November 2, 2007, - 10:02 am

One of America’s Greatest Gone: Heroic Enola Gay Pilot Paul Tibbets Saved America

By Debbie Schlussel
Retired Brigadier General Paul Tibbets, Jr.–the heroic American serviceman who did to Hiroshima what we should have already done to Tehran–died, yesterday, at the age of 92 in Ohio.
He saved the Western world and his life had meaning for all of us, even though most do not know his name. And he wasn’t just the pilot–he basically planned the whole mission. And he flew some of the first bombing missions against the Nazis and their allies. He was bright and had just the right amount of bravado to save America.
Sadly, in later life, the State Department treated him with dishonor when India criticized his role in saving the world from Axis forces. And the military apologized to the Japanese after Tibbets re-enacted his important flight. He had it right on America’s schools and distorted history:


American Hero Paul Tibbets After Historic Hiroshima Mission

The new wave of controversy about Hiroshima “got me roused up,” Tibbets told the Palm Beach Post in 2001. “Our young people don’t know anything about what happened because nobody taught them and now their minds are being filled up with things that aren’t true.”

But even after death, he’s got the last laugh. Because he did not want to give left-wing anti-war protestors any opportunities to use his death for their cause, he will have no funeral or headstone and his ashes will be scattered over the North Atlantic.
Here is an inspiring, extensive set of excerpts from the fantastic obit/article about this great American from today’s Los Angeles Times. The first three sentences say it all, and I wish we would heed it about Iran (and perhaps some of the other choice Muslim countries in the Mid-East). We need another Truman in the White House and anothe Paul Tibbets leading the attack. Oh, and by the way, “Enola Gay” was the name of Tibbets’ mother:

To the end of his days, Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr. believed that dropping the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima was a justifiable means of shortening World War II and preserving the lives of hundreds of thousands of American servicemen who military experts said might have died in a final Allied invasion of Japan.
For Tibbets, the pilot whose bombing run unleashed the devastating explosive force and insidious nuclear radiation that leveled two-thirds of the city and killed at least 80,000 people, there was never any need to apologize.
“I never lost a night’s sleep over it,” Tibbets said of the Aug. 6, 1945, attack.

