General Curtis Lemay was by far the most important person responsible for the US winning WWII. We knew that we had to destroy Germany’s production capacity to ever defeat them, but we were bombing them and losing large numbers of bombers and men and destroying practically nothing. As leader if one of our major bomber units, Lemay was very distressed about this. God waked him in the middle of one night and put into his mind the amazing innovation of how to bomb effectively. When he told his men how they were going to now bomb, they thought they would all be killed. Many wrote home saying: “Mama, I ain’t coming home”. I explain the details in my new book.
Lemay told them that he would be flying the lead plane. His innovation was so effective that the whole 8th Army Airforce adopted it withing two weeks and we eventually destroyed Germany’s ability to make war.
At that point we had put almost no bombs on Japan. We now had the B-29, but it really needed two more years of testing to fly into combat. Because of the horrific jet stream winds over the Japanese islands and bombing from above 25,000 feet, we were hitting almost nothing. That was when the military leaders in Washington sent Lemay there to make “effective bombing happen”.
Once again he became very, very distressed. They were flying that long distance and losing so many planes from technical problems and hitting almost nothing. Lemay knew how desperately critical it was to destroy Japan’s ability to make war; for It was being estimated that we would lose at least one million men upon the planned invasion of Japan’s home islands.
Yet, again God waked him in the middle of the night and put into his mind what to do. The Japanese AA shells all had fuses put into them at their factories set for 25,000 feet. It would take them at least two weeks to change them to a lower altitude. Lemay calculated that they did not have AA guns of any quantity to shoot at lower altitudes. They called him “Iron Pants”. He walked into their briefing room and the “ten shun” was called out for them to jump to attention. And when he told them that they would be bombing Tokyo at 5,000 feet and all their defensive guns and gun crews removed to allow for more incendiary bombs, they all wrote home once again: “Mama I ain’t coming home”.
Within three weeks Lemay’s B-29s had destroyed the war making potential in 66 major Japanese cities. The atomic bomb got the credit for ending that war, but I can assure you that the destruction of those 66 cities had very much to do with it.
Lemay then went on to found the Strategic Air Command that was the real reason that we won the “Cold War” against the Russians.
Now, here is what I really wanted to tell you: Through an amazing set of circumstances, years later, I became General Lemay’s hunting partner and bunk mate. In my new book I describe how unusual it was that we became so very bonded together. He told me things that I doubt that he had ever told most anybody.
So, with all of that background, here is just one of them…………. You have heard how General Douglas McArthur was brought back to the US by Truman. It was a very unpopular move to many people across the country. McArthur had spoken before a joint session of Congress and had spoken at a “moving” convocation of the Cadets at West Point where his closing words were: “In the evening of my memory, always I come back to West Point. Always there echos and re-echos – Duty – Honor – County. Today marks my final roll call with you, but I want you to know that when I cross the river my last conscious thoughts will be of The Corps, and The Corps, and the Corps. I bid you farewell!”
McArthur was now retired and living in a suite in the Waldorf in NYC. He was such a special and unusual man. If he called you and asked to see you, you just had to go, even if you were Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which Lemay was. McArthur did not want see the President or any other general……….just Curtis Lemay. I asked the General what he wanted, and he said: “It only took a few minutes, Ron”. McArthur said: “Lemay, I want you to promise me on your mother’s grave, that you will never let our boys fight those people in their jungles or their rice patties.”
That was just before the Vietnam war. Most of us had never heard of Vietnam and for sure did not know where it was. When the conflict broke out, General Lemay said that he tried to keep that promise. He told the Joint Chiefs and the President: “Look, those people only have one real town and one port where everything has to come through. In one night I can wipe them both out and you won’t have a war”.
After 28,000 US servicemen had died, we finally bombed that town and port. The North Vietnamese were in Paris in two weeks suing for peace. We won the war, but just walked away.