Apr 132017

General Curtis LeMay

Because I needed access to classified footage on the atomic and hydrogen bombs, I was given a Q clearance the United States Department of Energy (DOE) security clearance that is roughly comparable to a United States Department of Defense Top Secret clearance with Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Access (TS-SCI).

I requested the Order of Battle plans for the proposed invasion of Japan, Operations Olympic and Coronet.  I discovered that had the atomic bombs not been dropped, my old outfit, Third Battalion, 334th Infantry, 84th Division was chosen to be part of an early wave in the invasion of Japan. Almost certainly Perry Wolff would have been killed or wounded.

It was Harry Truman’s decision to drop the bomb on a city. It is why Truman is my most revered president.

Those who are indignant about America’s use of atomic weapons are often silent about the firebombing of Tokyo on March 9, 1945. We killed almost one hundred thousand people with magnesium bombs, more people than died than at Hiroshima. In all, firebombing killed or wounded three quarters of a million Japanese in WWII. The general who firebombed the Japanese was Curtis LeMay. He had converted his aircraft from high altitude pressurized planes into low altitude trucks for the carpet bombing of Japanese cities. Incidentally, LeMay later became the vice presidential running mate of American Independent Party candidate George Wallace in the 1968 presidential election.

The justification was that air power could force a nation to surrender. It never has. Tokyo was ours only when the foot soldiers entered the city.

Nine years later, in the time of Air Power, jet bombers carried atomic bombs. The missile age had not yet arrived. LeMay was the head of SAC, the Strategic Air Command, based at Offutt AFB in Omaha. It was obligatory that I visit him. I was brought into his office. The general was a small man. His office was at least forty feet long and the floor sloped upwards. My chair was about two feet below him. He looked down on everybody who sat in the chair across his desk.

Behind the Commander was a picture of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow. Above the illustration was an arched caption. “HE WENT BY LAND.”

LeMay dismissed me. He thought the largest part of 26 part series should be about the future— mostly SAC. I was polite and left quickly. I did not ask about the firebombing of Japan.

At the time we were in the Cold War. The Japanese were grateful for our military protection. So grateful that in 1964 — on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor — the Japanese government conferred the First Order of Merit with the Grand Cordon of the Rising Sun upon General Curtis LeMay. Under his command air power had burned millions of Japanese out of their homes.


General Curtis LeMay, undated photo: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/161777811591529709/