The Army Air Forces officer died Thursday at his home in Columbus, Ohio. He was 92 and, according to his longtime friend Gerry Newhouse, had been in declining health over the last few years and died of heart failure. . . .
Months after authorizing the attack, President Truman commiserated with Tibbets at the White House about the criticism over dropping the bomb.
“It was my decision,” Truman told him. “You didn’t have a choice.”
On the 60th anniversary of the bombing, Tibbets told the Columbus Dispatch that he knew when he got the assignment “it was going to be an emotional thing.”
“We had feelings, but we had to put them in the background. We knew it was going to kill people right and left,” Tibbets said. “But my one driving interest was to do the best job I could so that we could end the killing as quickly as possible.”
Tibbets was more than just the pilot of the propeller-driven, four-engine bomber that made the historic mission.
Described by his commandant, Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, as “the best damned pilot” in the Army Air Forces, Tibbets was hand-picked to lead the mysterious 509th Composite Group, the first military unit formed to wage nuclear war. Three days after the bombing of Hiroshima, another plane from the 509th leveled much of Nagasaki with another nuclear bomb, prompting the Japanese surrender.
Tibbets chose the planes that flew those missions — specially reconfigured B-29s, then the largest operational aircraft on Earth, stripped of armament and armor plating to lighten them for their extended journeys.
He selected the combat veterans who manned the bombers. Many of the crewmen were personal friends who had flown missions with him over Nazi-occupied Western Europe and North Africa.
Tibbets picked an isolated air base straddling the Nevada-Utah border where the men of the 509th trained for their ultra-secret mission. And he drove his men hard, weeding out those who fell short or talked too much about what they were doing.
Proud, prickly and a perfectionist, Tibbets never doubted that he was the man for the job.
Born in Quincy, Ill., on Feb. 23, 1915, he moved to Florida with his parents while still a child. His father, a candy distributor, hired popular barnstormer Doug Davis to fly over Hialeah racetrack as a promotional stunt. Davis piloted the Waco biplane while the 12-year-old Tibbets tossed handfuls of Baby Ruth bars to the crowd below.
“From that day on, I knew I had to fly,” Tibbets said.
Tibbets’ father, a believer in discipline, shipped his son off to Western Military Academy in Alton, Ill., the next year. Tibbets liked the military life and despite subsequent premedical studies at the universities of Cincinnati and Florida, he enlisted as a flying cadet in 1937 with the Army Air Corps at Ft. Thomas, Ky.
By late summer 1942 — nine months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that thrust America into World War II against the Axis powers of Germany, Japan and Italy — Tibbets was flying some of the first U.S. bombing raids over German-held targets in Western Europe. Two months later, he led the bombing runs supporting the American landings in North Africa.
In early 1943, Tibbets was recalled to the United States to begin testing a new super bomber, the B-29. Within months, he was one of the nation’s most experienced B-29 pilots.
In September 1944, Lt. Col. Tibbets was summoned to a secret military conclave in Colorado, where he was told that he had been selected over dozens of other candidates to head a unit called the 509th Composite Group.
“My job, in brief, was to wage atomic war,” he wrote in his book, Flight of the Enola Gay” (1989).
Tibbets searched for the perfect airfield to train his men and knew he had found it in Wendover, Utah. “It was remote in the truest sense,” he wrote. “Surrounding the field were miles and miles of salt flats.”
The arriving crewmen were told nothing about their mission, according to “Ruin From the Air,” a 1977 history of the project by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts.
“Don’t ask what the job is,” Tibbets told his men. “Stop being curious. . . . Never mention this base to anybody. That means your wives, girlfriends, sisters, family.”
To everyone’s surprise, Tibbets granted everyone Christmas leave in December 1944. What they didn’t know was that it was a ploy to test security. As the men of the 509th headed home, they were met at the Salt Lake City railroad station by undercover operatives posing as solicitous civilians and friendly servicemen.

Two men from the 509th answered the detailed questions of a friendly “officer” who said he would soon be joining the unit. Within a week, both men had been banished to a remote island off the coast of Alaska.
Crews made hundreds of practice runs over the Mojave Desert and the Salton Sea. The test bombs were full-sized mock-ups of the real thing — the long and slender uranium “Little Boy” that would fall on Hiroshima and the bulbous plutonium “Fat Man” that would hit Nagasaki.
Most of the mock-ups were filled with concrete, but some contained everything but the nuclear components, including large quantities of conventional explosives in the triggering mechanisms.
On one Salton Sea run, a consulting engineer accidentally dropped one of the explosive Fat Man mock-ups too soon. Narrowly missing the town of Calipatria, Calif., the bomb buried itself in a hole 10 feet deep, but somehow failed to explode. Bulldozers were rushed to the scene to erase evidence of the accident. . . .
Outmaneuvering some top officers who sought to take over the bombing mission, Tibbets rallied support from Washington to retain his command of the 509th and announced that he would pilot the plane that dropped the first bomb.
Forcing an unhappy Capt. Robert A. Lewis to accept the secondary role of co-pilot in what had been Lewis’ B-29, Tibbets ordered his mother’s name, Enola Gay, painted on the side of the fuselage.
Several hours before dawn on Aug. 6, 1945, the Enola Gay, lumbering under the load of the 9,700-pound bomb, struggled up off a runway on the island of Tinian for the 1,700-mile flight north to Hiroshima. Two other B-29s accompanied the Enola Gay to monitor the event.
Seventeen seconds after 8:15 a.m., from an altitude of 26,000 feet, bombardier Maj. Thomas Ferebee released the bomb. Tibbets, who carried poison pills for the crew in case the B-29 went down, put the plane into a sharp, diving turn to speed away from the imminent explosion.
At 8:16 a.m., 1,890 feet above the center of Hiroshima, the bomb detonated with a core temperature estimated at 50 million degrees.
“My God, what have we done?” Lewis wrote in his logbook.
The shock waves severely shook the retreating plane, but did not damage it.
Staff Sgt. Robert Caron described the view from his seat in the tail gunner’s turret as “a peep into hell.”
Tibbets looked back to see an immense mushroom cloud.
“It had already risen to a height of 45,000 feet, and was still boiling upward like something terribly alive,” he wrote in his book. “Even more fearsome was the sight on the ground below. Fires were springing up everywhere amid a turbulent mass of smoke that had the appearance of bubbling hot tar.”

