“News from the Hut”
for American Legion Post #142; Hominy, Oklahoma.
by Gary Lanham
On this day in 1990 Air Force General and VP candidate Curtis E. LeMay died at March Air Force Base, California, at age 83. General Curtis Emerson LeMay was the “Father of the Strategic Air Command.” (SAC). This was significant to me as I was stationed at March AFB California in 1974 with SAC serving as a weapons loader on B-52 Bombers.
Gen LeMay took over SAC as its commander in 1948, it consisted of little more than a few understaffed and untrained B-29 groups left over from World War II. Less than half its aircraft were operational and the crews were next to worthless. He ordered a mock bombing raid on Dayton, Ohio, and most of the bombers missed their targets by one to two miles. That was unacceptable. He subjected his men to vigorous training and long hours of hard work, but fought for additional pay and better housing to make their demanding lives more tolerable. It was still somewhat like that in my time with regular Operational Readiness Inspections sleeping on the flight line working eighteen hour shifts just to hone our mission skills under duress.
He obtained vast fleets of new bombers, established a vast aerial refueling system, started many new units and bases, began missile development, and established a strict command and control system. When he left the command in 1957 to assume his new job as Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, SAC was the most powerful military force the world had ever seen. But that was only one of his many accomplishments.
He was the outstanding air combat leader of World War II. He developed the bombardment tactics and strategies that left Nazi Germany in rubble. He was transferred to the Pacific theater, where he took over command of the B-29’s and led the air war against Japan. He incinerated every major Japanese city and oversaw the dropping of the atomic bombs. After the war, he organized he famous Berlin Air Lift. It was this confrontation that began the Cold War and resulted in LeMay being given the job of whipping the fledging Strategic Air Command into shape. He was always the best pilot, best navigator and best bombardier in ever unit he ever served or commanded. He often demonstrated his courage by personally leading his bombers on the dangerous missions, including what many regard as the most dangerous mission ever flown; the attack on Regensburg, Germany.
The Army Air Forces lost half of the 1,000 planes launched that day, which has gone down in Air Force history as “Black Thursday.” If his crews weren’t flying missions, then they were subjected to his relentless training. He believed it was the key to saving their lives and more quickly ending the war. They had various nicknames for him I won’t repeat because he demanded so much, but they respected him immensely. A popular story that was widely circulated in SAC is that he approached a fully-fueled bomber with his ever-present cigar stuck firmly between his lips. A guard asked him to put it out, as it might blow up the aircraft. LeMay replied, “It wouldn’t dare.” Curtis LeMay served as a general for seventeen years, longer than any other man in the history of the United States military. He received every award his country could bestow, other than the Medal of Honor. He is buried in the United States Air Force Academy Cemetery at Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Have you bought your ticket for the Damascus Knife raffle (donated by Dan Rathbun)! Tickets are on sell. The drawing will be November 11th, Veteran’s Day. Tickets are $1 each and 6 tickets for $5. You can get your ticket around town where you see advertising or any American Legion member (the usual gang).
Don’t forget our regular meetings continue the first and third Thursdays of the month at 7:00 PM (October 1st and 18th). October 1st there is a dinner and it will start at 6:00 PM. Jerry says it will be a surprise. Monday morning Koffee Klatch meetings in October are still scheduled for biscuits and gravy and maybe a waffle or two and always a cup of Joe (coffee to the civilians). If you are a veteran come on by. If you have a good story it may end up in print. Also keep up with us at website “americanlegion142.org”.