise requirement and we compromised
the performance of the airplane .
F : You are making an economic decision not a tactical decision?
L : No it wasn't an economic decision because we didn't expect it to be any
cheaper . We expected it to cost more, but we felt that we had to have it,
and this was the only way to get it . Now I'm not speaking for George
Anderson on this, but I expected it to cost more because everytime you try
to makeshift on a design of anything, you usually run into problems and
you never come out economically on that sort of solution . It just doesn't
work out, and I'm sure that George felt the same way, but we didn't discuss
the economics of it much . What we were worried about was just getting the
equipment because we needed it very badly . We presented it to the Secretary
and we finally got it through . We were funded, so we went the normal
procedures in selecting the source of a new weapon system .
Over the years the Air Force has worked out a system for evaluating
proposals on our new weapon system . Unlike the Army and the Navy that had
some systems developed and built i n her arsenals, the Air Force never did . We de
pended on civilian industry to produce our weapon systems . I think this i s much
the best way of doing it . We got a better product at less cost to the
taxpayer too . So we would give a proposal to a number of contractors who
had the capability of building it and were interested in doing it . And
let them come in with their proposals . Generally, we want this, and this
is what we should do, and then they would take that design, design something
using their own ideas so forth, and came up with an answer . This is general
in nature . No detail design, but just a general design . And usually they
spent their own money on this . Sometimes we would give them a contract to
do it in the later stages but a lot of their own money was spent on it . They
would come in with their proposal and we then evaluated the proposals .
Now really there were three evaluations going on at the same time .
One was done by research and development command, which is the systems
command now . And they looked at it purely from the technical standpoint
with technical people . Would this airplane in fact do what it was supposed
to do? Would it fly as high as supposed to go? Would it fly as fast?
Would it carry -the load and so forth, from a technical standpoint? We
worked things out where they come up with a numerical score on this
evaluation--on all evaluations for that matter . We had a numerical score .
Each one of them were scored .
The material command would evaluate their proposals from material
standpoint, a business standpoint . How much floor space did the company
have to devote to this project at this particular time period? How did
they come out on their cost analysis the last time around? How good is
the management team? Things of this sort because very often they had to
procure articles, so they evaluated the company and the proposals from this
standpoint . And there was still a third one going on, usually by the using
command or if it was used by several commands
using it . And it was simply in answer to the
is this to carry out the mission that you are
up with a numerical score on that . Well this
I won't run over the details upon it where it
You had forms that you
to all weapon systems .
into the solution too . And this came up to the air staff and the air staff
around it to any additional items or questions that might apply particularly
to this weapon system . And here again, I put this numerical score . It was
just that simple . Added it up and let the highest score win the competition .
those were interested in
questions : how good a tool
assigned and they would come
was all worked out in detail .
was practically a form test .
filled out answering certain questions that applied
If there was anything special this, of course, went
This has worked out fine . Our contractors had confidence that when they
won they won fairly and equally, and they had the best product . And there
was no question about it . If they lost there was no beefing about it .
They understood that they didn't have the best proposal, and that was the
reason they lost . This all went out the window with the TFX selection,
because the first evaluation Boeing won by a mile and no question about it .
I so recommended to the Secretary of the Air Force and he endorsed it
on up to the Secretary of Defense and the answer came back that, no, we
think you made a mistake . We think you ought to do this over again . Well
there was a choice of two engines that could be used in this airplane at
this time period, and the Air Force felt that we would like to take a look
at what Boeing could do with the other engine anyway, so we would do it
over again . So we asked Boeing--there were only two bidders at this time,
General Dynamics and Boeing--and we asked them to do it over again each
using the other engines and see what would happen . This time Boeing won by
seven-eighths of a mile because a little intelligence had leaked into
General Dynamics what we might like that Boeing had and so forth, so they
crawled a little bit closer . Secretary of Defense said that was the wrong answer
too . The upshot of i t was that we did four evaluations on this . And each time General
Dynamics cot a little cl oser of course but Boeing still won by an overwhelming margin .
F : Had you gotten to thinking by now they were trying to tip it toward General
Dynamics? Or was there some other reason behind this?
L : Well it never entered my mind . No . I wondered what the flap was all about ;
it never entered my mind what was actually going to happen . I couldn't
foresee anything like this happening .
F : Just these bureaucratic delays, as far as you were concerned .
L : Yes, well we were having a staff meeting at the Air Force Headquarters in
Washington one morning and the Air Force Secretary came in, and he told us
that he made the decision that we were wrong and we should give the con
tract to General Dynamics instead of Boeing . Well none of us believed
this because the Secretary hadn't made any decisions of this magnitude
since the Administration had come in . As a matter of fact the Secretary
of the Air Force was more of a figurehead than anything else as far as
getting anything done is concerned . We didn't believe this .
F : This is the Air Force Secretary?
L : Yes . As a matter of fact it amazed everyone that he would say that . And
I think that he really lost the Air Force right then . No one believed
that he'd made the decision . It had been made higher up .
F : Why do you think it was made?
L : Well, I don't know, I can't prove anything or did try to prove anything .
I'm sure it was a political decision . Except I can try to analyze what you
do about the situation . I know that reading the newspapers that Per . Crown
was a big contributor to the Democratic Party, the biggest stockholder in
General Dynamics and what the Texas delegation trying to get the work
down in Texas and things of that sort, I'm sure it was a political decision
. One that has cost the country a great deal because Boeing was by
far the best contractor . And looking over the years at all the work
General Dynamics has done for the military and that Boeing has done for
the military, Boeing has always done much superior work than General
Dynamics . Let's take a look at the airplanes that we have . Generally
speaking Boeing is a better contractor . Now remember we had compromised
the performance of this airplane in order to get it on the carrier to carry
out both missions, we had compromised the performance not only in the Air
Force field but the Navy field too . So we could have one that we could
use . And I think that if Boeing had built it we would have had a reasonable
airplane that we could have used . But General Dynamics didn't do a very
good job on it . The airplane as it now stands is well equipped . The
avionics are good . The Tactical Air Command now has the capability of
carrying out her mission in bad weather and at night that they didn't have
before, using the avionics that are on board . They are tremendous and from
that standpoint it's a good airplane . They have got a capability they
didn't have before, but the airplane, performance-wise, the airframe didn't
even come up with a compromise specifications, and it's not there yet . I'm
very doubtful now we'll ever get it there .
