Tibbets never regretted the bombing.


I met Paul Tibbets in the early 70s when my aircraft was temporarily in the Executive Jet hangar for maintenance in Columbus, Ohio. I found him to be a most impressive man of character and humility. His personal website is his personal website and contains a world of information. It is well organized and very easy to navigate. I had always wanted personally autographed photos of him and the Enola . I was impressed when I received them, along with his autographed book “Return of the Enola .” I considered these my prized possessions.

Personally signed by Tibbets.

Paul Tibbets Jr, 92, who piloted the Enola , the B-29 Superfortress bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb in combat in an attack that helped end World War II and usher in the atomic age, died yesterday at his home in Columbus, Ohio. He was 92 and reportedly had suffered strokes in recent years.

General Tibbets became a military celebrity with the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, a historical turning point of the last century. In rarely granted interviews, he expressed little remorse over the more than 100,000 Japanese killed or injured at Hiroshima and said he slept easily knowing of his role.

General Tibbets said the bomb "saved more lives than we took" because an alternative would have been an invasion of Japan's home islands.

"It would have been morally wrong if we'd have had that weapon and not used it and let a million more people die," he said.

In late 1944, Tibbets, then a colonel, was selected for the top-secret bombing mission over Japan, the culmination of the Manhattan Project.

The Enola , named after his mother, took off from Tinian Island, near the Pacific island of Guam, in the predawn hours of Aug. 6. The crew carried an atomic bomb nicknamed "Little Boy" and its target was Hiroshima, a city chosen because it was a military center and had no prisoner-of-war camps.

Leading up to the bombing, General Tibbets had meetings with J. Robert Oppenheimer and other scientists and military leaders working on the Manhattan Project. But he said he had no clear idea of the bomb's potential other than the description that it would explode with the force of 20,000 tons of dynamite, a concept he could only vaguely grasp.

He later said of the blast: "If Dante had been with us on the plane, he would have been terrified. The city we had seen so clearly in the sunlight a few minutes before was now an ugly smudge. It had completely disappeared under this awful blanket of smoke and fire."

After the Enola flight, the Japanese did not lay down arms. Three days later, Major Charles W. Sweeney, a Massachusetts resident, and his crew made a run over Japan in a B-29 Superfortress named the Bockscar. The first target, Kokura, was fogged in, so they went for Nagasaki, an alternative target, and dropped a bomb nicknamed "Fat Man." The Japanese announced their surrender Aug. 15, 1945.

Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr. was born in Quincy, Ill. He grew up mostly in Miami, where his father opened a confectionary that set in motion his son's aviation career.

In 2002, he told oral historian Studs Terkel: "When I told them I was going to leave college and go fly planes in the Army Air Corps, my dad said, 'Well, I've sent you through school, bought you automobiles, given you money to run around with the girls, but from here on, you're on your own. If you want to go kill yourself, go ahead, I don't give a damn.' "

"Then Mom just quietly said, 'Paul, if you want to go fly airplanes, you're going to be all right.' And that was that."

On Aug. 17, 1942, he led a dozen B-17 Flying Fortresses on the first daylight raid by an American squadron on German-occupied Europe, bombing railroad marshaling yards in the French city of Rouen. He flew General Dwight D. Eisenhower to Gibralter in November 1942 en route to the launching of Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa, and participated in the first bombing missions of that campaign.

After returning to the United States to test the newly developed B-29, the first intercontinental bomber, he was told in September 1944 of the most closely held secret of the war: Scientists were working to harness the power of atomic energy to create a bomb of such destruction that it could end the war.


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