cover image LeMay: A Biography

LeMay: A Biography

Barrett Tillman, . . Palgrave, $21.95 (205pp) ISBN 978-1-4039-7135-7

The general in charge of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Curtis Emerson LeMay witnessed the beginning of the age of nuclear weaponry. As commander of the Strategic Air Command during the Cold War, he saw its consequences in the escalating tension with Russia and his campaigns in North and South Korea. Tillman (author of 40 books including Warriors ) calls LeMay one of "the chilliest of cold war Republicans," having made the dubious choice to become the 1968 running mate of segregationist George Wallace. Though LeMay claimed to have joined the campaign out of concern for opponent Richard Nixon's foreign policy, the move permanently damaged his reputation. "It is not recorded that anyone ever accused Curtis LeMay of charisma," observes Tillman, adding, "Perhaps no other American military leader of the 20th century was so successful without possessing a charismatic personality." That may help explain why the book includes significantly more discussion of B-29s and B-52s than it does anecdotes or direct quotes that illustrate LeMay's character or personal life. Well informed and clear, this somewhat dry account will interest air force enthusiasts, though LeMay's charmlessness is unlikely to win over many casual readers. (Feb.)