“Hell yeah, I’d do it again”
Just got word that one of my own personal heroes of World War II, Brigadier General Paul Tibbets, has passed away today.
Tibbets was born in Quincy, Illinois, and was the son of Paul Warfield Tibbets and Enola Gay Tibbets, and raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where his father was a confections wholesaler.
On February 25, 1937, he enlisted as a flying cadet in the Army Air Corps at Fort Thomas, Kentucky. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1938 and received his wings at Kelly Field, Texas. Tibbets was named commanding officer of the 340th Bomb Squadron, 97th Heavy Bomb Group flying B-17 Flying Fortresses in March, 1942.
Based at RAF Polebrook, he piloted the lead bomber on the first Eighth Air Force bombing mission in Europe on August 17, 1942, and later flew combat missions in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations until returning to the U.S. to test fly B-29 Superfortresses.
In September 1944 he was selected to command the project at Wendover Army Air Field, Utah, that became the 509th Composite Group, in connection with the Manhattan Project’s Project Alberta.
On August 5, 1945, Colonel Paul Tibbets formally named B-29 serial number 44-86292 Enola Gay after his mother. On August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay departed Tinian Island in the Marianas with Tibbets at the controls at 2:45 a.m. for Hiroshima, Japan.
The atomic bomb, codenamed Little Boy, was dropped over Hiroshima at 8:15 a.m. local time. It was the first use of an atomic weapon in the history of warfare.
The Hiroshima mission has been described as tactically flawless, and Enola Gay returned safely to its base on Tinian to great fanfare on the base.
The first atomic bombing was followed three days later by another B-29 nicknamed Bockscar, piloted by Major Charles W. Sweeney, which dropped a second nuclear weapon, “Fat Man”, on Nagasaki.
On that mission the Enola Gay, flown by Crew B-10 under Capt. George Marquardt, aircraft commander, was the weather reconnaissance aircraft.
Throughout his entire life, Tibbets expressed no regret whatsoever regarding the decision to drop the atomic bomb.
In a 1975 interview he said: “I’m proud that I was able to start with nothing, plan it and have it work as perfectly as it did… I sleep clearly every night”.
In March 2005, he stated “If you give me the same circumstances, hell yeah, I’d do it again.”
Thank you for your great service to the United States, Brigadier General Paul Tibbets. Millions of Americans salute your memory.
As a special bonus, please enjoy this great newsreel footage of the heroic crew of the Enola Gay, Real American Heroes one and all!