Power, Thomas S.


1964 ALS of Curtis LeMay’s successor as head of Strategic Air Command 1957-64, led SAC during the Cuban Missle Crisis


Autograph ID: 5995
Condition: Very good, staple holes top left
Description: “(1905-1970) US Army Air Corps/US Air Force officer for 30+ years, commanded the Strategic Air Command 1957-64 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was America’s last general officer with no post-secondary education. He entered the Army Air Corps flying school in 1928, commissioned 2nd lieutenant in Feb. 1929. In WW II, Power first saw combat flying B-24s with the 304th Bomb Wing in North Africa and Italy. In Aug. 1944, he was named commander of the 314th Bomb Wing (Very Heavy) and moved his B-29s to Guam with the 21st Bomber Command. From Guam, he directed the first large-scale fire bomb raid on Tokyo on March 9, 1945. On Aug. 1, 1945, General Spaatz, commanding US Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific, named Power his deputy chief of operations. He served in this capacity during the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. During “Operation Crossroads”, the 1946 atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll, Power was assistant deputy task force commander for air on Admiral Blandy’s staff. Afterwards he served as deputy assistant chief of air staff for operations in Washington and as air attaché in London, prior to becoming SAC vice commander in 1948. For 6 years, Power assisted General Curtis E. LeMay, Strategic Air Command’s commander in chief, in building up SAC. He was commander of the Air Research and Development Command 1954-57. When General LeMay was named Air Force vice chief of staff in 1957, Power became SAC commander in chief, promoted to 4-star rank. He was the architect of SAC’s “Operation Chrome Dome” airborne alert program that ensured that a number of nuclear-armed strategic bombers were always aloft so as to survive a first strike. On Oct. 24, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, SAC was ordered to “DEFCON-2”, a step short of nuclear war. Although authorized to increase his alert level, Power took the unprecedented – and unauthorized – action of broadcasting that message to global SAC nuclear forces on non-scrambled, open radio channels, presumably to scare the Soviets into complying with American demands. His broadcast in the clear of DEFCON 2 was not likely to have met with McNamara’s approval, and while Pentagon records show that Power acted on presidential authority when he took his forces to DEFCON-2, his decision to address his commanders over open communications channels was unauthorized and highly unusual. Like his mentor, General LeMay, Power believed that the only effective form of nuclear war strategy was “Mutually Assured Destruction.” Like LeMay, Power emphasized the value of bomber aircraft, which (unlike missiles) can be recalled in the event of an error in technical threat detection, and offer a strategic recourse short of total war. Power retired from the Air Force on Nov. 30, 1964.

ALS on his 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 personal letterhead as General, USAF (Ret.), 2pps (1 sheet), Thunderbird Country Club, Palm Springs, California, undated but late December 1964, to Lawrence E. Spivak, moderator of NBC’s “Meet The Press”, regarding scheduling a MTP interview. With 2 unsigned LES carbon copies of his correspondence with General Power.”
Type: Letter

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