|Paul Warfield Tibbets|
Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets (USAF Photo)
February 23, 1915|
Quincy, Illinois, US
|Died||November 1, 2007
Columbus, Ohio, US
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch|| United States Air Force;
United States Army Air Forces
|Years of service||1937–1966|
|Commands held||509th Composite Group
308th Bomb Wing
|Battles/wars||World War II
(North African, European, and Pacific Theaters); atomic bombing of Hiroshima
|Awards||Distinguished Service Cross
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross (2)
Air Medal (4)
|Other work||Charter Pilot and President of Executive Jet Aviation|
Paul Warfield Tibbets, Jr. (February 23, 1915 – November 1, 2007) was a brigadier general in the United States Air Force, best known for being the pilot of the Enola Gay (named for his mother), the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb in the history of warfare. The bomb, code-named Little Boy, was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
Early life 
Tibbets was born in Quincy, Illinois, the son of Paul Warfield Tibbets, Sr. and Enola Gay Tibbets. When he was five years old, the family moved to Davenport, Iowa and then they moved to Iowa's capital Des Moines where he was raised, and where his father became a confections wholesaler. Later on, his family had moved to Miami, Florida in order to escape from harsh midwestern winters. Young Paul was very interested in flying. One day his mother agreed to pay one dollar to get him into an airplane at the local carnival. In 1927, when Paul was 12 years old, he performed his first flight, he was dropping candy bars to the crowd of people attending the races at the Hialeah track. In the late 1920s, business issues forced his family to return to Alton, Illinois, where Tibbets graduated from Western Military Academy in 1933. Later he attended the University of Florida in Gainesville and was an initiated member of the Epsilon Zeta Chapter of Sigma Nu fraternity in 1934. During that time, Tibbets was taking private flying lessons. After his undergraduate work, Tibbets had planned on becoming an abdominal surgeon. He attended the University of Cincinnati for a year and a half, before changing his mind, and enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Corps.
Early military career 
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Tibbets changed his mind about a medical career, dropped out of medical school and joined the U.S. Army. On February 25, 1937, Tibbets enlisted as a flying cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps, initially based at Fort Thomas, Kentucky. After a short period of time, Tibbets was sent to Randoplh Field, San Antonio, Texas, where he began his flying practice. During his studies his performance showed that he was an above-average pilot. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1938 and received his commission and wings at Kelly Field, Texas. After the graduation, he was transferred to Fort Benning. During that year, he served as a personal pilot of George S. Patton. On December 7, 1941, during his regular work, he heard about the attack on the United States on the radio.
For the first months of the war, Tibbets was serving in antisubmarine patrol on the East coast of the United States. Tibbets was named commanding officer of the 340th Bombardment Squadron, 97th Bomb Group of the U.S. Army Air Forces, flying B-17 Flying Fortresses in March 1942. Based at RAF Polebrook, he piloted the lead bomber for the first Eighth Air Force bombing mission in Europe on August 17, 1942, and later flew combat missions in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. On October 9, Tibbets participated in an operation as a leader of one-hundred plane raid on the French city of Lille. One third of the bombers were shot, however, this operation was considered successful. Before the invasion of North Africa in 1942, Tibbets was selected to fly general Dwight D. Eisenhower to Gibraltar to begin Operation Torch. For Tibbets, the war in North Africa introduced him to real warfare. He claimed that he saw real effects of bombing civilians and loss of his brothers in arms. Upon completion of his combat tour, Tibbets was assigned as assistant for bomber operations to Col. Lauris Norstad, Assistant Chief of Staff of Operations (A-3) of the Twelfth Air Force, a position he held until returning to the U.S. to test fly B-29 Superfortresses. "By reputation", Tibbets was "the best flier in the Army Air Force". One of those who confirmed this reputation was then-General Dwight D. Eisenhower, for whom Tibbets served as a personal pilot at times during the war.
After a year of development testing of the B-29, Tibbets was assigned in March 1944 to the 17th Bombardment Operational Training Wing (Very Heavy), a B-29 training unit, as director of operations under Brig. Gen. Frank A. Armstrong at Grand Island Army Air Field, Nebraska. On April 27 he was selected by General Henry H. Arnold as the prime candidate to command the 509th Composite Group, although he was not informed of the selection until September 1.
Why Paul Tibbets was selected for bombing Japan 
When the operation was in development stage there were two main candidates for this mission; Brigadier General Frank Armstrong and Colonel Roscoe Wilson. Both very qualified men. However, Paul Tibbets had an advantage over them. He had experience in strategic bombing obtained while bombing German cities. He was also younger than other candidates. In addition he had served as the personal pilot of Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was as well a very experienced B-29 pilot, thus making him an ideal candidate.