F : Basically you need a different plane for the Air Force and for the Navy .
You do take something off the top .
L : That's right,the design of every vehicle of course is a compromise . You
can't have it perfect in every detail . If you want high speed, you can't
get high ceiling . If you want high ceiling, you can't get the speed out
of it you'd like . In other words you can't be perfect in everything . You
have got to compromise . Give a little here to gain
always the case in the design a new weapon system .
to throw into it, the more you compromise it down .
down to the least common denominator of the thing .
things that we don't require in the Air Force . For
have the shortest take-offs and landing distance as
critical like it is in the Navy . They have to fold their wings to get it
down the elevator . They have got a weight restriction due to the impact
on the deck, deck loading and things of that sort . And their landings, we
don't have any of these sort of things so we can ignore that to get something
something there . That's
But the more requirements
It is kind of coming
And the Navy requires
instance, we like to
possible, but it's not
else that we want . They have to give up these other things they want in
order to get it on the carrier . It's that sort of thing .
F : You had your term extended by President Kennedy . Was this any surprise
L : Mr. Johnson was president when my tenure was extended ._ Actually
my extension wasn't recommended by the Secretary of the Air Force
or the Secretary of Defense . As a matter of fact I was told this by Mr .
Zuckert . And I didn't expect it to be because George Anderson was fired,
and I fully expected to be too . However, I was over at a cocktail party
to celebrate the birthday of NATO, and Mr . Johnson had invited all of the
NATO ambassadors and their military representatives at the White House for
a cocktail party on NATO's birthday . The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff was gone . I was a senior member of the Joint Chiefs present, so I
went over to represent the United States military . And after things had
gone underway the President pulled me off to a little anteroom and asked
me who was available to replace me as Chief of Staff of the Air Force .
Well I wasn't about to recommend anybody to give them a kiss of death . I
certainly didn't agree with what was going on in the administration, and they
knew it, and anyone I would recommend they probably wouldn't take into consideration
for appointment . So I said, "yell, Mr . President, we have got
a dozen people who could do with a job for as Chief of Staff of the Air
Force," and I started running off some names and their qualifications .
"Then well how about something for you? Now how about being an
ambassador?" They'd just sent Anderson to Portugal as ambassador . And
he said, "I need a roving ambassador around some of these countries upon
the Russian border to keep them bucked up or try to help them and so forth
and I particularly want to get them to buy this F5 airplane," which was made by
Northrup designed for backward countries . Itwas a simplier airplane, but
it wasn't a first line airplane and wouldn't compete with the Russian
first line airplanes . I thought well, first of all, I don't see any reason
for stopping doing something I know how to do to take on a job that I don't
know how to do . I don't have any experience as an ambassador, and as for
selling these F5 airplanes, I can't do that . I couldn't face my counterparts
in these foreign countries because they're airmen too, and being
airmen, are well aware that this is not a first line system . It's a
second line weapon system, if you want to get these people to fight first
line equipment with . And I haven't recommended it in the past ; I have been
against the F5 in the past for that reason, and I just can't go to face
these people and say, "Now it is a good one," I said, "No . If you haven't
got anything that I really can do, why let me goon to retire and go into
industry ." And he said, "Well, you haven't made any commitments yet have
And I said, "No, I have no form of course until I retire ."
And he said, "Well, give me about ten days ."
Well two weeks went by ; I guess it was about two weeks . I was down
on the Joint Chiefs . We were having an exercise of some sort and the
telephone rang, and it was the White House asking me to come over . So I
got somebody to replace me and went over there . It was late in the afternoon
about 5 :30 then . And I saw the President and he said, "Look I got an election
coming up, and I don't know what is going to happen there . I don't think
your military career ought to be interrupted until your retirement date,
so I'm going to extend you until your retirement date ." Which was about
four months short of two-year four-year tour that the chiefs normally
"Mr . President, if that's what you want I'll certainly do the best
I can, but I'm sure that in coming to this judgment you've taken into account
the fact that I don't agree with what your Secretary of Defense is trying to
And he said, "Yes, I understand that ; just go back over there and do
what you think is best for the country ."
"Well that's certainly easy to do, and thank you very much for your
Well, by this time, it is about 7 :30, so I didn't go back to the
Pentagon . I went in to see the Secretary the next morning and saw the Air
Secretary and told him who his next Chief of Staff was going to be . He
didn't know it . Mr . McNamara didn't know it either . So I was of course
grateful to President Johnson for his confidence in me to carry on . But
in sitting down and trying to figure out . . . .
F : Johnson didn't break the news to McNamara?
L : No, he surely didn't--he let me do it . But I remained more skeptical all
the time of being in a rat race in Washington . I wonder how much of this
was confidence in me and how much of it was political and not wanting a
big battle in the Congress, because he just as in effect fired Admiral
Anderson, which caused a little stir in the Congress, not much .
F : Anderson though wasn't as noticeable as you .
L : Well, and he had done a little . . . . I kept my nose clean . My duty required
me to tell the Secretary of Defense what I thought, required me to tell the
President what I thought. The law didn't say so--the law says that the
Congress has the duties to raise and support armies . And I thought they
ought to have any information they required to carry out this duty . So
when they asked me a question, I told them the truth and in detail . Yes .