The flight back to Tinian was uneventful, and Tibbets alighted from the plane to be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The medal was added to a collection that included the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Legion of Merit, the Air Medal and a Purple Heart he received for wounds suffered when his bomber was struck by cannon fire over Europe.
Tibbets’ military career would continue for 20 more years. Although most of his assignments involved relatively routine desk jobs, his past sometimes haunted him.
In 1965, then a 50-year-old brigadier general in what had become the U.S. Air Force, he was appointed deputy director of the U.S. Military Supply Mission in India. When the Indian news media called him “the world’s greatest killer,” an embarrassed State Department recalled him and shut down the mission.
A year later, Tibbets retired from the military. For three years, he worked as an aviation advisor in Europe, then returned to the United States and a job with Executive Jet Aviation, an air taxi service in Columbus. He eventually served as board chairman of the firm.
In 1976, Tibbets piloted a restored B-29 that dropped a simulated, miniature atomic bomb at an air show in Texas. The reenactment, complete with a little mushroom cloud, prompted a protest from Japan. Tibbets called the Japanese reaction “ridiculous,” but U.S. government officials apologized.
When Executive Jet changed ownership in 1985, Tibbets quit the business world but remained active, making scores of public appearances, including many on the 50th anniversary of Hiroshima in 1995.
The anniversary spawned a new wave of criticism about the attacks.
When the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum displayed part of the Enola Gay in 1995, anti-nuclear demonstrators poured blood and ashes on the fuselage. Veterans groups and some members of Congress took the opposite view, complaining that the exhibit showed too much sympathy toward Japan at the expense of the United States.
The exhibit was scaled down, then removed. The entire plane went back on display in 2003 at the museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington Dulles International Airport.
The new wave of controversy about Hiroshima “got me roused up,” Tibbets told the Palm Beach Post in 2001. “Our young people don’t know anything about what happened because nobody taught them and now their minds are being filled up with things that aren’t true.”
He said he wasn’t proud of all the death and destruction at Hiroshima, but he was proud that he did his job well.
Tibbets is survived by his wife, Andrea; sons Paul III, Gene and James; and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Because he feared giving protesters a place to demonstrate, Tibbets did not want a funeral or headstone, Newhouse said. He requested that his ashes be scattered over the North Atlantic Ocean.


American Hero Paul Tibbets in 2003

Sadly, they don’t make enough men like Paul Tibbets anymore.
Paul Tibbets, American Hero–One of Our Greatest!— Rest in Peace.
Read More about Paul Tibbets.

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21 Responses

I’m sure there are plenty of Air Force guys who could take out Iran’s nuclear program, and the whole regime, at the drop of a hat. Problem is, the political leaders aren’t up to the job.
If al-Jazeera is to be believed, it was the US which took out Syrian reactor, not Israel. Apparently, a single tactical nuclear weapon may have been used. The Israels merely provided air cover:
Why don’t we just get it over with and take out the Iranian regime. The peace freaks should realize that war, and especially nuclear war, is MORE likely if Iran has a nuclear weapon.

sonomaca on November 2, 2007 at 11:07 am

Paul Tibbets would be criticized on most websites these days, even on the right.
To suggest that we could win this war in a few days draws comments of “kill ’em all?, you blankety blank”.
We need to find our “blood and guts”, just like our parents did in WWII.

interestinconundrum on November 2, 2007 at 11:20 am

Debbie, I work at Whiteman AFB in MO where his grandson Lt Col. Paul Tibbets IV is a B2 bomber pilot. Real nice guy. BTW I really love the way you think, ” what we should have already done to Tehran.” Very attractive in my opinion.

