Freshman’s father recounts family legacy of Enola Gay pilot

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Paul-Tibbets-Jr
Image courtesy of Paul Tibbets IV.

Imagine flying through the air in the middle of World War II. You are facing the unexpected and assigned to do one job: drop a bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

For students at West, this event is merely something learned in history books; however, for Paul Tibbets Jr. it was reality.

On Feb. 19, freshman Avery Tibbets brought her dad, Paul Tibbets IV, to school as a guest speaker to talk to her history class about the day when her great-grandfather (Tibbets IV’s grandfather) dropped the bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945.

Tibbets IV showed a documentary about this specific mission which included his grandfather and the 11 other crew members that accompanied him.

Leading up to the bombing, the crew used deception tactics to eliminate Japanese suspicion. American planes flew over Japan numerous times, convincing the opposition that they were taking photographs to document the war.

When the time came to release the bomb, American forces used a single plane to carry out their mission. The unsuspecting Japanese thought the Enola Gay was just another harmless plane and were not threatened by it.

Flying in, the crew knew their lives were on the line because of the massive destruction the bomb would cause. However, the men remained confident. After the bomb dropped, Tibbets Jr. tried to put as much distance between them and the explosion as possible.

“The sight that greeted our eyes was beyond what we had expected. The mushroom beneath hid the ruins of Hiroshima,” Tibbets Jr. said in the documentary.

A mutual sense of pride and accomplishment followed Tibbets Jr. and his crew for the rest of their lives. They felt the atomic bomb shortened the war and saved the lives of countless people, on both sides of the war.

“I never lost one night’s sleep after that mission,” Tibbets Jr. said.
Tibbets IV also expressed his gratitude for the bombing. He too believed it helped to swiftly end the war.

“If people could see the attitude [the crew] had, the great sense of patriotism, the sincerity of our beliefs…,” Tibbets, Jr. said.

Tibbets IV explained that his grandfather used to do talks and book signings, and that people would approach and thank him for saving their lives because they thought they would have died if the war lasted any longer.

Today, the Enola Gay is kept at the National Air and Space Museum in the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.

Tibbets IV concluded his presentation by expressing gratitude for the absence of global wars since World War II.

“You guys are in a generation now where, fortunately, we haven’t had a major war since 1945,” Tibbets IV said.

Brooke Riley
Reporter