I went over and presented the Secretary's program, that this is what we
are proposing . But when they asked the proper questions, which they knew
how to do, I would tell them how I felt . They asked me, "Well you are
supporting this program that the Secretary sent over here ."
"Yes, I am supporting it."
"Well then arriving at these figures, did you agree with all of them
during the discussion period?"
"No I didn't."
"What didn't you agree with? Why?
I told them why the other chiefs wouldn't go into the details that I
would. Well I generally disagree with what the boss wanted this way, so
I now agree with it. Something of that sort . I gave them the information
that they were looking for . "Yes, there is another opinion, and this is it,
and this is why I believe this is the correct one ."
And as I say the best thing the best compliment that I ever had paid
to me while I was in the military service was paid by the Congress on these
three occasions when they accepted my recommendation over the Secretary of
Defense on the manned bomber system .
F : Did you get any feeling that the Secretary McNamara was trying to get you
out? Was he staying out of this?
L : Certainly I--
F : You don't agree with him, that one thing .
L : I didn't agree with him in his line of thinking and so forth . He did know,
however, that I carried out his orders to the letter once he made his
decision . But he did know that I disagreed with him . He did know I would
say so in the proper places, ?,lhich I did .
F : Did President Johnson urge you to speak up in opposition to the Secretary
or did he prefer that you more or less follow the departmental line?
L : Well when he appointed me again, he in effect told me to do this . I told
him that he took into your judgment in making this decision that I didn't
agree with the Secretary of Defense on what he was trying to do . And he
said, "Yes, you keep right on what you have been doing and what you think
is best for the country," which I had been doing . So the answer to the
question is yes .
F : Although you and President Johnson didn't see eye to eye did you have the
feeling he listened when you talked to him, that he took into consideration
what you were saying?
L : Very seldom did the chiefs get to see the President because with the top
echelon wiped out that was normally at regular meetings with the President,
it was only when the President decided to have one on and invited the Joint
Chiefs was there, and most of the time the Joint Chiefs didn't go, just the
chairman . And I have a feeling we didn't get fully briefed on what went
on over there from the chairman . I didn't agree with the chairman . It was
Maxwell Taylor at that time . I didn't agree with him either .
F : Did you get the feeling sometimes that Maxwell Taylor was being more
political than military in his role?
L : Yes . Maxwell Taylor was Chief of Staff of the Army under Eisenhower and
when General Twining was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the Joint
Chiefs didn't agree with Taylor then on what he was trying to do with the
Army . But that time when the argument got too hot and heavy, General
Twining would just bundle all up and go over and sit down and talk to the
President . The President didn't agree with Taylor either, talking about
President Eisenhower, so that was it . Taylor wasn't getting any place
with his wild ideas, so he retired . He came back with the Kennedy
Administration as a civilian advisor, President's Assistant as a civilian .
And then he was put back in uniform, a retired officer as Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs .
F : He tried to keep the Joint Chiefs at a distance from the President? He
became the one man who had access?
L : We would have our discussions with the Joint Chiefs for various things,
and I very seldom agreed with Taylor on most of the basic questions . And
I'm talking about really basic questions . And I'm talking about really
basic questions when he said, "Go away LeMay," in effect that "Your airplane
is obsolete . Missiles they are going to shoot them down like flies and even
we're going to have hand-held missiles that each individual soldier can shoot
down airplanes with ." And I tried to explain to him why I didn't think this
was so, which was very difficult to explain if you get actually in battle
against the new weapon system what the outcome is going to be . But I pointed
out similar things in the past and I never could convince him . Except we
got over in the war over there, and the Russians put the missiles in and we
fought against them, and they didn't shoot airplanes down like flies . Most
of our other differences were worked out about the same way . Well anyway
to point out that General Taylor had his differences with the Joint Chiefs
under General Twining as Chairman while President Eisenhower was in office .
Then he came back as a civilian and then went back in as Chairman of the
Military, and he still had his differences with the other members of the
Joint Chiefs . So I question whether we ever got all of the details in on
some of these meetings that he went to . I know that I went on, and I never
could understand during the Vietnamese war exactly what the goal was, what
we were trying to do . Basically we went in there because the Vietnamese
asked for help . This is part of the Truman Doctrine, which was promulgated
at the time of the attack on Greece . In effect President Truman said,
"Look this is as far as you can go . We recognize that we are at war with
Communism, and we're not going to have it out with you full scale war to
see who wins or loses now, but we're not going to let you expand anymore .
And any country around the periphery of the Communist world that comes under
your attack, if they ask us for help, we are going to help them ." And we
offered help to Greece ; they wanted it . The Turks were under attack at
the same time ; pressure from Russians to get possession of the Dardenelles ;
and we helped them . NATO was formed and so forth . So, it was part of
our policy at the time to help contain Communism, not to go to war with it
and defeat it but to contain it . And this was part of our policy we're
carrying out in trying to help Vietnam . Because the treaty at the time
the French left was supposed to settle the problem over there . That Laos
and Cambodia would be neutral, that North Vietnam would be Communist, and
South Vietnam would be non-Communist, and that was supposedly the settlement .
North Vietnam never did honor the treaty at all . They immediately started
attacks against South Vietnam, internally to start with and later on
overtly with all her troops . So when we started to help them the first
help we had to give them had to be underhand . We couldn't get them anything
that could be traced to the United States, although we had openly said
we were going to do this, they didn't do it openly . We had to give them
under the table .
F : Do you think you fooled anybody with your under the
L : No I don't think so . Least of all the Communists .
the rest of the world in doubt, but I don't think we
Communists in doubt . But first we just put advisors
clothes . Then we finally put advisors, more of them
We gave them airplanes . Put airplanes off of the junk pile and taught
them to fly them, airplanes that could be gotten any place in the world--
couldn't be traced to the United States . And we put our own people in
there flying those airplanes . They went to the greatest subterfuge .