RadicalRightWinger on November 2, 2007 at 12:11 pm

All flags across the country should be flown at half-mast for the next 30 days.
The most disgusting thing about the whole affair is that Col. Tibbets will not have a gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery where the millions of descendants of those hundreds of thousands of servicemen who would have died invading the home islands of Japan could go to pay their everlasting respects to this man.
That the cockroaches of the anti-war (“Peace at Any Price, including our own Deaths”) Left could prevent this from happening is the most heart-rending, pathetic statement about the current condition of this nation I’ve heard in quite a while (and that’s saying something, considering the regular loads of BS being excreted out of Washington, D.C., these days).

theendisnear on November 2, 2007 at 2:14 pm

My birthday is August 6th.
My father served during WWII, and he strongly believed that the event on August 6, 1945 saved his life by quickly ending the war.
I’ve visited Hiroshima and I’m glad that it’s been rebuilt and is a modern city.
Tibbits is a war hero and should have had no regrets about ending (and winning) the war.

barrypopik on November 2, 2007 at 2:26 pm

Why is it that the person dropping a bomb leveling 2/3rds of a city while killing 80,000 civilians (ostensibly as an act of war) is a hero, but Muslim extremists leveling two buildings while killing 3000 civilians vis a vis their ‘act of war’ are considered evil?

Jimbo on November 2, 2007 at 2:37 pm

To answer your question Jimbo: Perspective. One persons hero is always going to be someone else’s enemy.

D*Rek on November 2, 2007 at 3:10 pm

To answer Jimbo, it’s a lot more than “perspective.” I’d like to point out that, while ending the war saved my father’s life, it also saved Japanese lives.
The United States and Japan were at war. Japan had committed an unprovoked act of aggression by bombing Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
The people working in the World Trade Center were not at war with anyone. They were going about their daily lives when they were senselessly murdered.
The big question is why Hiroshima and Nagasaki were selected, as opposed to other potential bomb sites? That’s partially answered here:
Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki had military sites that had served Japan’s war machine.
There really is a world of difference between the two acts.

barrypopik on November 2, 2007 at 4:48 pm

While from our perspective the Atom Bomb and 9-11 are very different acts, to our enemies they are one and the same. In their eyes, our arming of Israel and presence in their holy land constituted an unprovoked attack.
And to your point of the World Trade Center victims being innocent, I agree. However, there were tens of thousands of Japanese who died who were also just going about their lives. Just like if we were to be nuked due to our wars in the Mid East, tens of thousands of our innocent civilians would be killed.
Also, on your point about the bombs ending the war and saving lives, I agree up to a point. One of the other major factors in the war ending was that the Russians had opened up a second front just days earlier. There were a number of Japanese leaders who were upset at the second bomb being dropped, as they were already forming their surrender.

D*Rek on November 2, 2007 at 5:18 pm

There’s a world of difference, D’Rek.
The World Trade Center was an office building, serving no military purpose. The United States was not at war with any nation, nor was any nation at war with the United States. It was an act of murder.
Hiroshima was a military target during wartime.
The causalties of WWII are listed here:
Japan suffered over 2,000,000 military casualties. The civilian casualties are a fraction of that number (and could have been less had Japan surrendered immediately and not chosen to remain at war, risking many more lives).
There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the events ending WWII (beginning August 6th) saved many more lives, both Japanese and American.

barrypopik on November 2, 2007 at 5:53 pm

Two of the best behavior modifiers.

