LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay

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9781596985698: LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay

Hero or Villain?

THE FIREBOMBING OF TOKYO. Strategic Air Command. John F. Kennedy. Dr. Strangelove. George Wallace. All of these have one man in common—General Curtis LeMay, who remains as unknowable and controversial as he was in life.

Until now. Warren Kozak traces the trajectory of America’s most infamous general, from his troubled background and heroic service in Europe to his firebombing of Tokyo, guardianship of the U.S. nuclear arsenal in the Cold War, frustrated career in government, and short-lived political run. Curtis LeMay’s life spanned an epoch in American military history, from the small U.S. Army Air Corps of the interwar years to the nuclear age.

LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay tells the whole story of the innovative pilot and navigator; the courageous general who led his bomber formations from the front, flying the lead bomber; the brilliant strategist; the unflagging patriot; and the founder of modern strategic bombing, who was famous and notorious in turns.

In LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay, you’ll learn:


  • How LeMay developed the strategy and techniques that transformed Allied bombing in World War II, radically improving results and saving lives
  • Why he developed the plan of fire-bombing Tokyo
  • Why he expected a war with Russia
  • How he tried to prevent the Bay of Pigs disaster
  • Who really came up with the idea of bombing the North Vietnamese back into the Stone Age”
  • Why he agreed to be George Wallace’s running mate in the election of 1968—despite loathing Wallace and most of his policies

LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay gives an unprecedented glimpse into the might and mind of one of the founding fathers of air power, whose influence, and controversy, continues to this day.

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About the Author:

Warren Kozak is an author and journalist who has written for television's most respected news anchors. Winner of the prestigious Benton Fellowship at the University of Chicago in 1993, he was an on-air reporter for NPR and his work has appeared on PBS and in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Sun as well as other newspapers and magazines. Warren Kozak was born and raised in Wisconsin and lives in New York City with his wife and daughter.

Review:

Gen. Curtis LeMay doesn't enjoy the fame fellow World War II hero Gen. Douglas MacArthur does. Blame it on LeMay's joining forces with presidential candidate George Wallace in the late 1960s, or a culture with too short a memory span.

A new book, LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay, aims to right this historical wrong.

Author Warren Kozak explains to readers about one of the country's most remarkable warriors, a man whose bravery and military genius helped Allied forces smash the Axis in the Second World War.

LeMay was a social outcast, a cold, stern leader who could barely carry on a conversation in polite society. But few men could engineer more successful bombing plans or shift strategies in mid-war as well as he could.

LeMay emerges as a complicated hero, a man who orchestrated the deaths of thousands during World War II but harbored no ill will toward the people living in his cross hairs. He labored mightily to improve the U.S. military machine during World War II but then quickly shifted his energies and intellect toward helping Germans via the Berlin airlift.

Military buffs will delight at the colorful details that punctuate LeMay's life. Kozak's meticulous retelling of key war decisions and the reasons a particular air raid met with spectacular success -- or failure -- will grab even casual military buffs.

Kozak doesn't sugarcoat LeMay's flaws. He consistently paints the general as aloof, socially awkward, even distant to his closest associates. And anyone who served under him will likely say the same thing. But they'd also say how fiercely he fought for his country, and how much they respected him for it.

Much of that respect disappeared when LeMay's post-war career led him into politics, deciding to join George Wallace's presidential ticket, a decision born out of a fear that the nation's foreign policy wouldn't be tough enough against the Soviet Union.

"He was the worst person possible to go into politics," his daughter Janie LeMay said. Plus, he didn't agree with Wallace's views on race. But the general feared a continuation of existing foreign policy could be disastrous to the country, so he set aside his disdain for politics and joined the ticket.

That unwise decision stained his character, erasing his heroism in the minds of some Americans. The media, in reporting his death, focused on his hawkish comments and his Wallace ties but not his great heroism.

LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay salutes a man who rose to prominence precisely when his country needed him the most. The lessons of his victories are ones today's politicians would be wise to consider.

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