Thursday, November 01, 2007

Paul W. Tibbets Jr. 1915-2007

Brigadier General Paul W. Tibbets Jr, the commander and pilot of the B-29 bomber named Enola Gay which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, died yesterday at the age of 92.

Tibbets was no simple airplane jockey, he was an experienced heavy bomber pilot and ran the program that trained crews to support and fly planes for the express purpose of delivering atomic bombs: [from the NY Times obituary]

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 Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower to Gibraltar 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.

He was ordered to find the best pilots, navigators, bombardiers and supporting crewmen and mold them into a unit that would deliver that bomb from a B-29.

Tibbets' distinguished himself in the decades since Hiroshima and Nagasaki by never second-guessing or apologizing for what United States did and he executed in ending the Second World War. It was appropriate as the decision to use the bomb was a sound one despite the revisionist historians who declaim otherwise.

“I was anxious to do it,” he told an interviewer for the documentary “The Men Who Brought the Dawn,” marking the 50th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. “I wanted to do everything that I could to subdue Japan...“I have been convinced that we saved more lives than we took,” he said, referring to both American and Japanese casualties from an invasion of Japan. “It would have been morally wrong if we’d have had that weapon and not used it and let a million more people die.”

Rest in peace, General.

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