Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mad Bomber?

Well I finished the LeMay book a week ago, or so.  Pretty good read, I had very little knowledge of the man prior to this.

As you might guess, war is a central theme of the book.  I don't believe there is an official 'LeMay Doctrine,' but if there were, it would be something like, Do not go lightly into a war.  Think long and hard.  Once in, WIN!  And that means doing whatever it takes.

"Whatever it takes" might sound a bit harsh but in LeMay's view the men in charge of prosecuting the war owe it to the people of both sides (but especially his side, of course) to bring about a swift end to hostilities and get back to normal.  If this meant bombing cities then so be it.  In WWII, especially the last six months of the war against Japan, it meant exactly that.

What it would NOT mean would be 'anything goes.'  What's the difference between 'whatever it takes' and 'anything goes'?  Efficacy.  You might do some pretty horrible things, but you only do them for the positive end of shortening the war.  If it takes dropping an Atomic Bomb, or two, you do it.  (This is LeMay talking yet.)  You do NOT do things that don't promote that end, such as abusing prisoners or allowing your soldiers to 'take liberties' with the other sides' civilians or property.  LeMay wasn't actually on the policy side, he was a strategist, but he would NOT have agreed with the Bush/Cheney 'enhanced interrogation' program.  Unless he would have been convinced that the program would produce valuable information.  Which it never did, nor would he have been so deluded, in my opinion. 

The Vietnam War frustrated LeMay in a big way.  He could not see any sense in fighting a 'limited war.'  Either fight it or don't, he thought, and if you're going to fight it, go all in.  There were reasons why the U.S. wouldn't/couldn't do that, in Vietnam and that drove LeMay crazy.  Similarly I believe he would be appalled at our Afghanistan policy, or lack thereof.  'Figure out want you want to accomplish, then go about it in the most efficient manner possible.'   Anybody think we're doing that?

Next up (already on page 70):  Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present.  See you in a month.  ;  )


  1. Kevin,
    Great post! As I had written before - and maybe that was the mind-set that you described with Lemay coming out - I fault the man for being a belligerant during the Cuban missile crisis. What was needed was calm resolve not bombing missions on the missile bases in Cuba.
    I do credit Lemay with playing a major role in for the large part - keeping the Cold War, cold.
    SAC's motto (likely a Lemayism) was "Power For Peace" and "Peace is our profession".

    A little not to that - the 99th SRS (strategic reconnassaince squadron) first at U-Tapao, Thailand and later Odan, Korea had shirts with a U-2 on them and a slogan - "Peace is our profession; spying is just a hobby".

    SAC was different - ask anyone who has seen a MITO (minimum interval takeoff) launch - I seen
    a nine ship MITO - five B-52's and four KC-135
    tankers. Noise and black smoke - the entire strike force was airborne in a little over two minutes.


  2. I wouldn't be too hard on LeMay vis a vis Cuba, Sarge. (But let's be glad it wasn't just up to him.) It was is job to present Kennedy with that option and he did it. Had Kennedy wanted to pursue that policy he would have been happy to have LeMay in charge of his part. The book mentioned a couple times that Kennedy/McNamara kept LeMay on the joint chiefs when many thought he would be gone, because they knew they could count on him.

    I guess we should also be glad that Kennedy was President during that crisis, and not Goldwater or somebody.