"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Monday, November 15, 2010

Birthdays Today

Some not-very-exciting birthdays today.   Felix Frankfurter liberal Supreme Court Justice appointed by FDR.  Meh.   Georgia O'Keefe, mediocre artist.  Not interested.   Erwin Rommel, German tank commander.  Can't get the thrill.  

But, in 1906, a great American patriot was born.... Curtis LeMay, the WWII Air Force general and first commander of SAC during the Cold War.  In the latter role, LeMay was the effective originator of the concept of "mutually assured destruction" as a theory of deterrence in nuclear war planning.   My old man, God Bless him, once instituted a "Curtis LeMay Overkill Award," in the St. Louis County Planning Commission, which would recognize the petitioner -- usually an overpaid lawyer -- who wasted the most time making the longest presentation about the least important development project.  

Lemay also ran for Vice-President with George Wallace on a third-party ticket in 1968.   I've never really looked at Lemay's politics -- if it turns out he was a sumbitch, my apologies.  


OK, so I've done a modest amount of Wiki-research on Lemay's politics.  It seems he joined with Wallace because he thought Nixon would be too easy on the Soviets, but never agreed with Wallace's segregationist politics.   He was just a hard-ass anti-communist, which is just fine with me.  

He was obviously a hard ass as a rule.   Here is Robert McNamara, the future Secretary of Defense under Johnson, writing about Lemay's style of command during World War II:

One of the commanders was Curtis LeMay—Colonel in command of a B-24 group. He was the finest combat commander of any service I came across in war. But he was extraordinarily belligerent, many thought brutal. He got the report [on bomber pilots' high-rate of aborting missions in the unit]. He issued an order. He said, 'I will be in the lead plane on every mission. Any plane that takes off will go over the target, or the crew will be court-martialed.' The abort rate dropped overnight. Now that's the kind of commander he was.

No comments:

Post a Comment