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 enigmatic 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 both famous and notorious. The book is 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.
©2009 Warren Kozak (P)2012 Phoenix
LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay is hagiography from beginning to end. There is little critical insight provided by Kozak, who seems to be attempting to rehabilitate the reputation of a very complex individual. Kozak tends to magnify LeMay's virtues as a military leader (the youngest Major General---really? James Gavin might fit that role, based on date of rank; the only field/general office to lead troops into battle---really? Most Airborne commanders dropped with their troops in War 2) and soft peddled the effectiveness of the whole strategic bombing philosophy, of which LeMay was a dedicated proponent. There is little consideration given to the vicious firebombing campaign which devastated Japanese cities far more than the atomic bomb strikes, other than to adopt a "well, it wasn't nice, but it was war, after all" approach. LeMay's time in SAC received similar treatment.
The worst part of this audiobook was the narration. The narrator constantly mispronounced words, skipped words, and changed words in a bombastic tone that recalled Charlton Heston chewing scenery. I found myself switching frequently to the text just to escale the narrator.
The world deserves a good biography of Curtis LeMay: this isn't it.
He did what was needful to win and was the hero/boogieman of a generation of US Air Force servicemen. He has since had no equal.
Good historical context about the firebombing of Tokyo, far beyond what they teach you in school.
No. Too heavy and intense. Needed to be taken in small doses over a period of weeks.
Say something about yourself!
Curtis LeMay is one of the more misunderstood heroes of WW II. His legacy was tarnished by his decision to run with George Wallace in 1968. Yet he was one of the most effective military leaders of his era who simply has not gotten the credit he is due. I don’t recall hearing much about LeMay in the various histories of that era, but this book highlights the significant contribution this man made to the Allied war effort in both Europe and Japan. His success in whatever he undertook is quite remarkable.
LeMay was known to be a demanding leader. He came into difficult situations and figured out how to fix them. Perhaps the most controversial was his decision to use incendiary bombs on Japan. LeMay thought he could destroy all industrial cities in Japan by October, a few weeks ahead of the planned invasion in November. The atomic bomb brought an end to that. Later he organized the Berlin Airlift and set up the Strategic Air Command. Worth a read!
"Adequate biography, poorly narrated"
This is a fairly unimaginative but adequate biography of a fascinating man. It draws heavily upon secondary sources, especially LeMay's own autobiography, so centres very much on his wartime experiences rather than his SAC time and after his retirement. It is also pretty uncritical, and does a weak job in debating the vastly controversial issues surrounding this complex man. Nonetheless, it does describe, albeit from LeMay's perspective, his role in the strategic bombing of both Germany and Japan, and to a lesser degree, his role in the development of Strategic Air Command. His relationship with MacNamara and two Presidents in the '60s is also touched upon, although this fascinating and important topic is not well covered, as it is not well covered in LeMay's own book.
It is fine as far as it goes, but the production is poor. There are many instances where "fluffs" are not edited, but the most salient issue is the narration, which is memorably dreadful. The narrator manages to mangle almost every 4 syllable word in the book (really; after a while I started to watch out for them). He invents new words all of his own as he stumbles past the three syllable mark and loses concentration with the rest of the word. His ability to get the intonation wrong started to turn English into a different language. As for foreign names and places, the fun was often trying to fathom where or whom he actually meant.
All in all, it was OK, but that is all.
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