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Kathianne
11-01-2007, 08:25 PM
Someone I've read alot about. The man that named his plane, The Enola Gray, after his mother. The one who dropped the first 'BOMB' against the Japanese:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071101/ap_on_re_us/obit_tibbets

Bob Greene, who had his own problems, wrote a book and some wonderful columns about Mr. Tibbets. Because of those columns and the subsequent hype, I was able to get my dad to talk more about his time in the service. I got to know him better. Greene had problems, but he was right on with this topic. Here is one speech:

http://www.lawac.org/speech/pre%20sept%2004%20speeches/greene.html


Speech before the Los Angeles World Affairs Council on 13 June 2000:

Bob Greene
Columnist, Chicago Tribune and Life Magazine
Author, Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War


Thank you very much.

Two years ago, as my father was dying in central Ohio, I went home to be with him. The most important thing in my father's life had been the time he spent as an infantry soldier with the 91st Infantry in Italy and North Africa in World War II. But like a lot of sons I was never especially good at talking with my father about the things that were really the most important to him, so when I went home to Ohio to be with him it occurred to me that when I was a little younger he would come home from work in Downtown Columbus and say to my brother and sister and me "I was buying shirts for work today, and in the next aisle buying ties was Paul Tibbets." We would say, "Who's Paul Tibbets?" and our dad would say, "He's the man who won the war."

Paul Tibbets, at the age of 29 in the 1940s, was asked to do what no one in the history of the world had been asked to do before, which is to get into the cockpit of a B-29 bomber, fly the world's first atomic bomb over an enemy nation, drop the bomb and end World War II. And he did it. In August of 1945 he flew the Enola Gay, named after his mother, to Hiroshima, dropped the bomb, the single most violent act in the history of mankind, and soon after the terrible war came to an end.

By the 1970s Paul Tibbets, like my father, was another anonymous businessman in central Ohio. He could go to a Bob Evans for lunch, as he often did, and no one knew who he was. The local television weatherman in Columbus, Ohio is much more famous than Paul Tibbets who ended World War II.

For twenty years as a young reporter I tried to get in touch with him. I wrote him letters, called his office and got no response at all. He didn't say "no," he just didn't answer. But as my dad was dying I realized that if I was ever going to understand my father and why the war meant so much to him I might need some help. So I went to see Mr. Tibbets and we began to talk. The phrase I use in the book is the best way I can say it, which is that it sounded to me like a whisper of a generation saying good-bye to its children. It seems to me that our parents came home from World War II and it's as if they made their full time job weaving a safety net for us-- their children--and it was the strongest safety net I believe any generation has ever given to its children. The reason we know it was so strong was because at the time we didn't even notice it was there. But as they leave us every day, our mothers and fathers, we began to realize just what it was we didn't know about them.

The first time I met with Mr. Tibbets I didn't realize that I would be seeing him again, and so I wanted to thank him for spending the time. I said to him "You know, even though you were a famous combat pilot and my father was a soldier that no one knew about--" and Mr. Tibbets interrupted me and said "Don't ever say that." I said "I'm not trying to insult my father, but it's true. No one knew him." And Mr. Tibbets said "Who knew about who doesn't matter." What he meant, of course, was that during the war, whether you were a decorated famous soldier or an infantry soldier no one ever heard of, you were there for the same reason. I thought about it and I think, especially after the year had passed when I spent the time with him, he's probably right--that back then in the 1940s who knew about who didn't matter. But now as our parents leave us every day, it seems to me that nothing matters more.

We began to talk and he told me about many things. My dad and Mr. Tibbets were born within a month of each other, it was weeks of each other, really, in 1915. As my dad was dying they were both 83 years old, and yet even though they lived just a few miles from each other in Central Ohio, they never met. My dad never spoke to him.

Six or seven years before my father's final illness began he made some tape recordings for my brother, my sister and me and he told the story of his life, including the story of his time in the war. And as he was dying his voice would become weak and disoriented and confused. I found those tapes and I played them and there was his voice. In one room he would be leaving us and on the tapes his voice was strong and full and healthy and he was telling us about the war. As I listened to those tapes, I found myself coming up with more questions than answers, and I would take them to Paul Tibbets. Because of Mr. Tibbets I now know my father better than I ever knew him when he was alive. It was like found history and found poetry. First of all, just the raw history of it. Paul Tibbets--I mean, McArthur's gone, Patton's gone, Eisenhower's gone, and here's Paul Tibbets telling me in the first person the story of how the great war came to an end.

He told me minute-by-minute of his flight to Hiroshima. I asked him everything from what it felt like as the bomb dropped out of the plane to what they thought about on the way back home, and he told me minute-by-minute. And he also told me, as the conversations grew and expanded past the war--I remember one in particular. This is after we had been talking for a while. I was beginning to figure out--by this time my dad was gone--I was beginning to figure out why the war had been so important to my father, but I didn't have all the answers.

