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

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  244 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
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 c ...more
Hardcover, 421 pages
Published May 11th 2009 by Regnery Publishing (first published 2009)
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(showing 1-30)
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Jun 01, 2010 Jason rated it liked it
With much confidence I say that your American parents or grandparents used to practice 'duck-n-cover' drills at middle school in the 1950s? Girls in bobby socks and skirts, and boys with parted hair--both ducking under their individual wooden desks, pushing the chair away, and covering the base of their skulls with their hands. Innocent. Fearing. Waiting for the nuclear blast that would light up the classroom with 2 trillion watts and burn construction paper off the walls. Followed by the pressu ...more
Mar 16, 2012 Mark rated it it was amazing
Lemay's Quiet Genius and Stoic Work Ethic Revealed in this Enjoyable Book

I recently bought this excellent book and was delighted with it. As other reviewers have rightly noted, it reveals wonderful insights into Lemay's personality and work ethic, which in turn helped him to become an outstanding leader, problem solver, and innovator.

All Americans, and indeed much of the free world, are better off today because of his contributions to the war effort in World War II, and later in the reformation
Michael Flanagan
Jun 15, 2015 Michael Flanagan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ww-2, biography
This book is hands down one of the best biographies I have read. Warren Kozak has done a masterful job in creating this highly readable book on the life of Curtis Lemay.

I must say I have had this book for a while putting it on the back burners as I thought it might be a bit of heavy reading. After blowing away the cobwebs I was very quickly drawn into the life of one of the most misunderstood and maligned American Generals of the 20th Century.

I like many thought this man to be a megalomaniac hel
Jun 20, 2013 Jeff rated it it was amazing
Most of the WWII generation and some from the Baby Boomer generation could say they remember who Curtis LeMay was and what he contributed to the history of the United States and the world. But even then many from that generation couldn’t tell you much about his distinguished 37 year military career and what it meant to the peace, freedom and prosperity for the following generations of American’s and the rest of the world.

Rather than list his long resume of distinguish accomplishments in the mil
Jul 19, 2009 Peter rated it liked it
Curtis Lemay is one of the most celebrated men in the US military forces of WW2. However it was not without controversy that he is viewed from the perch of the 21st century. For under his command the fire-bombing and nuclear bombing of Japan occurred. What one finds is that this is an incredibly pragmatic, honest, unselfish hard worker who tirelessly strove to protect those airmen beneath him. He also possessed an indefatigable energy to solve any hardship or broken situation in his path.