Supposedly we were supposed to be there training them . They weren't in
combat . Actually they were in combat, I don't know how many missions,
just by dumping the Vietnamese in the back seat of the airplane--not that
We may have carried
ever kept the
in there in civilian
in military clothes .
he was going to do any good back there--but supposedly training him .
But we weren't training him ; we were in combat and had to have somebody
along . That was the subterfuge that was required . But, as I started
out to say was, I never knew exactly what they were trying to do . And
later on it dawned on them we were following Maxwell Taylor's idea of
not really going in there and winning the war, but just committing enough
force to try to hold them in place . And say, "Look little man you are
foolish for trying to defeat the great power of the United States, quit
this now, and let's stop the fighting ." Well this won't work between
two individuals in most cases, and it certainly didn't work and wouldn't
work against the Communists . They're willing to go on and expend lives
and so forth for generations if necessary . It was not the way to go to
war . They expected to win just like they won in Paris against France,
and they'll still win like that, it looks like, not militarily so . We
were never able to do the things from a military standpoint that would win
the war and never able to hit the proper targets . We've dropped many,
many, many more bombs in North Vietnam and in South Vietnam than we ever
dropped on Germany and Japan during World War II, but we dropped them in
the wrong places, destroying a few wooden bridges out in the jungle, or
trying to get troops out of the jungle or something of that sort . I've
seen trucks in villages parked bumper to bumper . I've seen pictures of
them--I've never been up there on a mission personally . Most of this
came after I got out, but I've seen these nonsense pictures taken since
I got out of trucks bumper to bumper in villages sat there until dark
waiting to get on the road, because in the villages we were forbidden to
hit them . I've seen supplies piled many many times high on the highest
building in the village because we wouldn't hit them there . Forbidden to
do it, forbidden to hit the military targets that would pay dividends .
The biggest one of all was close the port of Haiphong . And I don't mean
bomb it . That's only one way of doing it . But to stop supplies going
through there . We never did really get the targets that we should have
gotten . When we did go up there, it was late after the Russians had
gotten in and defended the place, so it made it a little more costly .
We could have done all of this for free in the early days without any
opposition when the Russians build up the defenses why then it's a
tougher chore to do . But the military actions that have gone up over
the centuries of how to fight a war were completely violated from start
to finish . This business of just putting in enough strength to hold them
is no way to fight .
F : Did you have to get this point over to President Johnson?
L : No, I think he was afraid of the Chinese or the Russians coming in and
the war escalating . But when you go to war, it's pretty serious business .
And the military doesn't go to war, all they do is fight it after you get
in and we were even forbidden to fight this one . So it was a very
frustrating experience . Once you go to war, I think then the moral thing
to do is to get it over with as quick as possible . To me this means using
every resource of your command to accomplish that end ; get the war over
as quick as possible with the least cost in lives and resources of both
you and the enemy . We didn't do this .
F : Do you think that McNamara influenced Maxwell Taylor or Maxwell Taylor
was the influence on McNamara in this case? Who is the chicken and who
is the egg?
L : I think McNamara was Secretary of Defense . He made the decisions . I don't
think he trusted Maxwell Taylor any more than the rest of us because he had
the military background . He has absolutely no respect for the military
at all--none . As a matter of fact he had little respect for anybody,
completely ruthless and unprincipled people .
F : Along another line what do you think of the Army, Army helicopters for
a close ground support .
L : It's not the vehicle for that purpose, and I think it has been proven in
this fracas over here when we haven't really had the worst enemy of the
helicopter to contend with--which is in anti-air or in any enemy air at
all . Yet they've had enormous losses, and the losses that they have had
really don't show up on paper over there, because they don't count a
helicopter shot down if they didn't go out with one of those big train
helicopters and pick up the name plate off of it and carry it back and
rebuild something around it .
F : As long as they rescue a portion of it well they are . . . . Where were you at
the time of the assassination?
L : I was in Washington at the time--the Chief of Staff of the Air Force .
F : You were at work on that particular day?
L : No, I was off some place, at the actual time of the assassination, I was
called back .
F : Yes, what was the situation that you found when you got back to Washington?
Was there a little bit of tenseness or was it pretty well decided that Lee
Harvey Oswald was just after one man?
L : Well there wasn't much of a flap . Everybody was a little concerned that they
didn't know what made the attack, the assassination, so they wanted
everybody present for duty . That's the reason they were called back .
F : Was there any great difference between working on the Joint Chiefs under
Johnson than it had been with Kennedy or did the fact that you had the same
Secretary of Defense insure the continuity?
L : No, I didn't understand exactly what was going on . For several months
before the President was assassinated they were rumors, and then they
got to be a little more than rumors, Vice President Johnson was going to
be dropped for the coming election . And all the Kennedy team was finally
got to openly to giving to the Vice President to the back of their hands,
and it was rather embarrassing for the country around Washington because
it was so apparent . Then bang, all at once he is President .
F : Yes .
L : And I believe all of this hard feeling grew up around the flight from Fort
Worth back was brought on by these people who had really been vulgar in
my opinion and snubbing the Vice President who expected to be stepped on
like the cockroaches they were, and he didn't do it . As a matter of fact
quite the contrary . From all I got the President was extremely polite to
Mrs . Kennedy and the family and bent over backwards to do everything he
could to soften the blow if that is possible . It isn't, but he certainly
was a Southern gentleman in every respect during this period . And I think
this rather surprised these people because they expected the same kind of
treatment that they had given him and he didn't give it to him . Why, I don't
know : I really don't know because well I can understand in having to face
an election and I can understand him being a smart enough politician to
know if he threw out all of the Kennedy crowd and put his in, this might
split the Democratic party at the time in the next election and so forth .
