The Legacy of Paul Tibbets, Enola Gay & Separating the Warrior From the War
Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr., the man who piloted the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, hastening the end of World War II, did not want a funeral or a gravestone when he died.
To the end of his days, Tibbets acknowledged that the bomb that hurtled from the bowels of his Enola Gay — killing 80,000 people outright and almost as many from radiation poisoning and other associated effects â€“ had plunged the world into a terrifying new age where Armageddon was just the push of a button away.
But Tibbets also believed that using the bomb was a justifiable way to shorten World War II and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans who would have died in an invasion of the Japanese homeland.
“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,” Tibbets said of the August 6, 1945, attack. â€œIf you give me the same circumstances, hell yeah, I’d do it again.”
But Tibbets knew that his unnuanced and unapologetic views would make his death and burial place a magnet for protesters who saw him as the personification of man’s inhumanity to man, and it is not surprising that his Wikipedia entry has had to be disabled because of attempts by people who tried to hack into it in order to portray him as a war criminal.
World War II veterans are dying at the rate of 1,200 a day. So when Paul Tibbets left this mortal coil at age 92 last Thursday in Columbus, Ohio, he was in the company of, among others, a Navy seaman who survived the Pearl Harbor attack, an Army infantryman who charged onto Omaha Beach on D-Day, and a Marine who helped liberate a Japanese POW camp in New Guinea.
Tibbets, of course, had a fame and notoriety that the other 1,999 vets manifested for their eternal reward on his final day did not. But all had one thing in common: They had a job to do and did it with valor and, for the most part, without complaint.
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