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From: (Dwayne Allen Day)
Newsgroups: sci.environment,sci.physics,,
Subject: Re: Intelligence and Self Defense (was: Re: Cassini ...
Date: 23 Oct 1997 03:36:11 GMT

Henry Spencer ( wrote:
: However, it's not a myth that at times, major elements in the US military
: liked the idea, and pushed for it.  Curtis LeMay in particular seems to
: have firmly believed that nuclear war was inevitable and that delaying it
: or waiting for the USSR to start it would only make it worse.  There have
: been allegations that after he was firmly told that starting a war was out
: of the question, he deliberately and persistently tried to provoke the
: Soviets into starting one.  (It's not clear that that's true, but the
: suggestion is not ridiculous -- it would be surprising if LeMay hadn't at
: least considered it, given how he felt, and his successor at SAC, Thomas
: Power, was even worse.)

I've talked to a number of people who knew LeMay and although a lot of
them said he was an SOB, they all stressed that he wasn't a crazy SOB.

The allegations that he tried to start WWIII are based upon a very tenuous
chain of logic that does not hold up well.  These allegations have
appeared in four places--Richard Rhodes' book Dark Sun, an article for The
New Yorker also by Rhodes, a documentary on aircraft overflights of the
Soviet Union, and a book by the documentary producer called Spy Flights of
the Cold War.  What it comes down to is two people--Rhodes and Paul
Lashmar (who produced the latter cited works).  If you look closely at
Rhodes' sources, they are very incomplete and not very weighty.  Lashmar
connects some public statements by LeMay with an Air Force wargame
scenario called Project Control.  But there is a fair amount of
information available on Project Control and it is not consistent with the
claims that Lashmar makes on it.  Furthermore, the claims are based on the
argument that LeMay flew hundreds of reconnaissance sorties over the
Soviet Union, attempting to simulate an attack, in order to provoke a war.
But the evidence for the large number of reconnaissance flights is
lacking, as is any evidence that LeMay had Strategic Air Command ready to
counter-punch after provoking such an attack.

More on this in the next post.


From: (Dwayne Allen Day)
Newsgroups: sci.environment,sci.physics,,
Subject: Re: Intelligence and Self Defense (was: Re: Cassini ...
Date: 23 Oct 1997 03:45:24 GMT

Richard Foy ( wrote:
: In article <62lg5g$>, Dave Michelson <> wrote:
: >In article <>,
: >John McCarthy  <> wrote:
: >
: >Richard Rhodes (in "Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb") makes
: >a pretty convincing case that Gen. Curtis LeMay and his colleagues
: >were advocating a SAC-led "first strike" against the Soviet Union
: >"while the U.S. could still win" in the 1950's and early 1960's.

I don't think Rhodes makes a convincing case at all.  But there are two
issues here.  The first is whether or not LeMay was practicing for a
first-strike attack if he ever received the order to conduct one.  I think
that there is at least some evidence to suggest that LeMay considered the
first-strike to be the most ideal warfighting option for the United
States, since it would destroy the majority of Soviet forces on the

The second issue, and the more inflammatory one, was whether or not LeMay
was attempting to provoke the Soviets into attacking.  Rhodes argues that
LeMay was using massive numbers of reconnaissance flights to provoke the
Soviets.  Rhodes' evidence consists almost exclusively of comments by
LeMay and one or two other generals about flying large numbers of
reconnaissance flights OVER the Soviet Union.

The problem is that there is no other evidence to support this.  Early
this year AF historian R. Cargill Hall published an article in the journal
Military History Quarterly detailing the vast majority of military
reconnaissance flights over the Soviet Union during the Cold War.  They
halted completely by December 1956 and, as Hall demonstrates, there were
never all that many of them except for one brief period from May to June
1956.  So, on the one hand we've got generals boasting about all the
reconnaissance flights they were conducting over the Soviet Union, and on
the other we have no photos, no flight logs, no charts, and no pilots
stepping up to talk about all the flights they made.  The evidence doesn't
hold up well.  (And we should also take into account the basic weakness of
oral history [people forget, people remember selectively, etc.] which is
what Rhodes relies upon for much of this argument.)


"Okay, so you've got a Ph.D...  Just don't touch anything."

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