So I can understand him keeping these people around until the election was
over, but then he won the election--he won it with the greatest majority
that any President has ever had, but he still kept these people around .
The same people that had treated him so miserably during this period just
before President Kennedy's assassination .
F : This is curious .
L : Yes . I could never understand, never could figure it out yet . The only
answer I could come up with is that knowing the vindictiveness of these
people, knowing the moral standards of these people, how ruthless that
they were, they must have had some threat over the President that he
knew that they would carry out .
F : Did you get the feeling that he was satisfied with Secretary McNamara's
performance as Defense Secretary?
L : I don't know that I can answer that question . It would seem that if he
wasn't satisfied, why he would have gotten a new one early in the period .
Afterwards I think he was actually dismissed finally . Things got so bad
that he had to get rid of him, but he did it in such a way to make it look
like it was a normal progression .
F : Did you ever get any idea where he stood on this manned-bomber vs . missile
L : Well I don't know that there was a manned-bomber vs . missile controversy,
one being "either," "or ." We never believed that in the Air Force or any
place else . We thought we needed both . We needed both . As a matter of
fact, I get credit for being the big bomber General . Can't see anything
beyond the blinders . When I was in the research and development business
after the war started all in the big missile programs, the Atlas and the
Navaho and the basic facilities that gave us the missiles, we had to have
them, still like we have to have them and that we need both, we need both .
F : There was it seemed to me at this time an outbreak of increased emphasis on
missiles and loss of flexibility of the manned equipment .
L : It became apparent to me that McNamara's goal was to try to build a strategic
force that was equal to the Russian force . Sort of dragged his feet until
the Russians built up to what we were equal . These men believed that if
we were equal in strength then there wouldn't be any war . Well this is
an indication of how impractical these type of people are . To me this is
the best way of guaranteeing a war because you can only have peace if you
have a mutual respect between people, and if you don't have that and one
is plotting against the other, then eventually when he thinks he can get
away with it, he will come attack you . This has always been true in
history in the past . If they have got something you want and if he thinks
he can get it, he goes and gets it . This is just a human history . Even
if by some miracle you could design these two forces where they would be
equal, will everybody think they are equal? You can't control men's
minds . Then, if by some miracle you can design these tLwo forces, how long
are they going to stay equal? One is an opened society ; the other a closed
society . When is the closed society going to come up with a breakthrough
on some weapon system that will give them a tremendous advantage that you
don't know anything about? You're handicapping the open society by such
an arrangement . So I believe this is what Mr . McNamara was aiming at,
although he would never admit it any place along the line . He wouldn't
admit it now, I am sure, but that was what it was aimed at, and I honestly
believe that he thought about 1000 minuteman missiles would be enough for
F : That's interesting in view of the fact that the big run on the missile
gap was 1960, which may or not have been an actual gap .
L : Well there wasn't any . We may have been at one time a little behind in
missiles because we didn't do too much about them early in the game . We
were doing a little something about them, but mainly we had to catch up
on everything . Remember at the end of the war we were ten years behind
the Germans in technology at that time . Aerodynamics, rocketry, missiles,
everything, we were ten years behind and had to catch up . As I say, I
was running the research and development effort for the Air Force at that
time, chief officer for it on the staff and we tried to get some of these
German scientists over to the United States . This was resented and
objected to by our own scientists . They didn't want them over here, but
we brought them anyway . The only way we could get them in was as prisoners
of war . Now we would go and talk to these people and, in effect, we'll
hire them to come over and work for us, and "We'll see that your family is
taken care of back here . We'll see that they have a place to live, food,
and taken care of ." We had quite a time convincing some of them that we
would do this . But we got a lot of them to come over . Von Braun was one
who came over at this time, Dornberger,who had commanded Peenemunde . But
the Russians got a great number of them because the research centers were
back away from our bombing and closer to the Russians, so they overran
most of them . We got a few B-1 missiles, but the Russians got most
of them, and they got most of the scientists that were working on them .
And they carried right on with that program full blast, moved everything
right back into Russia, and carried on with it . We got some
of them, but we didn't carry on with the full field development program .
We had to get all of our ducks in a row under a very strict budget and
we had a lot of other things to do too . So the fact that the Russians
started early carrying on with the B-1, which was based on carrying TNT,
was for this reason that the Russians came up with much bigger missiles
than we did, because when we finally started our missile program, we started
it with atomic warhead on it and this was a lighter smaller weapon--smaller
payload--that we could carry . Therefore the rocket that we built was a
smaller rocket than the Russians built . And this is the reason we were
behind in the payload that we could put into orbit if you want to measure
it this way . And it took a little while to catch up on that . And you
could say for awhile we were behind in basic rocketry, because the fact
that the Russians got more of the technical people that knew something
about it and kept right on going over the program, while we had a little
lag . But in overall strength there wasn't any big gap or anything of that
sort, and when we finally put the money into it and got all of our people
ready to work, very soon it became apparent that there wasn't any missile
gap at all .
F : Did you ever get the feeling that President Johnson ever considered closing
the Port of Haiphong or some sort of progressive bombing system of the
means to make war?
L : No quite the contrary, because there seemed to be a deadly fear amongst
the people that we would do something that might make the Russians mad at
us, the Chinese mad at us . And a war would escalate .
F : We were trying to be polite .
L : And every target that we hit up in North Vietnam was personally chosen
by the Secretary of Defense on this military-made recommendation they had
a lot of targets ; and he would pick out the ones that could be hit, and
the President would approve the target list . Not only approve the target
to be hit but how many airplanes you would throw on it, and what type
bombs would be on the airplanes . Down into that much detail .
F : That's time consuming, among other things.
L : In other words every squad was being moved back in Washington and out of
the field and halfway around the world .
