Remarks Upon Presenting the Distinguished Service Medal to Gen. Curtis LeMay. February 1, 1965
General LeMay and Mrs. LeMay, Mr. Under Secretary, Mr. Secretary of Air, ladies and gentlemen:
Thirty-six years ago two events occurred in the same month that have had very profound impact upon this Nation. In the month of October 1929 the stock market crashed in New York, and Curt LeMay got his wings in Texas and went the other way.
Coincidental as those events were, both were quite symbolic The stock market crash of '29 taught us that the price of success for our economic system is constant vigilance and understanding. Likewise, the young cadet who was commissioned at Kelly Field has devoted his career to helping teach us that the price of peace is preparedness, even as the price of liberty shall always be eternal vigilance.
In the span of General LeMay's service, America has changed. Our role in the world has changed. The technology of air power has changed, more than the mind really comprehends. Yet America's purpose at home and in the world has not changed, nor has the purpose of our arms or our strength.
Under Gen. Curtis LeMay, America has built the mightiest air arm the world has even known—the Strategic Air Command. Yet the sole purpose of SAC has been to preserve the peace, and that purpose will never change.
Today we are nearer the year 2000 than the year 1929. Over those years ahead weapons will change and strategies will change and challenges and dangers will change, but America's need and freedom's need will not change for the kind of dedicated, determined, demanding, and inspiring commander that is epitomized by Curtis LeMay. By his leadership and his imagination, this man of courage helped to shorten history's costliest war in both Europe and the Pacific, and he helped to prevent mankind's final war with both the response of the Berlin Airlift and the readiness of the Strategic Air Command.
General LeMay, all free men today are in your debt, and all your countrymen join with me in proudly and gratefully saluting you. In your service you have raised our standards in the military—our standards of readiness, of performance, of proficiency, and of economy. You have helped America set a worldwide watch for freedom, and that vigil will never cease until liberty and justice are secure on this earth.
I am very proud to confer upon you now, General LeMay, your fourth Distinguished Service Medal, and on behalf of a grateful country to wish you Godspeed and happy landings.
The Acting Secretary will now read the citation.
NOTE: The ceremony was held at 12:04 P.M in the East Room at the White House. The President's opening words referred to Gen. Curtis LeMay, outgoing Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force, and Mrs. LeMay, Cyrus R. Vance, Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Eugene M. Zuckert, Secretary of the Air Force.
The text of the citation read by Deputy Secretary of Defense Cyrus R. Vance, serving as Acting Secretary of Defense, follows:
"General Curtis E. LeMay distinguished himself by exceptionally meritorious service to the United States in positions of great responsibility as Vice Chief of Staff, United States Air Force, from 1 July 1957 to 29 June 1961, and as Chief of Staff, United States Air Force, from 30 June 1961 to 31 January 1965.
"In these two highest military offices of the Air Force, and as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General LeMay consistently manifested a high degree of dedication, combining outstanding professional knowledge with leadership of the highest calibre. His vision and direction have given the Air Force a flexibility that provides the capability for controlled response to aggression at any level of conflict from guerrilla operations to strategic nuclear warfare.
"During a time of unprecedented change in weapon systems, he directed the introduction of intercontinental ballistic missiles into the Air Force weapons inventory as an effective segment of our strategic deterrent force. His interest in and knowledge of communications have been in great measure responsible for the development of the Air Force worldwide communications systems.
"Realizing the necessity for the United States to lead in space, he helped create a strong foundation for activities in space by the Air Force, and achieved increasingly effective cooperation with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. His personal concern led to major improvements in the housing, pay, promotion, and medical care of Air Force personnel.
"General LeMay has consistently demonstrated professional qualities which are in the tradition of military service, and his accomplishments and leadership have contributed substantially to the security of the United States and the Free World. His singular achievements as Chief of Staff of the Air Force culminate a long and distinguished career of more than 35 years in the service of his country. They reflect the highest credit upon himself and upon the United States Air Force."
The text of General LeMay's response was also released.