The Pentagon Disliked How 13 Days Depicted This General
The Pentagon disliked 13 Days, a movie about the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. It particularly disliked the hawkish depiction of the chiefs-of-staff, and especially that of Curtis LeMay. However, US Air Force General Curtis LeMay (1906 – 1990) was even more hawkish in real life than he was depicted in that movie. In WWII, he had been a creative Eighth Air Force bomber group commander whose innovative tactics reduced losses and increased bombing efficiency. They soon became standard throughout the entire Eighth Air Force. That earned him recognition and promotion. In 1944, LeMay was given command of 20th Bomber Command in China, then of 21st Bomber Command in the Pacific. The bombing campaign against Japan had been in trouble. The B-29 Super Fortress heavy bombers deployed were designed for high altitude bombing, but a fast moving jet stream over Japan often scattered their bombs.
LeMay changed tactics. By 1945, Japanese air power was negligible, so LeMay removed his B-29s’ defensive weapons in order to maximize bombload, and sent them on low-level raids. He also switched bombs. LeMay abandoned high explosives suitable for European cities of brick and concrete. Instead, his B-29s dropped incendiaries that were more effective against Japanese cities, whose buildings were mostly wooden. The result incinerated Japanese cities and devastated Japan, without a corresponding devastation of B-29s. After the war, LeMay again demonstrated his creativity by organizing the Berlin Airlift in 1948. Fresh off that success, he returned to the US to head the Strategic Air Command (SAC) – America’s nuclear bomb carrying bombers. He ran SAC from 1948 to 1957, and transformed it from a ragtag entity into a finely tuned machine on a sustained 24-hour-standby, capable of delivering Armageddon at a moment’s notice.