John Cunningham on November 2, 2007 at 5:53 pm

Again, you are missing my point on perspective. To our enemies it was a viable target (as was the Pentagon which was hit, and presumably the White House which was not hit).
And as I said in my previous post, there is no question that the Atom bomb was a major contributor to saving lives in WWII.
Now that I think about it,a more apt WWII comparison to 9-11 would be the Doolittle Raid, which we did in response to Pearl Harbor. To us, they were heroes, to the Japanese, they were terrorists. Again, it goes back to perspective.

D*Rek on November 2, 2007 at 6:01 pm

Thank you, Debbie, for the story of General Tibbets’ life and of his death. Didn’t think I’d see it mentioned anywhere else in the media. You are right, men of his integrity and guts are too few and far between. We don’t make many like him anymore. Yes, war is hell. It’s supposed to be. Yes, there are some in the military that probably enjoy it, but if it were not for them doing their jobs well, we’d be in deep trouble. America wages war because we are attacked or our interests are attacked. Our major wars were wars thrust upon us. If we didn’t fight back, we would not be the America we have today, as sad as “that” America is. But we are still “America”. Someday, we may have a new cadre of leadership that will get us back to the America that was and still can be, one of Integrity, Honor and Charactor. Not the America that the left would have us continue to slide towards. It has been proven over generations that appeasment doesn’t work and it won’t with radical Islam. Hopefully, our leadership will learn that lesson and soon. As a side note, I recommend the book “Fly Boys” that came out a couple of years ago. The author goes in to extensive historical background of the Japan that led to WWII, going back generations to show the mindsets that led to Pearl Harbor and beyond. Yes, it is an ugly book but he does a masterful job of telling the story from both sides, ours and Japan’s and tells of the mistakes and horrors on both sides. War is supposed to be ugly, so ugly as to be avoided. Some who criticize war, and our current war, must never have been bullied as children. If you don’t fight back with equal force against a bully, he never stops. He enjoys terrorizing you because it costs him nothing. Until you fight back. We fought back after 9/11. For as long as it takes. Unfortunately, war is in man’s nature. You are well aware of that from studying the Scriptures. Man’s nature hasn’t changed since Biblical days. And isn’t likely to.

Floyd R. Turbo on November 2, 2007 at 7:13 pm

It’s all a matter of “perspective,” isn’t it, Drek?
After all, in 1945, Japanese troops had been raging through the East since 1931. Words like Pearl Harbor, Nanking, and Bataam had become shorthand for “atrocities.” The entire Japanese island chain was being turned into a fortress, in which women and children were being trained to conduct kamikaze banzai attacks.
In 2001, how many countries were US troops in without the permission of the host nation? I think that would be… ZERO. And the US had had an official declaration of war from… let’s see… ZERO countries.
Yes, it all depends on your perspective; and if you view them as equivalent, your perspective is that of bin Laden, or Schikelgruber, or at best Benedict Arnold.

DocLiberty on November 2, 2007 at 9:08 pm

My newly arrived rescue cat just got his name. Tibbets. I expect a lot out of him! I will enjoy explaining the name to friends who will love this story. What a great man.

nyone on November 2, 2007 at 9:38 pm

Another fine DS tribute to a great American. RIP Paul Tibbets.

Southernops on November 3, 2007 at 9:08 am

This man is a hero of mine. I have a (genuine) signed copy of his book “Return of the Enola Gay.” It’s a wonderful read; I loved his stories about the WASP’s (Women’s Air Service Pilots), General Patton, and Ike Eisenhower (Ike Goes to War on a Two-by-Four). If you haven’t read his book please buy it and learn about this wonderful, heroic, and intelligent man.
It must also be noted that he was quite the gentleman.
What a terrible loss of a great American HERO!