F : Was there much resentment in Vietnam among the people who were fighting
L : Certainly, certainly, but we had present now in the military services
the finest professional force that the country has ever had . They're
largely disseminated now because so many people have gotten so frustrated
and disgusted that they are leaving the service in droves . There is
hardly anyone left with World War II experience anymore . These very high
command experience, they're all gone . These people certainly knew that
this was not the way to fight a war--they are the ones that are risking
their lives to do this . Well, to give you an example, I was never so
proud of the Air Force awhile back when I saw a television stint that Bill
Stallard had done, a television show of some sort . It had a special name,
but I have forgotten it . What it was basically was an interview of a flight
of six tactical airplane commanders that had just come back from a mission
against North Vietnam . At this time we were really short of pilots . We
could never convince McNamara we were short of pilots, and we were short .
This flight was composed of a Colonel Flight Commander and all of his
wing men were Lieutenant Colonels that we'd scraped up off the desk jobs
to get out there . And the essence of this program after they had talked
about what they'd done up there and done, was that, "This is what we were
told to do . We went up and we did exactly what we were told to do and
what we were given to do exactly, but we sure as hell don't think that was
the way to do it," and that was perfectly apparent .
F : Did you ever see President Johnson after you retired and have any more
contact with him?
L : No .
F : Did you get any reaction at all from the Johnson forces when you went on
the American Party of the ticket in '68?
L : No I got into this political racket for a definite purpose . Well, somebody
was urging me to get into politics, starting right the minute I
retired . As a matter of fact before that right after the war Governor
La us che of Ohio wanted to appoint me to the Senate to fill a vacancy
created when Senator Burton was made Supreme Court Justice . And I almost
did it because I was thinking then we were battling for a separate Air
Force, and I thought I might be helpful in the Senate getting it done,
but I didn't want to resign from the military forces just to do it . As
a matter of fact, I had agreed to do it before we found out that you
couldn't hold a seat in the Senate and a commission in the regular Army
at the same time . That's the basic law of the land, so I wouldn't
resign in order to accept this . But ever since I retired, somebody has
been trying to get me into politics, and I have never been interested in
politics . Most military people are not--quite the opposite--as a matter
of fact, I felt so strongly about it that I didn't even think that military
should even vote . I changed my mind on that, however, but that was my
feeling and emotion regarding the military . I wasn't interested in politics,
and I said no these things . But coming up to the 1968 election, I firmly
believed that if we didn't get a conservative government in the power in 1968,
that we probably would never have another chance . And I firmly believed this .
I think that we were just that cl ose to socialism or communi sm . So, I was i n favor of
Mr . Nixon being the best choice that we had, and when the Nat l ace peopl e approached me I
gave them the same answer I had given all the other people about going into
politics ; that no, that I firmly believed that we had to have a conservative
administration or we would never have another chance of getting one and that
I felt that Mr . Wallace's support in the North particularly would come from
the conservative side of the picture . Therefore, it would be defeating my
basic principle and they said they understood that but that they were
going to be out in California every week from then on to election and
would I mind talking to them from time to time? I said, "I don't mind
that," and I did talk to them from time to time . And it got up to about
the last of July . The last time I talked to them I was going over to
Hawaii on a vacation and still saying no . "Although if the Republican
convention comes up with something like nominating Mr . Rockefeller or
one of the other left wing Republicans, I may change my mind," And they
said, "Well, we'll wait ."
I said, "Well, look, you can't wait ; you are too late now in getting
the candidate announced," and they said, "Well we have got a substitute
Well they had the Republican convention, and on the first ballot Mr .
Nixon was nominated, and I gave a big sigh of relief that I'm now off thehook every thing is all right . So I came back after the vacation, and the
campaign started, and Mr . Nixon didn't say anything . And I'd been briefed
by all of the people that were either in or close to the Nixon campaign
that he was going to say the right things and do the right things if he
were elected . I was convinced that he was a conservative candidate the
country had to have if we were to stop this drift towards communism . So
when he didn't say anything, it worried me a little bit so I would get on
the telephone and start asking them questions, and I got answers that
satisfied me, which were into the effect that look, if the election were
held now, it would be a Nixon landslide . Remember, the Democratic party
blew wide open at their convention, completely . Talk about the news media
and so forth being biased and so forth, it was perfectly apparent ; these
reporters were trying to get Ted Kennedy into the act . So instead of reporting
the news, they were politicking over the television . Well it blew wide
open so it was a Nixon landslide . "Look, he can't get another vote by
talking now . All you can do is lose votes by talking, so it was best
in a political sense to say nothing ." This made sense to me, and so I
was satisfied . A little while later this lead ballon went up--the
proposed cabinet for Nixon composed of every left wing Republican in the
book, none of which had supported the Republican party in 1964 when
Goldwater was running. And this shook me, and the only answer I could
think of was, well, Nixon had made so many promises to get nominated
that he is going to be hamstrung here . So I started asking some questions
on that, and I didn't get satisfactory answers . Well, things changed
around a little bit this time, and Mr . Wallace had broken up into the unions
up North . Well the national unions still said Humphrey, but people in the
fields said, "To hell with that I'm going for Wallace." In view of this
other thing and a fear other questions I had, it looked like I had to go and
help Mr. Wallace. So I hadn't had one final talk with him. I didn't feel
that we ever had a chance to win the election . It never entered my mind
that we could possibly win, but my question was : could I move some people
over to the right a little bit by getting out some truths on war and things
I was qualified to talk about . I didn't feel qualified to talk about a lot
of things that a normal politician waves his arm about at election time .
F: Whether he qualified or not .
L: I hate to say I didn't have the guts to get up and talk about those, but
I did stick pretty close to things that I did know something about it.
