Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr.
Brigadier General Paul W. Tibbets, Jr.
Born February 23, 1915. Died November 1, 2007
Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., the pilot of the Enola Gay, named after Tibbets’ mother, died Thursday, November 1, 2007 at the age of 92. At the time his crew and Sweeney’s crew dropped their atomic bombs on Japan, Americans were excited that they had ended the long war and saved many potential American casualties. But as time passed, great controversy arose over the United States use of atomic bombs on Japan. A Colonel at the time, Gen. Tippets felt he did his job and had no regrets over dropping”the bomb” and ending the war. He was quoted as saying, ” I viewed my mission as one to save lives. I didn’t bomb Pearl Harbor. I didn’t start the war, but I was going to finish it!”
At 2:30 AM on the morning of August 6, 1945, the crew of the Enola Gay started their engines in preparation for departure from the island of Tinian in the Marianas. At 2:45 AM the “B-29 Superfortress” lifted off runway Able at the airfield in Tinian and headed for either Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, or Nagasaki, Japan. The thirteen hour flight would take the plane over the famed island of Iwo Jima where over 5,500 Americans and 25,000 Japanese died during America’s battle to capture the Island from the Japanese.
Aboard the plane was a 12 foot long, 28 inch diameter, 9,000lb., Atomic Bomb named “Little Boy.” The “bomb” was only partially assembled before departure in case of a crash at lift off. After passing over Iwo Jima , the emergency landing site, the plane changed heading for Japan. At 7:30 AM the “bomb” assembly was completed by Deak Parsons in flight. At 8:30 the target was chosen as Hiroshima based on weather conditions. At 9:15, “Little Boy” was dropped and it detonated 43 seconds later.
“Little Boy” was a Uranium bomb developed under the Manhattan Project. Three days later, Maj. Charles W. Sweeney piloted the B-29. World War II subsequently ended on August 15, 1945, when Japan surrendered.
Besides the bombing of Japan, the General flew in many major campaigns in the war. He flew anti-submarine watches over the Atlantic, flying B-18’s. He flew the first “daylight bombing runs over German occupied Europe, missions in North Africa as part of “Operation Torch” trprtations, ferrying Generals. He also taught flying on several occasions when new planes came out. After the war, a movie, Twelve O’Clock High, came out. It used the 97th BG as a guide for the movie. The General was also depicted in the movie. Twelve O’Clock High was about the American B-29 bombing runs into German occupied Europe.
Due to the controversy that has surrounded his life the general requested no funeral or headstone.
Rest in Peace General. I agree with you, you did your job and saved countless lives. I disagree you started the atomic war age, you simply flew a plane. Our leaders and Scientist built and the completed a project already begun by Hitler. Had Hitler succeeded, you can bet the War would have ended much differently!