http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bom ... d_Nagasaki
To remember the 60th Anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima, Japan...
Still no regrets for frail Enola Gay pilot
Saturday, August 06, 2005
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
"The mind of the pilot whose B-29 dropped the first atomic bomb often seems more prisoner than resident of his bantamweight body wracked by injury, ailments and 90 years of living.
In the months before todays 60 th anniversary of his mission to Hiroshima, Paul Tibbets was hobbled by a pair of spills that fractured two vertebrae. For a while, his appetite disappeared, his weight dropped alarmingly, and he railed against the fates torturing him in his waning years.
"Ive never been incapacitated a damned day of my life," he groused two months ago, daily downing enough OxyContin to make it out of bed and to an easy chair from which he stared at a television he could barely hear.
Yet by Augusts first days, the fractures had mended, an orthopedic brace was gone, and his hallmark feistiness had returned.
"He is still the general, and I am the Pfc.," said Andrea, the old pilots wife of 51 years. "He went up in rank over the years, but I have stayed a Pfc."
The traits that sometimes have made him a difficult mate his single-mindedness, drive, tenacity and intolerance for mediocrity endeared him to the military leadership that chose him to command the first atomic-bomb mission.
"Pauls mind works like a com- puter," said Gerry Newhouse, Tibbets former business manager and friend. "Eisenhower told (historian) Stephen Ambrose that Tibbets was the best bomber pilot in World War II.
"His crews respected him. Psychologically, he could handle the aftereffects of such a mission. For the last 60 years, he has had to deal with the controversy."
"I knew when I got the assignment it was going to be an emotional thing," Tibbets acknowledged Wednesday, noting of his crew, "We had feelings, but we had to put them in the background. We knew it was going to kill people right and left. But my one driving interest was to do the best job I could so that we could end the killing as quickly as possible."
On Aug. 3, 1945, he was told to proceed with "Special Bombing Mission No. 13."
Less than three hours before takeoff, the 30-year-old colonel and his crew sat down to a midnight breakfast at a Tinian Island mess hall nicknamed the "Dogpatch Inn."
When the Enola Gay, named for Tibbets mother, roared down the runway in the predawn of Aug. 6, Tibbets was carrying his favorite smoking pipe, a few cigars and a small cardboard pillbox holding a dozen cyanide capsules, in case the crew had to bail out over enemy territory.
Mission from childhood
The seed of Tibbets ultimate rendezvous with history likely was planted before he was a teenager.
He was born in Quincy, Ill., and lived briefly in Iowa before his father moved the family to Miami. Tibbets, then 12, was hanging out at his fathers business, Tibbets & Smith Wholesale Confectioners, when a barnstorming pilot entered the offices and announced that he needed an assistant for a bombing mission. While he piloted the plane over Miamis large public venues, an assistant would drop paper-parachuted samples of Baby Ruth candy bars to the crowd below.
Tibbets volunteered against the wishes of his father, who already had determined that his son was going to be a doctor.
The young man later recalled the week he spent dropping sweets from the back seat of a biplane, "No Arabian prince ever rode a magic carpet with a greater delight or sense of superiority to the rest of the human race."
He was sent to military school and then entered the University of Florida, often spending more time at the Gainesville airstrip than in class.
After his sophomore year, he was pressed by his father to transfer to the University of Cincinnati, where a family friend and physician could help cultivate his interest in medical school.
It had the opposite effect. After a brief stint as an aide at the physicians two venereal-disease clinics, Tibbets though deft with a syringe and needle decided that there had to be something better in life than administering arsenic treatments to syphilitics. He applied to become an aviation cadet in the Army Air Corps.
By late 1941, Tibbets had earned his commission and wings and, on Dec. 7, was flying his A-10 attack bomber to Savannah, Ga., after participating in a war-games mock surprise attack on ground troops at Fort Bragg. Homing in on the signal of a radio stations broadcast tower, he listened as a somber voice interrupted the music to announce the attack on Pearl Harbor.
"I thought, Boy, Orson Welles is at it again, " he recalled, referring to the Welles broadcast of War of the Worlds.
When the U.S. entered the war, Tibbets flew B-17 sorties in the North Africa campaign, later leading the first daylight B-17 raid across the English Channel. He was on a B-17 mission in late 1942 when enemy flak exploded part of his instrument panel and peppered him with shrapnel.
Tibbets says today that his missions over occupied Europe in his beloved Red Gremlin, though fraught with peril, were the most gratifying of all his military flying.