Even a
Jeanne Crotty
Nov 07, 2011 Jeanne Crotty rated it really liked it
I really didn't know a lot about LeMay when I started this book. And by not a lot, I mean basically nothing. However, the flap copy intrigued me and I thought, why not? And I actually really enjoyed the book. It definitely offers another side of LeMay. As I quickly learned, most people think of him as this crude, cigar-chomping, trigger-happy general. But he had a softer side to him as well and he was extremely devoted to his family. And I love the fact that he always lead his men into battle. H ...more
Mar 15, 2013 Anthony rated it it was amazing
Curtis Lemay was and is one of the most amazing and villified military men of the 20th Century. Both one of the most inspiring military leaders and also, one of the most frightening ones. He was also a product of a time much different from the world we live in now. This is a great book that takes time to examine not only Lemay the General, but Lemay the man. What gave him his outlook on everything and made him the man he was. Like most great men, he had his flaws and the author does not avoid ta ...more
May 24, 2014 Sky rated it liked it
I was about 2 minutes into this book when it became clear that this was probably going to be more hagiography than biography. If you're interested in LeMay and are willing to read multiple books, I'd probably recommend including this one, but I didn't think that this book provided a critical enough eye to a guy who definitely merits serious scrutiny. I will admit that this book has driven me to review some of the conceived notions that I had about Curtis LeMay.
Dave Leaumont
Mar 11, 2017 Dave Leaumont rated it really liked it
A very readable, if not slightly hagiographic, bio on Gen Lemay. He covers his entire life in just under 400 pages but misses a lot of interesting points I was hoping to see about Lemay's life. He breezed right over Lemay's thinking on the Cuban Missile Crisis, which would have been very interesting to read. While he posts lots of footnotes, 90% of them are from 2 books. His first 3 chapters' footnotes have almost all ibids making me wonder why I didn't just read Lemay's autobiography instead. H ...more
Mar 05, 2017 UppityWorm rated it liked it
Shelves: history, biography
Warren Kozak is not Robert A Caro, that is not his fault, but I resent him for it anyway. On a related point he seems to be a bit protective, perhaps even fond of his subject. While that might be natural it makes him a less trustworthy source than Caro for judgement.
Pie Resting-Place
Mar 02, 2017 Pie Resting-Place rated it liked it
Shelves: history, biography
Warren Kozak is not Robert A Caro, that is not his fault, but I resent him for it anyway. On a related point he seems to be a bit protective, perhaps even fond of his subject. While that might be natural it makes him a less trustworthy source than Caro for judgement.
Jan 05, 2017 Francis rated it it was amazing
Great book about a very controversial historical and military figure.
General Curtis LeMay was the chief architect for our strategic bombing strategy for part of the European theater in WWII, the Pacific theater in WWII and the Strategic Air Command.
LeMay is controversial because of his strategy using massive waves of air power on military and civilian targets.
LeMay correctly understood that the way a belligerent army is defeated is by destroying its will to fight. Some armies in past times surre
Rupin Chaudhry
Dark, angry, anxious, trigger happy, unfriendly in appearance and unusually quiet..these are the qualities that we associate with General Curtis E LeMay.
The book portrays the life and times of this legendary commander who made different waves among different people. One can glorify or vilify him, but no one can ignore him. LeMay represents a bread of commanders who are required at the time of war, but become a liability in peace time. His radical steps and decisions may sound brutal and harsh b
Nicholas Jasper
Sep 30, 2014 Nicholas Jasper rated it it was amazing
This is a book that I recommend with trepidation. Not because it is a bad book but because it is so easy to read and so difficult to understand. We are shown the life of a man who lived through times that none of us now alive understand. LeMay did things that race the pulse of men and turn the blood of their women to ice. We can never know the right or the wrong but we can read about the events with amazement and horror. What the great seething mass of protoplasm that arrogantly refers to itself ...more
Michael T.
Aug 02, 2011 Michael T. rated it liked it
Curtis Le May was the inspiration for General Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove. Apparently he really did urge an almost suicidally hard line against the Soviets to President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was also the General in charge of the firebombing campaigns in both Germany in 1943-44, and Japan in 1444-45. Le May was also the first commander of SAC, and finally George Wallace's running mate for the unsuccessful 1968 independent Presidential run. This last was nothing short o ...more
Aug 16, 2010 Brian rated it really liked it
i've always wanted to read a Bio on LeMay. I pretty much only knew of him through his parodies in movies like "Dr. Strangelove" and by the fact that he's responsible for order the deaths of more people than almost anyone in history. But for the fact that he was on the winning side of the war he would have been a war criminal instead of a national hero. My opinion on him represented the 60s interpretation of an indifferent commander easily ordering the deaths of hundreds of thousands of German an ...more
May 20, 2015 Graziella rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a great, unexpected read! Beyond his cartoon-like portrayal in Dr. Strangelove, I had no prior knowledge of who/what this man was. His story has truly been buried by time, culture and changing mores. You'd recognize this guy as the ultimate US military Hawk - the man on whom every stereotype of the warmongering "bomb 'em back to the stone age" Goonlike General hangs, the man who was responsible for the sustained, horrific fire-bombing of Japanese cities during WWII, champion of the B-29 and ...more
C. Patrick
Aug 23, 2014 C. Patrick rated it it was amazing
This was a very readable biography that makes a clear and strong case for LeMay's position in the pantheon of great American Generals. Arguably the most effective commander in WWII, Kozak builds a portrait of a man single-minded in his focus to solve problems and get results In a way that gave his airmen the best chances to survive the horrendous trials they underwent, particularly over Germany. The loss rates of US airmen in the latter case was staggering, but Kozak describes how LeMay again an ...more
Apr 29, 2016 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any and everyone
Let's call it 3.75 -- very interesting, clearly written and engaging, but no great work of scholarship. But it doesn't pretend to be. Just a fair and even-handed portrait of a man difficult to judge -- and a man who perhaps hasn't gotten a fair shake from modern history, when warriors and Cold Warriors are out of fashion.