Freudianslippers on November 3, 2007 at 9:40 pm

“Yes, it all depends on your perspective; and if you view them as equivalent, your perspective is that of bin Laden, or Schikelgruber, or at best Benedict Arnold.”
Couldn’t have said it better, Doc. But what else would you expect from a piece of Nazi scum like Dreck who thinks the existence of a Jewish state is morally equivalent to the attack on Pearl Harbor?

Gary Rosen on November 5, 2007 at 3:21 am

that is some sick shit you sick bitch.

Ok, dropping that bomb saved millions of united states marines. But out of those 100,000 killed how many were military? Would you criticize people who destroyed 3000 civilians in 9-11? they were all civilians and over in ‘tehran’ or wherever there are so many muslims those pilots are heroes.

In Hiroshima and Nagasaki millions of people and their families died for this stupid war. The united states was supposed to be heroes for stopping the germans from killing more jews. If it wasn’t for that we would be regarded the same way Russia is, as people who took advantage of needed help to justify mass murder.

Why didn’t we drop the bombs on complete military targets? Such as Iwo Jima and okinawa? Because we hadn’t invented them yet right? So what did we do we dropped them on civilians. But you call this guy a hero? That is just messed up. It’s only a necessity of war because of how sick those japs were. But the people who spent decades dying of radiation poison probably weren’t the people who went into china and massacred hundreds of thousands of chinese, it’s probably the 95% civilian population or whatever.

Honestly I would have expected maybe a firebombing of factories for nagasaki, hiroshima and tokyo. But what the u.s. did was bomb every damn building there in revenge for what japan had done to their troops in the pacific.

Honestly I have more respect for the kamikaze bombers who bombed u.s. ships. I mean it took some balls to sacrifice yourself in battle, and it took balls to go on some massive campaign aboard one of those battleships, but to me bombing civilians for a psychological advantage makes paul tibbets a nazi imperialist himself.

And if it wasn’t for saving all the americans who had the fortitude to go through that campaign, he’d be nothing. But who isn’t going to respect a guy that saved millions of u.s. soldiers.

I still feel that they could have picked military targets, we just wanted to prove something to russia in terms of power for such a costly war for invading berlin ahead of us or some crap. Really it’s sick, and Paul Tibbets is no hero.

To bomb a factory does not take destroying an entire city. But then again, what was right about that war at all?

But I tell you this, hitler would have commemorated paul tibbets himself, that was after all a brilliant act of war. I’d be careful to commemorate he who would have been commemorated by the cruelest of tyrants. I’m almost suprised the japanese didn’t respect us for that themselves. I’m sure a few of them were like “I would have thought of that myself in the u.s. shoes”

and the atom bomb was no contribution to society, I sure would have hated to be the first person to drop one

some person on August 16, 2010 at 5:18 am

“Why is it that the person dropping a bomb leveling 2/3rds of a city while killing 80,000 civilians (ostensibly as an act of war) is a hero, but Muslim extremists leveling two buildings while killing 3000 civilians vis a vis their ‘act of war’ are considered evil?”

I have to agree with you jimbo, that last post of mine may have been a little harsh. But for those who say we were not at any war with muslims etc. Lol where and who do you think we had been invading before that attack? Have people forgotten that prior to 9-11 we commenced attacks on the taliban? And I think talibani are nazi regimists, sick people who commemorate stoning a woman for letting someone rape her.

but paul tibbets dropped a bomb which tortured people for decades with radiation poisoning, and said he slept without missing a wink of sleep every night because he saved americans. Well, I’m sure he missed a night or two of sleep. I’m sure he was a real psycho wreck type of person, because I’ve known psycho wrecks who didn’t bomb 200,000 japanese civilians. LOL 😉

but I hope he made his peace with god on his death day, anyway life is short and inconsequential. Murder is never right, if the u.s. hadn’t ended that war who knows where we might be right now, just that I can’t think thousands of civilians families who wanted to just go home and see their kids after a hard days work I’m sure like everyone here dying in a blaze of fire is heroic. May god have mercy for jesus sake

some person on August 16, 2010 at 5:35 am

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