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LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay Paperback – Bargain Price, October 17, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Kozak’s biography of U.S. Air Force General Curtis E. LeMay (1906–1990) won’t convert those utterly convinced that he was a bomb-happy maniac. The more open-minded, however, will find in it a broader perspective on this controversial officer than we have had elsewhere. His outstanding competence as leader and organizer of strategic airpower in World War II and during the cold war is convincingly presented; so are his limitations in the Pentagon and his poor judgment in being George Wallace’s running mate in 1968. Kozak suggests that LeMay was utterly dedicated to the mission of destroying his country’s enemies and to the men under his command charged with carrying out that mission. This led to what can only be called a certain lack of the social graces and a good many of what might charitably be called misinterpretations of where LeMay’s patriotism led him. A book that definitely belongs in aviation and modern military history collections. --Roland Green --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Praise for LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay

“Fearless, innovative, shrewd, abrasive, LeMay is the father of modern air power and the man Robert McNamara has called, ‘the finest combat commander the US has ever produced.’ His flaws are famous, but this fine, candid book also shows how much we owe him.”
—R. JAMES WOOLSEY, former Director of Central Intelligence

“Warren Kozak has captured brilliantly the essence of one of America’s greatest generals and combat commanders. I knew General LeMay when I was a captain and he was chief of staff. LeMay was the United States Air Force’s greatest strategist and tactician. He led the way in defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan with airpower, and was instrumental in deterring the Soviet Union during his leadership of the Strategic Air Command. He was not widely liked, but he was greatly respected by those who served under him.”
—LIEUTENANT GENERAL THOMAS G. MCINERNEY, United States Air Force, retired, former Assistant Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force

“A splendid analysis of and tribute to one of America’s great, if under-appreciated, war fighters. LeMay had a genius for organizing forces and campaigns—reflected in the World War II air campaigns against both Germany and Japan, the Berlin airlift, and the creation of the Strategic Air Command from the shambles of post World War II demobilization. While he may have had ‘almost no social graces’—as an Air Force Chief observed—he was a disciplinarian who served the nation effectively in war and peace. This is an excellent biography.”
—JAMES SCHLESINGER, former Secretary of Defense

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 434 pages
  • Publisher: Regnery History; Reprint edition (October 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596987693
  • ASIN: B007F7X850
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,784,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

203 of 219 people found the following review helpful By J. L. Lodge on April 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As the daughter of Curtis LeMay I found this book the most cogent and descriptive of my father the man. Many of the myths that frequently clouded the facts and lead to a misunderstanding are dispelled. Kozak has done extensive research and presented a candid and unbiased account of his colorful career.

I never saw my father as anything less than honest, fair and a willing leader beloved and respected by those he commanded. Frequently he has been quoted as having said of the Vietnam War "bomb them back to the stone age". Personally I can set the record straight. This was not his quote but MacKinlay Kantor's statement missed in my father's early editing of the manuscript for "Mission with LeMay". My family is heartened to know that his sacrifices, contributions and patriotism are being recognized.
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63 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Laura Shubert on April 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I began this book because of my interest in the Second World War. Curtis LeMay seems to have been the only significant figure on the American side without an in-depth biography. Well, he has one now, but that is not my point. Looking for a biography of a man of the middle 20th century, I found a biography of the United States in the middle 20th century. Only in America would this child of a terminally unsuccessful, uneducated father work his way through college, join the Army and make such an amazing success of his life without the advantages of a "good family," good looks, charm, social or political adeptness, or even all that much luck. What he had was guts, brains, and the ability to apply relentlessly those guts and brains to the problem at hand. It seems that the only "gift" he was endowed with was the ability to inspire others to work hard and fight hard, but this inspirational "gift" was probably the natural consequence of his own hard work and devotion to duty and country. Indeed, he was such a lousy politician that he thought that he could actually accomplish something useful by a short-term alliance with George Wallace (of all people!), with whose abhorrent views he disagreed.

Although I purchased the book because of LeMay's role in the Second World War, what I found most interesting was the application of LeMay's ideas to the problems faced by the United States today. LeMay believed (of course) that is the job of the politicians to decide when and where to go to war (and they had better think long and hard about that!) but, once they have made that decision, it is the job of the professional soldier to bring that war to as quick and successful a resolution as possible.
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Kristina E. Harrigan on April 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A gripping story vividly told. The author captures LeMay's life and achievements in a single, telling phrase: a "life of great consequence." His life was of great consequence for the country, for the men serving under him and for aviation in general. General LeMay's virtues, and shortcomings, make for a story that I could not stop reading. His struggles and successes at so many critical stages of his life and the life of this country repeatedly provoked a mental exclamation: "What a man!" His ingenuity and perseverance, whether in pursuing entry into flight school in the twenties or in creating the Strategic Air Command in the fifties, are astonishing. The book's presentation of LeMay's career before World War II was especially fascinating.

The political and military situation of those years has spooky echoes in our own time, and it is hard to imagine who would be our own LeMay if we needed one.

LeMay's guiding principle--civilians decide whether to go to war, generals must then carry it on so as to end it as fast as possible with the minimum loss of life--threw a new light on his career. It certainly revised my view of LeMay, which reflected the portrayal of "General Jack D. Ripper" in the movie Dr. Strangelove. At the same time, the story, told so clearly, is a modern tragedy. LeMay was not a "man for all seasons," but he was the best man for the difficult seasons of World War II and the Cold War. The very virtues that made him so essential during those periods--his doggedness, his utter focus on results rather than on appearance and style--made him someone for whom the country at peace thought it had no further use. He may not have been the man you want to sit next to at dinner, but he was certainly the man you want to stand next to in combat. A "must read" for anyone interested in World War II or in the country's response to unexpected but lethal external threats.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Allen Roth on April 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Before reading this wonderful biography/history, my information about General Curtis Lemay was limited to his comment about bombing the North Vietnamese "into the stone age." I had also heard that he was the real character behind a bomb crazed character in Dr. Stangelove.

This biography taught me how much more there is to know about Curtis Lemay. Warren Kozak takes us through the complex life of an important figure in recent American History. Lemay played a central role in devising American Air Force strategy. He was clearly a military visionary (and hero) who broke new ground that helped America fight wars starting with the Second World War. He was also responsible for developing United States Air Force into the greatest air force in world.

As Mr. Kozak takes us through the fascinating story of Lemay's accomplishments he also relates the history of these tumultuous times. Mr. Kozak has a very good eye for the anecdotes and events that inform readers. Lemay's interaction with President Kennedy is one example I am sure all readers will find of interest.

While Mr. Kozak clearly admirers Lemay's professional accomplishments he does not shy away from the less attractive and controversial side of his subject.

This book is superb history integrated into the biography of an important historical figure who has been largely forgotten. I highly recommend it to everyone.
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