Begin New Search
Refine Last Search
Cemetery Lookup
Add Burial Records
Help with Find A Grave

Find all LeMays in:
 • United States Air Force Academy Cemetery
 • Colorado Springs
 • El Paso County
 • Colorado
 • Find A Grave

Top Contributors
Success Stories
Community Forums
Find A Grave Store

Log In
Gen Curtis Emerson LeMay
Birth: Nov. 15, 1906
Franklin County
Ohio, USA
Death: Oct. 1, 1990
Riverside County
California, USA

US Air Force General, Vice Presidential Candidate. He served as the Commander-in-Chief of Strategic Air Command and was the 5th Chief of Staff of the US Air Force. He is credited with designing and implementing an effective, but also controversial, systematic strategic bombing campaign against the cities in Japan in the Pacific theater of World War II, along with a crippling mine laying campaign in Japan's internal waterways. His father was at times an ironworker and general handyman, going as far as Montana and California to try and find work. Eventually they returned to his native city of Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Columbus public schools, graduating from Columbus South High School, and studied civil engineering at Ohio State University in Columbus where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1928. While at Ohio State University, he joined the Reserve Officers Training Corps. In October 1929 he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the US Army Air Corps Reserve and received a regular commission in the US Army Air Corps the following January. He became a pursuit pilot and, while stationed in Hawaii, became one of the first members of the Air Corps to receive specialized training in aerial navigation. When the US entered World War II in December 1941 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he had attained the rank of major nine months earlier and became commander of a newly created B-17 Flying Fortress unit, the 305th Bomb Group. He took this unit to England in October 1942 as part of the 8th Air Force, and led it in combat until May 1943, notably helping to develop the combat box formation. In September 1943 he became the first commander of the newly-formed 3rd Air Division. He personally led several dangerous missions, including the Regensburg section of the Schweinfurt-Regensburg mission of August 17, 1943. In that mission, he led 146 B-17 aircraft to Regensburg, Germany, beyond the range of escorting fighters, and, after bombing, continued on to bases in North Africa, losing 24 bombers in the process. During his tour in Europe he rose rapidly up the ranks, with promotions to lieutenant colonel in January 1942, colonel in June 1942, brigadier general in September 1943, and major general in March 1944. In August 1944 he was transferred to the China-Burma-India theater and directed first the 20th Bomber Command in China and then the 21st Bomber Command in the Pacific. He was later placed in charge of all strategic air operations against the Japanese home islands. He soon concluded that the techniques and tactics developed for use in Europe against the Luftwaffe were unsuitable against Japan. His Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers flying from China were dropping their bombs near their targets only 5% of the time and operational losses of aircraft and crews were unacceptably high due to Japanese daylight air defenses and continuing mechanical problems with the B-29 aircraft. He became convinced that high-altitude precision bombing would be ineffective, given the usually cloudy weather over Japan and switched to low-altitude nighttime incendiary attacks on Japanese targets, a tactic senior commanders had been advocating for some time. After he implemented this unorthodox plan and the strike rate went up to 80 percent. He commanded subsequent B-29 Superfortress combat operations against Japan, with massive incendiary attacks on 67 Japanese cities, including the firebombing of Tokyo on the night of March 9-10, 1945, the most destructive bombing raid of the war. He also oversaw Operation Starvation, an aerial mining operation against Japanese waterways and ports that disrupted Japanese shipping and food distribution, supplementing a tight Allied submarine blockade of the home islands, drastically reducing Japan's ability to supply its overseas forces to the point that postwar analysis concluded that it could have defeated Japan on its own had it begun earlier. In September 1945 he piloted one of three specially modified B-29 aircraft flying from Japan to the US, and in the process broke several aviation records, including the greatest US Army Air Force takeoff weight, the longest US Army Air Force non-stop flight, and the first ever non-stop Japan to Chicago flight. After the conclusion of World War II, he was briefly transferred to Washington DC as deputy chief of Air Staff for Research & Development. In 1947 he returned to Europe as commander of US Air Forces in Europe, heading operations for the Berlin Airlift in 1948 in the face of a blockade by the Soviet Union and its satellite states that threatened to starve the civilian population of the Western occupation zones of Berlin. Under his direction, Douglas C-54 Skymaster aircraft that could each carry 10 tons of cargo began supplying the city on July 1, 1948. By the fall of that year, the airlift was bringing in an average of 5,000 tons of supplies a day with 500 daily flights. The airlift continued for 11 months with 213,000 flights that transported 1.7 million tons of food and fuel to Berlin. Faced with the failure of its blockade, the Soviet Union relented and reopened land corridors to the West. Though he is sometimes publicly credited with the success of the Berlin Airlift, it was, in fact, instigated by General Lucius D. Clay when he called LeMay about the problem. LeMay initially started flying supplies into Berlin, but then decided that it was a job for a logistics expert and he transferred it to Lieutenant General William H. Tunner, who took over the operational end of the Berlin Airlift. In January 1948 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and returned to the US to head the Strategic Air Command (SAC) at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. When he took over command of SAC, it consisted of little more than a few understaffed B-29 bombardment groups left over from World War II. Upon being promoted to the rank of general in October 1951 at age 44, he became the youngest four-star general in American history since Ulysses S. Grant and