Curtis LeMay was born on November 15, 1906, in Columbus, Ohio. He was commissioned a 2d Lt in the Army Reserve through the Army ROTC program at Ohio State University in 1928, and then completed flying school at Kelly Field, Texas, and transferred to the Army Air Corps in October 1929. Before World War II, LeMay served as a pursuit pilot with the 27th Pursuit Squadron at Selfridge Field, Michigan, and later as a bomber pilot, where he trained extensively in the B-17 Flying Fortress perfecting bombing tactics. He took command of the 305th Bomb Group at Salt Lake City, Utah, in June 1942, moved to Geiger Field, Washington, later that month, and then to Muroc, California, before deploying to England in September 1942. Gen LeMay led the group until May 1943, when he became commander of the 4th Bomb Wing, reorganized into the 3rd Bomb Division in September 1943, and served in this position until July 1944, when he transferred to the China-Burma-India Theater and took command of 20th Bomber Command. He next commanded 21st Bomber Command on Guam from January 1945 and then served as chief of staff of the Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific until the end of the war. After the war, Gen LeMay served with Headquarters Air Material Command and then had a tour at the Pentagon before serving as commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe at Wiesbaden, Germany, from October 1947 to October 1948, during which time he was responsible for the beginning of the Berlin Airlift. He next served as commander in chief of Strategic Air Command from October 1948 to June 1957, the longest-serving General officer in any command in Air Force history. Gen LeMay was vice chief of staff of the Air Force from July 1957 to June 1961, and then chief of staff from June 1961 until his retirement from the Air Force on February 1, 1965. Curtis LeMay ran as George Wallace's Presidential running-mate in the 1968 Presidential Election, losing to Richard Nixon. He died on October 1, 1990, and was buried at the U.S. Air Force Academy Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The synopsis for his Distinguished Service Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Curtis E. LeMay, Colonel (Air Corps), U.S. Army Air Forces, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Pilot of a B-17 Heavy Bomber and Commander of the 4th Bomb Wing, EIGHTH Air Force, while participating in a bombing mission on 17 August 1943, against enemy ground targets in the European Theater of Operations. Although not required by obligation or duty, Colonel LeMay directed a mission over Germany, personally leading 146 B-17 bombers beyond the range of escorting fighters in the Regensburg portion of the Schweinfurt-Regensburg mission of 17 August 1943. In spite of heavy enemy fighter attack and anti-aircraft fire, he led the formation to the target and accomplished the mission. The personal courage and devotion to duty displayed by Colonel LeMay on this occasion have upheld the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 8th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces.