Thursday, November 01, 2007

Paul Tibbets Jr., Who Flew Plane That Dropped First Atomic Bomb, Dies at 92

Paul Tibbets & Enola Gay
By The Columbus Dispatch


Paul Tibbets Jr., who flew the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb — on Hiroshima, Japan — died this morning at his East Side home. He was 92.

Tibbets had suffered small strokes and heart failure in his final years and had been in hospice care.

He was born in Quincy, Ill., but grew up in Miami after his father moved the family there.

Tibbets fell in love with flight and, at age 12, volunteered as a backseat assistant to a biplane pilot, dropping leaflets for the Curtiss Candy Co. at fairs, carnivals and other public gatherings.

He joined the Army Air Corps in 1938. After the U.S. entered World War II, Tibbets first patrolled the Atlantic coast for submarines and later piloted some of the first daylight missions of B-17s over Germany.

On Aug. 6, 1945, Tibbets piloted the Enola Gay, a B-29 he had christened for his mother, down the runway on Tinian Island for a six-hour flight to Japan. He was a 30-year-old colonel.

The day’s assignment was code-named Special Bombing Mission No. 13.

“If Dante had been with us on the plane, he would have been terrified,” Tibbets said later about bombing Hiroshima. “The city we had seen so clearly in the sunlight a few minutes before was now an ugly smudge. It had completely disappeared under this awful blanket of smoke and fire.”

Tibbets remained in the military until 1966. He later was president of a Columbus-based, international air-taxi service called Executive Jet Aviation.

Survivors include his wife, Andrea, and three sons — Paul III, of North Carolina; Gene, of Alabama; and James, of Columbus.

He is to be cremated.

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