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Best military leader in WW2

LAURENCE REES:   And the single best military leader of the war?

CONRAD CRANE: I’ll talk underrated and I go back to Curtis Le May. I don’t think people understand Curtis Le May as well as they could have. He’s much underrated and he’s much under-appreciated. He’s become a caricature of the ‘bomb them back to the Stone Age’ Curtis Le May of later on, but what he does with the 20th Airforce and what he does with the strategic bomber command and air command after World War Two is also phenomenal. He’s just a great leader, a great builder of organisations and he does a great amount of service for the United States of America.

LAURENCE REES:   But he wanted to use nuclear weapons in the 1960s?

CONRAD CRANE: Well, maybe. I mean he didn’t talk about nuking North Vietnam, he just wanted to burn down and destroy their cities. Le May understood his limitations, he once told his staff: I’m never going to pull my punches, I’m always going to be very blunt with my leaders but I know who’s boss. I’m going to present them [the politicians] with what I think is the best option, I’ll follow orders if they tell me to do something, but I’m always going to be very blunt and I’m going to shock people because that’s just the way I am. But I feel that’s my obligation as a military officer to give that kind of advice. So he was very blunt but, for example, he was told not to bomb Cuba, and he didn’t, and he was told not to fire bomb and he didn’t. Some people portray Le May as this guy who was ready to start World War Three on his own, when he was never actually going to start World War Three on his own - but if he were pushed into it he was sure as heck going to win it. That’s very different. So again, look what happened in World War Two, what he did in Europe and what he did in the Pacific, I think he’s very under-appreciated and very underrated.