Atomic bombing of Japan 
On September 1, 1944, he was assigned to command the project at Wendover Army Air Field, Utah, that became the 509th CG, in connection with the Manhattan Project. Initially, Tibbets was unfamiliar with even the concept of an atomic bomb, and was quoted in a 1946 article in The New Yorker saying, "I will go only so far as to say that I knew what an atom was." Once they were in Wendover, Utah (the selected base for the 509th composite group), Tibbets brought his wife and family along with him.
To explain all the civilian engineers on base who were working on the Manhattan Project, he had to lie to her, by telling her that the engineers were "sanitary workers." Tibbets had to frequently fly to the Los Alamos Laboratories (in New Mexico) for briefings regarding the Manhattan Project.
On August 5, 1945, Tibbets formally named B-29 serial number 44-86292 Enola Gay after his mother. On August 6, the Enola Gay departed Tinian Island in the Marianas with Tibbets at the controls at 2:45 a.m. for Hiroshima, Japan. Tinian was approximately 2000 miles away from Japan, so it took six hours to reach Hiroshima. Because of the fear that the Japanese could have captured the plane, twelve cyanide pills were kept in the cockpit. In the case of failure of the mission, the pilots were supposed to use them. The atomic bomb, codenamed Little Boy, was dropped over Hiroshima at 8:15 a.m. local time. When the A-bomb was dropped on the city, Tibbets recalls that, the city was covered with a tall mushroom cloud.
When Colonel Tibbets had accomplished his mission, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (United States), immediately after landing in Guam. His photos started to appear on the front pages of all American and world newspapers. He became a very popular person in the United States, pictures and interviews of his wife and children flew around main American newspapers. Colonel Tibbets was seen as a national hero, who ended the war with Japan. However, there was no parade nor testimonial dinner for him or any other Enola Gay crewmen. Later on, Tibbets received an invitation from President Harry S. Truman, to visit the White House.
The U.S. government apologized to Japan in 1976 after Tibbets re-enacted the bombing in a restored B-29 at an air show in Texas, complete with mushroom cloud. Tibbets said that he had not meant for the reenactment to have been an insult to the Japanese.
In 1995, he denounced the 50th anniversary exhibition of the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian Institution, which attempted to present the bombing in context with the destruction it caused, as a "damn big insult." due to its focus on the Japanese casualties rather than the brutality of the Japanese government and the subsequent necessity of the bombing.
The film Above and Beyond (1952) depicted the World War II events involving Tibbets, with Robert Taylor starring as Paul Tibbets and Eleanor Parker as his first wife Lucy. A 1980 made-for-television movie, somewhat fictionalized, told the story of Tibbets and crew. Patrick Duffy played the part of Tibbets and Kim Darby played Lucy. The film was called, Enola Gay: The Men, the Mission, the Atomic Bomb. Tibbets was also portrayed in the films Day One and The Beginning or the End.
An interview of Paul Tibbets can be seen in the 1982 movie Atomic Cafe. He was also interviewed in the 1970s British documentary series The World at War, as well as "Men Who Brought the Dawn" episode of the Smithsonian Networks War Stories (1995) and Hiroshima (2005).
Tibbets was interviewed extensively by Mike Harden of the Columbus Dispatch, and profiles appeared in the newspaper on anniversaries of the first dropping of an 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, I'd do it again."
In the 2005 BBC premier, Hiroshima: BBC History of World War II, Tibbets recalls the day of the Hiroshima bombing. When the bomb had hit its target, he was relieved. Tibbets stressed in the interview, "I'm not emotional. I didn't have the first Goddamned thought, or I would have told you what it was. I did the job and I was so relieved that it was successful, you can't even understand it."
Later life 
Tibbets' marriage to his former wife, Lucy Wingate, ended in divorce in 1955; his second wife was a French woman named Andrea Quattrehomme. In 1959, he was promoted to Brigadier General. He retired from the U.S. Air Force on August 31, 1966.
During the 1960s, Tibbets was named military attaché in India, but this posting was rescinded after protests in India regarding Tibbets' role in dropping the atomic bomb on Japan. After his retirement from the Air Force, he worked for Executive Jet Aviation, a Columbus, Ohio-based air taxi company now called NetJets. He retired from the company in 1970 and returned to Miami, Florida. He later left Miami to return to Executive Jet Aviation, having sold his Miami home in 1974. He was president of Executive Jet Aviation from 1976 until his retirement in 1987.