I read this book in a strange fashion, starting with Chapter Seven (page 165), the chapter about the introduction and development of the B-29. Started here because my father-in-
Jan 15, 2012 Dale rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very readable history

Paperback edition published in October 2011 by Regnery History
392 pages of text. 434 pages total.

Kozak was inspired to write this book by a quote from a college lecturer: "You might not agree with his politics, but if you have a son serving in combat, you want him serving under someone like LeMay." (p. 389) Personally, LeMay has always been a caricature of a general in the periphery of the story the World War II histories and pieces of historical fiction I have read. Kozak d
Hugh Heinsohn
May 16, 2015 Hugh Heinsohn rated it really liked it
Great subject of an interesting biography. Fascinating to read about someone who was completely untroubled by moral considerations of his actions. Could have used better editing. I think Kozak was overly captured by his subject. Worth reading if you're interested in military affairs (especially the strategic bombing campaigns of World War II.) Fails to get into a substantive discussion about the true value of strategic bombing compared to the horrendous costs. (In my opinion, it wasn't worth it ...more
Alain Dewitt
Nov 14, 2011 Alain Dewitt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
This is one of the best books I have read all year. I always had the sense that GEN LeMay was an unfairly maligned figure in our 20th century history and Warren Kozak's informative and well-written book shows just how true that is. His genius at aerial tactical innovation, logistics, organization and just plain leadership are tragically overshadowed by two things: the 'bomb them into the Stone Age' line (never uttered or written by LeMay but printed in his memoir) and his disastrous decision to ...more
Eric Edwards
Oct 09, 2012 Eric Edwards rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: History
Recommended to Eric by: Marlene Pfoertner
I enjoyed this book very much and it outlined Lemay's influence on US Air Force tactical and stragegic doctrine very well. It was interesting to read about someone so important to the development of not only conventional bombing tactics in Europe and Japan in WW II but also how his drive created SAC to what it is today.

One pet peeve: The author's description of the Dam Buster Raids on the Ruhr dams was inaccurate. "Only one of the dams was damaged."

See fo
Josh Liller
Jul 04, 2009 Josh Liller rated it it was ok
I was really interested to learn more about LeMay, someone both controversial but significant and possibly brilliant. This book does not do the subject justice.

Sometimes repetitive, occasionally inaccurate, stuffed with too many vague anecdotes, wandering too often from its subject, and feels like it can't find an critical word about LeMay. If you can't find anything bad to say about a controversial figure then you're intentionally trying not to. A poor, overly-apologist biography.
Matthew Dambro
Oct 02, 2016 Matthew Dambro rated it it was amazing
I read this about five years ago. It is an excellent biography of a very controversial officer. I read it primarily because my father served under his command in 1945. My father would always refer to LeMay as "the old man". One of his favorite memories of him was "The old man would never send us where he wouldn't go himself." I found out in this volume that it took a direct order from the JCS in Washington to keep LeMay from flying missions to the Empire.
Jeffrey McKinley
Jun 24, 2012 Jeffrey McKinley rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed reading this book. Didn't know much about General LeMay until reading this book. I have since bought several more books about his life and career. The writer did an excellent job in presenting the man in a way that made me want to do further reading on him. He had one main directive as a commander in the military; protect our country. What else do you expect from a military General?
Cannonhistory Potter
An interesting book, sort of a revisionist-revisionist history of "Bombs Away" LeMay. The author is more than generous in his praise of LeMay. While he does address LeMay's shortcomings, he doesn't go deeper than merely mentioning them as an alternative viewpoint without going into any further detail.
Oct 11, 2014 Royce rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
This was a seemingly evenhanded treatment. The author clearly pointed out LeMay's foibles, follies and flat out terrible decisions (running as VP in George Wallace's 1968 presidential campaign jumps to mind). Along the way we learn of LeMay's many innovations and leadership style. Quite enjoyable as an audiobook.
Kent Woodger
Aug 12, 2014 Kent Woodger rated it it was amazing
Excellent! A well written book about the life of General Curtis LeMay, the second World War, and the politics of the time. It's sad how the Congress of then and now are so similar. One of LeMay's tenets was don't go to war unless you plan on winning it.
Tim Booher
Jul 19, 2012 Tim Booher rated it really liked it
Excellent book. Really made me think about my work -- how much of one's heart should one put into ones work? What is the reward for securing this nation? I think LeMay might have done more for our modern state of national defense than any other person I can name outside of Regan.
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