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Curtis E. Le May

General USAF

Renowned Air Commander

Born Columbus, Ohio

November 15, 1906—

Curtis Emerson Le May graduated from Ohio State University in 1928. He received his pilots wings at the Air Corps Flying School in 1929, the beginning of a thirty-eight year military career from a pilot in the elite First Pursuit Croup to Chief of Staff United States Air Force. "Curt" Le May was respected throughout his service for his vision, high order of discipline, and the professionalism he demanded of himself and his commands.

From fighter pilot to bombardment pilot in the mid-1930's, he pioneered and became a leading expert in aerial celestial navigation. He proved his thesis on the 1938 B-17 Goodwill Flight to South America and the intercept of the ocean liner Rex, 800 miles off the U.S. coast in 1940. As Commander of the 305th Bombardment Group in England in 1942 and later as Commander of the 3rd Air Division, he developed the novel tactic of low altitude, non-evasive bombing. This was to become a major technique of World War II strategic air operations. In 1944, he assumed command of the struggling 20th Air Force B-29 operations in China. Later in 1945, he moved to the Marianas Islands in the Pacific to lead the 21st Air Force B-29's in low altitude operations in the final air assault on Japan. After the war, he was Deputy Chief of Staff for Research and Development and then Commander U.S. Air Forces in Europe where he organized the historic Berlin Airlift in 1947, employing air power for humanitarism. He led the Strategic Air Command from 1948 to 1957, when he became Vice Chief and then Chief of Staff of the Air Force in 1961.

He led the Air Force through its transformation into an all jet force of great mobility, missiles, and high professionalism. General Le May retired from active service in 1965.

Invested 1979 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame

From "These We Honor," The International Hall of Fame; The San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, CA. 1984


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Updated: March 12, 2004