Curtis LeMay was an Air Force General and commander of the Strategic Air Command. LeMay and JFK held each other in very low regard, Kennedy going so far as to tell his staff, “I don’t want that man near me again.”
LeMay, who had a distinguished career in World War II, liked to smoke cigars and was a jowly, belligerent, tough-talking career military man who thought Kennedy was incapable of standing up to the Soviets.
JFK found ways to return the contempt, sometimes walking out on meetings with the General when he felt “the brass” was feeding him sanitized, canned briefings.
Kennedy even cut short a tour that LeMay had arranged of the SAC facility outside of Omaha when presidential candidate Kennedy felt it was more like something the local garden club would be shown.
However, despite his personal disdain for the General, Kennedy promoted him to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Historians have speculated that there were two main reasons.
One is that Kennedy wanted to keep him in uniform where he was not free to speak freely of his concerns about the President’s strengths.
The second was that his ferocity in war was legendary, having been responsible for the campaign that firebombed Tokyo, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians. Kennedy wanted him on the team in case a real fight broke out.