November 8, 2007

A few words about Paul W. Tibbets.

Is there anyone in the civilized world who doesn't know who Paul Tibbets was? For the one who doesn't, he was the pilot of the Enola Gay, a B29 bomber which flew over Japan on August 6, 1945 and dropped an atom bomb on the city of Hiroshima killing 140,000 people.

This did not end the war. The fire bombings commanded by General Curtis Lemay over Tokyo and other cities killed between 150,000-200,000 people in two days.

Paul Tibbets was a colonel and command pilot of the Enola Gay.

I met Paul Tibbets at a book signing years ago and had an opportunity to chat with him briefly.

Paul Tibbets recently died and requested that his body be cremated and his ashes spread so his grave would not become a place of demonstrations. Tibbets never considered himself political, and justification, if needed should be from the politicians, not him. I find this sad. I am not a fan of war, I find it repugnant but to blame the military man for doing his job too well is not right. Paul Tibbets was not the father of the atom bomb. Blame Robert Oppenheimer who headed the making of the bomb; Blame General Groves who headed up the production of the bomb; Blame Franklin Roosevelt for okaying the building of the bomb; Blame Harry Truman for the final okay to drop the bomb. Blame Albert Einstein for inspiring the development of a bomb that would end all wars.

Blaming anyone for a project this immense cannot be done. Instead perhaps 500,000 to one million families can be grateful that they have kept their loved ones with them for these last fifty years, that may be the amount of lives saved by all these people.

Tibbets was a soldier, an airmen to be more precise, and a colonel under arms subject to following orders as are all combatants. He did and he excelled in his job. It was thought that Japan would not surrender and was prepared to fight down to the last woman and child. The combination of the fire bombing of Tokyo, Nagoya and other cities, and the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki finally forced Japan to surrender, thus saving, it was estimated, up to a half to one million people, Americans and Japanese. It was a combination of both that stopped the war.

I'm sorry that Paul W. Tibbets was forced to live the remainder of his life subject to ridicule, and condemnation. He did not deserve that fate.

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