Gen. LeMay Remembered as Skilled Leader
MARCH AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) _ Gen. Curtis E. LeMay was remembered at his funeral as a skilled military leader with little time for small talk but strong concern for his troops and his friends.
″He was a great man, great airman, great American,″ said retired Lt. Gen. William Craigie, a former test pilot and longtime friend of the gruff, cigar- chomping Air Force general.
About 1,000 people crowded the base chapel for the formal, military funeral ceremony Wednesday. LeMay’s coffin was draped by an American flag. Burial was scheduled today at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
LeMay, who directed the atomic bombing of Japan, organized the Berlin Airlift and headed the Strategic Air Command, suffered a heart attack Monday and died at a base hospital. He was 83.
The four-star general and one-time Air Force chief of staff was known for his skill as a military tactician, but his public statements and sparring with former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara often generated controversy.
But Speakers at LeMay’s funeral remembered the general in more personal terms.
″(LeMay) believed in one thing, taking care of his people,″ said retired Maj. Gen. Edward Nichols.
Nichols’ voice wavered as he spoke of LeMay’s concern for military families.
He said LeMay’s first priority was that ″bases were set up to take care of our wives and children when we are gone.″
The base chaplain, Col. Benjamin Perez, said that LeMay spent his final days helping untangle the government red tape of military care for people living in his retirement complex, Air Force Village, which LeMay helped found.
″There is much of General LeMay that remains,″ said Perez of the general’s contributions. ″We remember and we celebrate.″
Taps were played after a traditional military rifle salute, bringing tears to mourners.
LeMay, a much-decorated veteran of some of the fiercest air battles over Europe during World War II, later commanded U.S. air forces in Europe and led SAC.
Shortly after his retirement from the military in 1965, LeMay was quoted as having made the infamous remark about bombing North Vietnam ″back into the Stone Age.″
LeMay later denied the statements, but then kept the controversy alive by saying he saw nothing wrong with using nuclear weapons to shorten any war and to save lives.