And my only hope was to get people moved over to the right a little bit,
but I wanted some sort of guarantee from Mr . Wallace, that if it did go
into a tie or was necessary to help Nixon, that he would . And I got that
assurance that Mr. Wallace wasn't about to let Humphrey get elected, if
he could help it . And he assured me that his members of the electoral
college were definitely committed to him personally and would vote the
way he wanted them to and that he largely thought the power he had in the
House would do likewise, in case it went into the House of Representatives.
So this assurance I felt then that I probably could be more help to the
conservative side than I would harm by going up with Mr. Wallace, so I
did it. Not that I wanted to get into politics, and I firmly knew what
I was getting into to start with and I expected to get cut up pretty badly.
I did get cut up, but not as bad as I expected to be . The very first
press conference they had when we announced it went off as I expected,
but, of course, I'm not naive enough to know that, if you are going to do
any good in politics, you have to have the news media, each newsman
practically on your side . But here I jumped into a completely hostile
press, completely hostile press because Mr . Wallace is not the racist that
the newspapers had made out . Really a pretty good honest citizen, graduate
lawyer, served in the House of Representatives of his state, judge in his
state before becoming governor and true he has got the old southern backwoods
electioneering type of stuff yet, but he is a different man when he
is talking to say a dinner party of 50 people or something of that sort .
With ten thousand out there, he is a different character altogether. But
he is not the racist that people point out . But he firmly believed that
if you can't correct one evil by creating ten thousand more evils .
F: To go back a moment to the Department of Defense. Did you get the
feeling that it became sort of over-unified and over-organized and lost
its freedom in a way that knocked heads? I realize there is certain
wastefulness in this head-knocking that has gone on ; the same time I
wondered whether he didn't at least knock out some of the hard type dirt
that collects .
L: Well, I have some strong feelings on the Department of Defense and its
organization. The Congress passed a National Defense bill that set up the
Department of Defense. And we started out in operation as a civilian head .
We started out with a very small staff, I think Mr. Forrestal allowed us
about 300 people . Look what we have now, particularly the build-up under
McNamara . The first drawback that was apparent in this set up is the
Secretary of Defense we had, himself . That's the first weak point . Because
having the three services--the Army, the Navy and the Air Force--they are
always battling for money, always battling for prestige, and you want this,
you want this . It means that they have a solution for the National Defense
problem that they are fighting for against the others. And you have the
Joint Chiefs supposedly to come up with sound military advise to the President,
and you have disagreements in the Joint Chiefs. Of course, you have a lot
of agreements, too, but you have disagreements. Now as many of the
problems that the Joint Chiefs disagree with there is more than one solution
to the problem . Who knows which is the best solution? Who knows?
F: You can't treat programs parallel and then pick one. You've just got to
pick one and then hope .
L: Well you've got two paintings up here . Both masterpieces. Which one is
the best? All right, I can pick one and say that it is the best, or my
grandson at age five can pick one and say which one is the best . Or I
can get someone who has made a study of art all of his life and let him
pick one and then you take your choice . The five year old kid may come
as close as anybody else . It's a matter of what you like or what the mass
of people are going to like, say, ten years from now which might determine
which is the best, or this might be the best now, this one might be the
best ten years from now according to a vote of the masses . There is no
clear cut answer to some of these things . When you have these disagreements,
the Secretary of Defense is supposed to solve them, come up with an answer .
He didn't feel he had the talent to come up with an answer. He was afraid
that if he picked the wrong one that it might really be bad for the country .
So he didn't make any decision. He would get another group put together to
study the problem and make recommendations on it, but never got around to
getting it in before he left office and had gone someplace else . So these
people wouldn't stand up and do the job and make a decision, that was the
problem . Didn't have any such problem with McNamara ; there wasn't any
doubt in his mind that he knew what the right decision was ., It usually
wasn't either one of the argument between the services . He had no faith
at all in them coming up with the right answers . So he brushed them aside
and built his own establishment to come up with these answers . And cutting
out military out of the picture to a large extent .
F: Coming out I wondered can you economize in wars? Seemingly a lot of
decisions are made on a dollar and cent basis rather than a military
F: Or is it bad economy to economize?
L: Not necessarily . The dollars and cents is something that always worried
the military . Ever since I've been in, and I'm sure that ever since we
have had a military, dollars and cents has been the number one headache of
the soldier . You never had anything to work with or enough to work with--
never . Now I'm sure it's true that the military wanted all they could
get if you're going to go into battle . You want more than enough if you
can get it ; you're never able to get it . So, sure, the military wanted
more maybe than they actually required . How much is that? How much is
actually required? This is a matter of judgment, and you can get all
your calculating machines out and so forth and so on and come up with
your answer, but your answer is only as good as the input . And who can
read the other man's mind as to what he is going to do at the last minute,
which drastically affects your requirements . You counter it. It is a
matter of judgment . So money is something we have always considered.
And your choice of any weapon system, you always consider the money
because it boils down to how many we are going to get . Now if we can
only get this number of these gadgets, then which is the best . Or if
we have this number, which is the best ; and sometimes there is a difference .
So, dollars and cents have always been taking into account in the military.
And to a greater extent than anyplace else because it never had anything .
Christ, I've seen the days when we didn't have enough money to pay the
troops. I personally had a 30 day vacation without pay because we didn't
have money to pay the troops . I grounded all SAC once because we didn't
have any gasoline to fly the airplanes . I flew right down to a wall
reserve of what we needed to conduct a campaign against Russia if we
actually got to war . "OK, stop flying."
F: That must have been--
L: I know about money. Every soldier knows about money. So it always has
been taken into account . But the thing that we objected to in the McNamara
regime is the lack of judgment that went into the solution of these
problems . They used a computer, completely the Harvard Business School
manner of solving the problem, and would not grind in the judgment factor
and the experience factor .
F: They never saw it done .
L: Of course I'm of a generation that did not get the normal education that
anyone in a military career normally has of going to a company grade school
and staff school and war college and national war college . I didn't get
that. Before the war, I was too young to go to war so-called tactical
school, which is the only one we had before the National War College .
I did get a three months get-rich-quick course shortly before the war,
but that's all. I didn't have the rest of this . I do know this: What I
did get most of it was 180 degrees off of what I found when I got out
where the lead was flying around . So things changed. I'm not talking about
the basic principles of war, but some of the things that were being
taught in the schools were over 180 degrees off. The best thing I got out
of it was how to do staff problems, how to do some thinking--work things
out. The basic information such as what is in your head and make proper
use of it to do some thinking--do some thinking . With this computer use
we got computers in SAC long before they had them in the Secretary of
Defense's office. As a matter of fact, it was the Air Force and military
money that developed the computer from the start . We had it early before
it was in business at all . We learned some lessons that business learned.
We expected to save manpower by having this computer. It turned out that
we never did save any manpower because we found it would do so many things
that we didn't dream of using for . But we wanted this information, and
we had to have people to make use of it . And this is true in business .
I was on the National Geographic Society; I had been on their board for
years . We decided to go to a computer, and one of the arguments that the
staff was making when they presented it to the board was how much manpower
they were going to save by doing it . I pointed out our experience in the
Air Force and we never saved any manpower . And, sure enough, they didn't
in National Geographic either . As a matter of fact, it cost us manpower
because of the many other things that we wanted to do after we got the
computer . Well, you have to grind in your experience and your judgment in
in the solving of these problems because you're dealing with people on
the other side of the fence, and you can't always predict people .
F: That goes back to the painting too . Once you have put all the strokes into
the painting, and once you've fed all the information into the computer,
you still have to have somebody to evaluate what comes out . And the
computer is not a replacement .
L: I'll have a statement . And that's to the effect that I want it clearly
understood that none of this will be used during my lifetime or the lifetime
of people I have talked about somewhat in an uncomplimentary manner .
Perhaps they were trying to carry out their duty as they saw it, but I
think history has proven that they were wrong and disastrously so in many
F: It's like you were talking about awhile ago. You can't play it both ways
at the same time . If we had gone and finally decided to commit to Vietnam,
and would have gone in and wound it up like we did, say, in the Dominican
Republic, where it was over with in a little while. And we got a lot of
criticism and now it's forgotten . With this it would immediately have
died down and have been forgotten . In other words--
: I think one of the most frustrating things that I was faced with up there
was the basic intellectual dishonesty of a lot of these people . Well, the
flap they had in the public relations affair, where a first public relations
officer under McNamara--what was the name--Sylvester .
F: Yes .
L: "Well, the government has a right to lie to the people." And they were
certainly lying right and left, because I would sit there and know something
about a subject--or thought I knew something about it--knew everything
that the Joint Chiefs knew about a problem we had or a subject that we had,
and as far as we knew it was top secret . And the next morning we would see
it in the newspaper, and no one had told us that the security classification
had been changed and there it would be . But the answer would be 180
degrees off from what the truth was . In many cases they didn't come right
out and lie, but they would if it was necessary . Most of the time they
would work around the edges to come up with the wrong answer, and if you
take individual statements and go down through the line and say, "Well,
that one is true ; this is 90% true ; this is 40% true ; this one isn't true;"
but when you got down to the end, it would come out 180 degrees off . Well,
that's the way it was mostly handled in the newspaper. Time after time.
This came out of the administration although I know newspaper people did
this to meet their own - ends too . I used to have a cocktail party for
newspaper men every Christmas time while I was Chief of Staff, not because
I wanted to do it, but because my PIO told me I ought to do it, so I did it.
And it came one time the day after one of these particularly horrible
things happened in the newspaper . And I got a couple of newspaper men I
had known them for a long time off in the corner to have a couple of
drinks and said, "Look, I have known you for a long time, and I have to
admit that you are not the smartest people in the world I have ever met,
but you are not the stupidest either . And you have been over to the
Pentagon for a long time, and you know your way out to the can . Now my
question to you is after all this screaming you do about a free press,
about getting the truth to the people, and how necessary it is and so
forth and the 'holier than thou' attitude that you take . Why did you
print that article yesterday? Because I know that you know that it is
a damn lie." And they squirmed around a little bit and finally one of
them says, "Well if the Secretary or the President says something then
that is news, we have got to print it ." I said "Nuts. This may be an
answer you give to a journalism student or something like that but don't
give it to me . I know why you did it. Because right now, nobody will
talk to you in the military services any more . It's not like it used
to be where you could go around and talk to everybody and every once
in a while you get an honest difference of opinion and so forth, and
you treated it as an honest difference of opinion, didn't play it up
as a mutiny within the services and so forth . They won't do that any
more because they wind up out of the service ."
L: "Nobody will talk to you any more . The only place you can get any
information is this mimeograph sheet that Sylvester handed out to you .
And if you don't print it, then you don't ever get that anymore. And
not only that, if your newspaper owns a television station, the FCC
then decides they might look over your license again and see whether
it would be renewed. The income tax people decided that this is a good
time to reaudit your books and so forth and a lot of other things
happened. You really got problems on your hands." And one of them says
"Pardon me I need another drink," and that ended the conversation.
F: You must have a real problem there. You've got to walk that line between
security and the democratic process, and I don't suppose there is any
solution to it .
L: Well, yes, there is a solution to it, but to make a basic statement we
haven't got a perfect government, but I'm constantly amazed at how good
it is--how good it is . Constantly amazed at the foresight of our fore
fathers who produced the thing . And I just can't understand how so much
detail is taken care of and how good a document it really is . It's a
source of amazement to me because we have the checks and balances there
that keep us on the right track . It's slow, ponderous, yes, but the
chekcs and balances are there and maybe we can improve on it, but I think
we ought to do an awful lot of thinking before we do .
F: Thank you, General .