​​Curtis LeMay​

United Kingdom




​​​In September of 1943, Curtis LeMay became the first commander of the newly formed US 3rd Air Division that was based in the UK. He arrived in England in October 1942, as Major of the 305th Bombardment Group, and led them on many operations up to May 1943. A memorial located here remembers him.​

​​​LeMay was born 15 November 1906 in Columbus, Ohio. In 1929, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Corps Reserve, and in January 1930 he received a regular commission into the United States Army Air Corps. He trained as a pursuit pilot until 1937, then switched to bomber aircraft.

LeMay piloted B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft from 1938 and served in the 2nd Bombardment Group. In 1940, he became the operations officer of the 34th Bombardment Group. With the outbreak of war in Europe, it was not long before the USA entered the war. Following the attacks on Pearl Harbour by Imperial Japan in December 1941, LeMay became a Major in the United States Army Air Force (USAAF). He commanded the 305th Bombardment Group, which departed for England in October 1943, and then became the commander of the US 3rd Air Division.

He flew alongside those of the 100th Bombardment Group leading operations into northwest Europe. One of the more notable operations that he led personally was the Schweinfurt-Regensburg raid on 17 August 1943. The raid saw LeMay lead 146 B-17’s to Regensburg. This was a daring mission, beyond the range of fighter protection, and after reaching and bombing the target, they flew on to airfields in North Africa. During this operation, 24 of the B-17’s were lost, including hundreds of crew who were either killed or missing.

In August 1944, LeMay transferred to the China-Burma Theatre of War then onto the Pacific Theatre of War with XX Bomb Command and XXI Bomb Command respectively. After the war, in 1947 he returned to Europe as the Commander of USAF Europe and oversaw the ‘Berlin Airlift’. Between 1961 and 1965, he became Chief of Staff of the USAF, until his retirement in February 1965.

Throughout his career he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, and the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters. LeMay died on 1 October 1990 and is buried at USAF Academy Cemetery, Colorado, USA. The memorial located here at the airfield remembers him.


​​Common Road, Dickleburgh​, ​​Diss​, Norfolk, IP21 4PH