was the youngest four-star general in modern history as well as the longest serving in that rank. In 1956 and 1957 he implemented tests of 24-hour bomber and tanker alerts, keeping some bomber forces ready at all times. He served as Commander-in-Chief of SAC until 1957, overseeing its transformation into a modern, efficient, all-jet force. His tenure was the longest over an American military command in nearly 100 years. In July 1957 he was appointed Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force in Washington DC, and served in that capacity until 1961, when he was made the 5th Chief of Staff of the US Air Force. His belief in the efficacy of strategic air campaigns over tactical strikes and ground support operations became Air Force policy during his tenure as Chief of Staff. Although he lost significant appropriation battles for the Skybolt air-launched ballistic missile and the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress replacement, the North American XB-70 Valkyrie, he was largely successful at expanding Air Force budgets. He advocated the introduction of satellite technology and pushed for the development of the latest electronic warfare techniques. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, he clashed with President John F. Kennedy and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, arguing that he should be allowed to bomb nuclear missile sites in Cuba. He opposed the naval blockade and, after the end of the crisis, suggested that Cuba be invaded anyway, even after the Russians agreed to withdraw. He referred to the peaceful resolution of the crisis "the greatest defeat in our history." He retired as the Air Force Chief of Staff in February 1965 with 37 years of continued service in the US Army Air Corps and US Air Force. Among his military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal with 2 oak leaf clusters, the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 oak leaf clusters, the Air Medal with 3 oak leaf clusters, the Presidential Unit Citation Medal with oak leaf cluster, the American Defense Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 3 bronze campaign stars, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 4 bronze campaign stars, the World War II Victory Medal, the Army of Occupation Medal with Berlin Airlift Device, the Medal for Humane Action, the National Defense Service Medal with one bronze star, and the Air Force Longevity Service Award with 6 oak leaf clusters. His foreign awards include the British Distinguished Flying Cross, the French Croix de Guerre with Palm, the Belgian Croix de Guerre, with Palm, the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun, Grand Cordon, the Brazilian Order of the Southern Cross, the Brazilian Order of Aeronautical Merit, the Moroccan Order of Ouissam Alaouite, the Swedish Commander Grand Cross of the Royal Order of the Sword, the Argentinean Order of Aeronautical Merit, Grades of Grand Official and Grand Cross, the Chilean Order of the Merit, the Chilean Medalla Militar de Primera Clase, the Ecuadorian Order of Aeronautical Merit (Knight Commander), the Uruguay Aviador Militar Honoris Causa (Piloto Commandante), and the U.S.S.R Order of the Patriotic War, 1st Degree. He was a command pilot. After his retirement, he moved to California where he was approached by conservatives to challenge moderate Republican Thomas Kuchel for his US Senate seat in 1968, but he declined. For the US presidential race that year, he originally supported Richard Nixon and turned down several requests by George Wallace to join his American Independent Party that year on the grounds that a third-party candidacy might hurt Nixon's chances at the polls. However, he gradually became convinced that Nixon planned to pursue a conciliatory policy with the Soviets and accept nuclear parity rather than retain America's first-strike supremacy. Consequently he decided to throw his support to Wallace and eventually became Wallace's running mate, while being fully aware of Wallace's segregationist platform. Wallace had a 21% approval rating until LeMay gave a nationally televised press conference where he argued that the government should consider using nuclear weapons to bring an end to the Vietnam War. This shocked the American public and his comments helped Richard Nixon win an easy victory. However, the Wallace-LeMay ticket received 13.5 percent of the popular vote, higher than most third-party candidacies in the US, and carried five states for a total of 46 electoral votes. He authored 3 books, "Mission with LeMay: My Story" (1965), "America is in Danger" (1968), and " Superfortress: The Story of the B-29 and American Air Power" (1988). An avid sports car and racing fan, as the "SAC era" began to wind down, he loaned out facilities of SAC bases for use by the Sports Car Club of America (SCAA), when the era of early street races began to die out. He was awarded the Woolf Barnato Award, SCCA's highest award, for contributions to the Club, in 1954 and in 2007 he was inducted into the SCCA Hall of Fame. He died at March Air Force Base, California at the age of 83. The headquarters building of SAC at Offutt AFB in Nebraska is named in his honor. It was built in the late 1950s and was the headquarters of SAC until its disbandment in 1992. (bio by: William Bjornstad) 
Family links: 
  Erving Edwin LeMay (1883 - 1966)
  Arizona Dove Carpenter LeMay (1887 - 1967)
  Curtis Emerson LeMay (1906 - 1990)
  Velma Evelyn LeMay Scherr (1911 - 1998)*
  Leonard Ray LeMay (1917 - 2002)*
*Calculated relationship
United States Air Force Academy Cemetery
Colorado Springs
El Paso County
Colorado, USA
Plot: Section 3 Row D Grave 75
GPS (lat/lon): 39.0092, -104.51318
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Jun 03, 2000
Find A Grave Memorial# 9654
Gen Curtis Emerson LeMay
Added by: Joseph Papalia
Gen Curtis Emerson LeMay
Added by: David N. Lotz
Gen Curtis Emerson LeMay
Cemetery Photo
Added by: pearl
Photos may be scaled.
Click on image for full size.

26 years
- Nancy Forrest
 Added: Sep. 26, 2016
Thank you for your service, I have freedom because of men like you.
- Anita Bennich Penn
 Added: Sep. 26, 2016
God bless you on your Birthday (US Air Force's 69th Birthday). Rest in Peace
- Rick
 Added: Sep. 18, 2016
There are 437 more notes not showing...
Click here to view all notes...
Do you have a photo to add? Click here
How famous was this person?
Current ranking for this person: (4.5 after 138 votes)

Privacy Statement and Terms of Service UPDATED