Tibbets briefly commanded the 393rd Bomb Squadron during his tenure in the 509th Composite Group. His grandson Colonel Paul W. Tibbets IV, USAF, (a 1989 graduate of the US Air Force Academy) was also commander of the 393rd Bomb Squadron at Whiteman AFB, Missouri, from 2005–2007 and flew the B-2 Spirit. The 393rd is one of two operational squadrons under the same unit his grandfather commanded, the 509th Bomb Wing.
Awards and decorations 
See also 
- Kingseed, Cole C (2006). Old Glory Stories: American Combat Leadership in World War II. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 153. ISBN 9781591144403.
- "Usher", The New Yorker, January 5, 1946: 16
- Kingseed, Cole C (2006). Old Glory Stories: American Combat Leadership in World War II. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 154. ISBN 9781591144403.
- Kingseed, Cole C (2006). Old Glory Stories: American Combat Leadership in World War II. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 158. ISBN 9781591144403.
- Stephen Ambrose. The Victors, p. 40.
- Kingseed, Cole S (2006). Old Glory Stories: American Combat Leadership in World War II. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 160.
- Stelpflug, Peggy A (2007). Home of the Infantry: The History of Fort Benning. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. p. 163. ISBN 9780881460872.
- "Hiroshima bomb pilot dies aged 92". BBC News Online. 2007-11-01. Retrieved 2007-11-01.
- Enola Gay: The Men, the Mission, the Atomic Bomb (1980) (TV) at the Internet Movie Database
- Hiroshima: BBC History of World War II. Dir. Paul Wilmshurst. BBC, 2005. DVD.
- Goldstein, Richard (2007-11-01). "Paul W. Tibbets Jr., Pilot of Enola Gay, Dies at 92". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-01.
- Tibbets, P. Flight of the Enola Gay, p. 271
- "Miamian who bombed Hiroshima in 1945 dies". Miami Herald. 2007-11-02. Retrieved 2007-11-02.[dead link]
- Julie Carr Smyth (November 1, 2007). "Pilot of plane that dropped A-bomb dies". Associated Press at Yahoo News. Retrieved 2007-11-01.[dead link]
- Goldstein, Richard (2007-11-01). "Paul W. Tibbets Jr., Pilot of Enola Gay, Dies at 92". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-01.
- "Paul Tibbets Jr., who flew plane that dropped first atomic bomb, dies at 92". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 2007-11-01.
- "Man Who Dropped Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima Dies at 92". Associated Press at Fox News Channel. November 1, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-01.
- Campbell, Richard H. The Silverplate Bombers: A History and Registry of the Enola Gay and Other B-29s Configured to Carry Atomic Bombs. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2005. ISBN 0-7864-2139-8.
- Krauss, Robert and Amelia Krauss. The 509th Remembered: A History of the 509th Composite Group as Told by the Veterans Themselves, 509th Anniversary Reunion, Wichita, Kansas October 7–10, 2004. 509th Press., 2005. ISBN 0-923568-66-2.
- Marx, Joseph L. Seven Hours to Zero. New York: G.P. Putnam Son's, 1967.
- Rhodes, Richard. The Making of the Atomic Bomb. Simon & Schuster, 1986. ISBN 0-684-81378-5.
- Thomas, Gordon and Max Morgan Witts. Enola Gay. New York: Stein & Day Publishing, 1977. ISBN 0-8128-2150-5.
- Thomas, Gordon and Max Morgan Witts. Ruin from the Air: The Enola Gay's Atomic Mission to Hiroshima. London: Hamilton, 1977. (republished in 1990 by Scarborough House)
- Tibbets, Paul W. Flight of the Enola Gay. Reynoldsburg, Ohio: Buckeye Aviation Book Company, 1989. ISBN 0-942397-11-8.
- Tibbets, Paul W. Return Of The Enola Gay. Mid Coast, 1998. ISBN 0-9703666-0-4.
- Tibbets, Paul W. The Tibbets' Story. New York: Stein & Day Publishing, 1982. ISBN 0-8128-7057-3.
- Hiroshima: BBC History of World War II. Dir. Paul Wilmshurst. BBC, 2005. DVD.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Paul Tibbets|
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Paul Tibbets|
- USAF Official Bio at AF.mil
- 509th Composite Group
- Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima
- Annotated bibliography for Paul Tibbets from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues
- BBC News item announcing Tibbets' death
- In pictures: Paul Tibbets
- "Paul Tibbets". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
- Obituary, The Daily Telegraph, November 2, 2007
- Obituary, The Guardian, November 2, 2007
- Obituary, The Independent, November 2, 2007
- Obituary, The Times, November 2, 2007
- Above and Beyond, a 1952 MGM feature film