A few months after he was wounded, Tibbets was ordered back to the States to begin testing the new Boeing B-29. By 1944, he knew the planes capabilities as well or better than the company that built it, but some of the young pilots who would form his 509 th Composite Bomb Group thought the craft dangerous and unwieldy.
To show the younger fliers that their fears were unfounded, Tibbets recruited two Womens Air Service Pilots to train on the B-29. To the embarrassment of the male pilots, they maneuvered the B-29 superbly, even with two of the four engines shut off.
Visit from the feds
In 1944, Tibbets learned that the FBI was nosing around his old neighborhood regarding his fitness for a top-secret clearance.
They unearthed his lone arrest, at 19, after a Surfside, Fla., police officer had caught Tibbets and his date in the back seat of a car on a remote stretch of beach.
When Gen. Uzal Ent informed Tibbets that he had been selected for the atomic-bomb mission, the general cautioned, "If this is a success, youll be a hero. If not, its possible that you could wind up in prison."
Tibbets didnt know which it would be when, 10 miles from Hiroshima, his bombardier, Maj. Thomas Ferebee, broke in on the intercom: "OK, Ive got the bridge."
A T-shaped span over the Ota River was the target.
"As we approached the aiming point," Tibbets remembered, "I watched for the first signs of anti-aircraft fire or fighter planes."
There were none.
When the bomb christened "Little Boy" tumbled from the belly of the Enola Gay, the planes nose, unburdened of 8,900 pounds in an instant, jerked upward. Tibbets swung the craft into a 155-degree diving turn to put as much distance as possible between the impending blast and his bomber. Forty-three seconds later, the sky lit up with a terrible flash.
"If Dante had been on the plane with us, he would have been terrified," Tibbets later said.
"My God," co-pilot Capt. Robert Lewis scribbled in his flight log.
Death estimates have varied widely. Some say 80,000 is a reliable figure, while noting that tens of thousands of others perished by years end from the effects of radiation. The dead included 20,000 Koreans the Japanese had enslaved for war work.
No escape from war
Tibbets remained in the Air Force until 1966, leaving the service as a brigadier general.
Not long after, he went to work for Executive Jet Aviation, a global all-jet, air-taxi company based in Columbus. His first assignment was in Geneva, Switzerland. He spent two years there before moving to Columbus and, in 1976, becoming the companys president.
Throughout the 60s and 70s, Tibbets endured urban legends suggesting, among other falsehoods, that he was in prison or had died at his own hand.
"They said I was crazy," he complained, "said I was a drunkard, in and out of institutions. At the time, I was running the National Crisis Center at the Pentagon."
Tibbets retired from Executive Jet in 1987 and, since then, has been both hot and cold about his notoriety. He was active behind the scenes in the protest of the National Air and Space Museums 1995 exhibit of part of the Enola Gays fuselage, where the initial presentation suggested that the atomic bomb crews were agents of a vengeful nation. The script ultimately was changed.
In late 2003, a fully restored Enola Gay went on display in a companion facility to the air and space museum in Chantilly, Va.
"I wanted to climb in and fly it," Tibbets said.
The exhibit opening was his last major public hurrah.
This past spring, he gave up driving after his falls and what doctors think to have been two minor strokes. He convalesces in a home guarded by a yammering chihuahua named Lolita and looks out on a front yard whose chief adornment is a weeping Japanese cherry.
At the 60 th anniversary, Tibbets said of his notoriety, "Its kind of getting old, but then so am I."
He waved off other requests to be interviewed, in part because of his health and for weariness of suffering a new crop of reporters thinking they are the first to ask, "Any regrets?"
His answer always has been a resounding "Hell, no," lately modified to lament, "The guys who appreciated that I saved their asses are mostly dead now."
He is, today, a man untroubled with the certainty of joining their ranks.
"I dont fear a goddamn thing," he said. "Im not afraid of dying.
"As soon as the death certificate is signed, I want to be cremated. I dont want a funeral. I dont want to be eulogized. I dont want any monuments or plaques.
"I want my ashes scattered over water where I loved to fly."
The English Channel.
Tibbets eyes brimmed for a moment when he pondered the absent friends who formed the unshakeable brotherhood that become the only religion some men ever know.
"Thats the first time Ive seen that kind of emotion in 51 years," a clearly stunned Andrea said.
"He doesnt want to have a tombstone or monument in a cemetery, because that would create a controversy," friend Gerry Newhouse said.
One of the candidates for the eventual task of spreading Tibbets ashes likely might be his grandson and namesake, Lt. Col. Paul Tibbets IV, a B-2 mission command pilot.
His Air Force nickname is "Nuke." "