An American Hero Dies - General Paul Tibbets Dead at 92
(November 5, 2007)
The AP reported in a bland article today Brig.
General Paul Warfield Tibbets, who as a young colonel in the AAF
dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima Japan, has died. He
He piloted the B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay” from Tinian Island
in the Pacific to Hiroshima and dropped a single atomic weapon
on August 6, 1945 called” Little Boy”. The single bomb produced
over 80,000 casualties to the enemy in WW II.
The event almost single handedly ended the war in the Pacific.
Germany had surrendered earlier the same year. An invasion of
Japan almost certainly would have cost more than a million
Jack L. Key
Tibbets did not know exactly the power of the
bomb, or how it would react, if or when, it might explode. Paul
Tibbets was criticized severely most of his life by the Japanese
and ultraliberal Americans who mistakenly blamed him for the
war, the bomb, and the killing of so many of the enemy. But he
always maintained he did his duty as he was ordered, and since
we were at war, did not regret killing the enemy at that time.
He always slept well at night, he often said to critics. A
second bomb was dropped days later on Nagasaki, but Tibbets did
I remember the Hiroshima event well. As a young paper carrier at
age 9 I was one of the first to see the headlines and picture of
the mushroom cloud that appeared in local papers that summer.
President Truman came on the radio and spoke of the mission,
Tibbets and his crew and the “Enola Gay”. Everyone thought this
event would end the killing and the war, because the Japanese
had resisted all attempts by the U.S. for peace. Even when
advised the allies had a powerful new weapon and would use it to
end the war, Japan refused to enter peace talks.
I was saddened by Paul Tibbets death. I was outraged when I read
that he had asked for no funeral or a headstone, since he feared
his detractors in America would use it as a symbol of hate.
Instead his ashes will be spread over the English Channel where
he loved to fly. An American hero of WWII feared to be buried in
his own country? It is hard to believe. So this is what we have
become? Will we deny every other soldier, flier and sailor who
has killed the enemy in war his right to be honored
and buried in the USA?
Paul Tibbets was a good man, a fine officer and a patriotic
American who sacrificed his life for his country that day in
summer, 1945. Just as surely as if he had been shot through the
heart, a part of him died that day. But how many mothers, wives
and sweethearts did he save from the heartbreak of receiving
that final telegram telling of a loved one's death in some
bloody battle with the Japanese?
While one can understand the agony the Japanese must have felt
then, both countries now should remember that Japan began the
war in the Pacific by a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor that killed
over 2,500 American servicemen. In a bit of irony, the U.S. Navy
ship, the cruiser Indianapolis, that had brought the bomb across
the Pacific was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine after
delivering the weapon on her return trip home. Hundreds of
American sailors were lost or eaten by sharks while in the water
for days after the sinking.
Where did we find such men as these? Paul Tibbets was then 30
years old and a colonel in the Army Air Forces. His crew on the
Enola Gay was made up of 18 to 21 year olds. They flew their
missions deep into enemy territory, did their job and endured
the losses of their friends. It was freezing cold, the air was
thin and missions lasted for hours. And they did it for years on
end, not just weeks or months. Over 16 million Americans served
in WWII. My father, 3 uncles and two cousins included.
Where did we get such men?
I met Paul Tibbets once at an airshow and I liked him. As the AP
article reported, the media had accused him and ridiculed him
for years. They made him out to be a drunk, mentally ill, or a
killer. He was none of those things. Now he won't be buried or
honored in death by the country he helped save. But I will honor
him, and I am sad to see him, and so many others like him, go
Rest in peace, General Tibbets. Hand Salute.
Thank God you were with us in our time of great need.
Jack L. Key
Jack L. Key, Ph.D. is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and a retired healthcare professional. He is the author of several books and frequently writes features articles and commentary for the Internet and Prints media.
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