One night Mr. Tibbets and I were sitting together and I said to him "I think I'm close to this, but why was..." and he said, "Because your father was a man among men." Now, Paul Tibbets never met my dad, and after that moment-- because "your dad was a man among men"-- I thought he might be patronizing me a little bit because "man among men" to me meant a man's man. Like you know, dagger between the teeth and pistol on the belt, and I said "Well, that's a very nice thing for you to say but you didn't know my dad. How can you say he was 'a man among men'"? And Mr. Tibbets raised his voice, as he did several times with me over the course of the year and he said "That's not what I'm saying. Listen to me. 'Man among men' --the war was the one time during our lives when we were men surrounded by men. Men surrounded by men. We were thousands of miles away from anyone who loved us or cared about us. We were with people that the people back home didn't know we were with. They didn't know exactly where we were and every day we had to solve new problems. Men among men. Men among men. And when we came back to this country, it was a country at peace again and we'd walk down the streets and it was quiet and yet everyone on the street was not necessarily pursuing the same goals any more, and we'd be foolish to ever think that we would ever be able to find what we had found during the war in each other's company when we were men among men."

Little things would come up. I was talking--I told him one Christmas Eve in Columbus when my sister, brother and I were younger--there was a loud booming sound from the garage and we opened the door and a water pipe had burst over the cars, my mother's car, my father's car and I remember my dad standing there and it was Christmas Eve, late, and the water seemed to be very hot because it was pouring out of the ceiling and it was streaming under the cars and I remember my dad called the plumbing service, several of them, but, of course, it was Christmas Eve and no one was there and so he called some plumbers at home, individual plumbers, and they didn't want to come out. It was Christmas Eve. Couldn't blame them, but it's Christmas Eve and the water is pouring on to the cars. I told the story to Mr. Tibbets and I said "As terrible as the war was, at least in the army there were always thousands of you together, thousands of pairs of hands to deal with any problem. You know that old school-yard phrase that kids use in the playground 'you and what army'. Well, back then the answer was clear. You and the United States Army. I said "When you came back home the war was over, but was there a part of you that felt like maybe you would rather have you in that army? I mean if a pipe burst or anything like that during World War II, you were all there to deal with it. You come home and you're all alone."

Mr. Tibbets said, "I don't think so, because I think when you come home it's still you're in that army because we learn things in each other's company every day. Every day there were problems we had to solve that never had come up before, and yet we did it, and we came home and even though we weren't physically with each other any more we had that experience to teach us to remember how to do that. Because I think if you come home and you don't know what to do you're lost, and I don't think many of us came home from World War II feeling lost."

I remember that night. My dad staring out at that water pouring down, and he didn't know what to do. Mr. Tibbets said, "Let me ask you a question. What happened?" I said "What do you mean what happened?" He said "What happened with the water. Did it just pour out all night long?" I said "No." He said "Well, what happened? Did a plumber come?" I said "No." And he said "What happened?" I said "Well, my dad, I don't know, he got it shut off." He said "How did he get it shut off?" I said "I don't remember." And Mr. Tibbets said "But he got it shut off didn't he?" I said "Yes." He said "Well, that's my point."

It was conversations like that. I mentioned before that phrase "the single most violent act in the history of mankind." I mean it and that's true, and the morality of the dropping of the bomb will be debated as long as human beings are alive-- and should be debated as long as human beings are alive. It would be wrong if we didn't, but Mr. Tibbets told me that he has never lost a night's sleep after the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima because he said he feels that [while] the carnage and death on the ground were awful beyond imagining, more than a million lives, American and Japanese lives, were saved because there was no ground invasion of Japan. Had there been a ground invasion, the deaths on the American side and the Japanese side, soldiers and civilians, would have been beyond imagination, it would have been the bloodiest, deadliest phase of the war. It would have gone on for months, if not years. When I was with Mr. Tibbets many times people of seventy and eighty would come up, men and women, with tears in their eyes and thank him for his mission and they would always say some version of the same thing, which is "because of you we got to live our lives because the men did not have to participate in what would have been a ground invasion of Japan."

Those tapes I told you about a few minutes ago: I played my father's tapes again and there was something on there that I must have missed when he first made them for us seven or eight years before. After his 91st Infantry Division had been in Italy and they were marching back down from Italy to get back on the ships the war in Europe had been won, and on the tapes my father's voice said: "We were marching down through Italy and our unit had been earmarked to trans-ship to Japan, and half-way down through Italy we heard a rumor that a new weapon had been dropped on Japan and that the war might be over. When we got to Naples we got on the ships and instead of going to the Pacific they took us to the United States," where my mother--she wasn't my mother yet--where his young wife was waiting for him. Two years later I was born and then my sister and then my brother, and a very real case can be made that had Paul Tibbets not flown that mission I wouldn't be standing here talking to you tonight because that ship would have taken my father to Japan and I might not ever have been born.

Last year, a year ago Memorial Day, was one of the great honors of my life. Paul Tibbets, the navigator of the Enola Gay, Dutch Van Kirk, and the bombardier, Tom Ferebee, invited me to come with them on a reunion they had in Branson, Missouri. It turned out to be their last reunion, because Tom Ferebee has died in the year since and --let me back up for a second. Paul Tibbets doesn't drink, but often we would meet in bars just because it was an easy place in which to sort of unwind together. In the bars a lot of times there would be video screens, TV monitors, and people would be watching an NBA basketball game. They would be younger people. Paul's eighty-five, and you could hear from the TV sets the announcers talking about the shot clock running down, or crucial moments in the game, and meanwhile over here is this 85-year old man with hearing aids in both years who could hardly hear. I mean, all those years of sitting next to the pistons on the bombers had just about destroyed his hearing, and you had to shout to make yourself heard. So I literally had to be almost screaming, because you had to, and here would be a younger man yelling at an older man and these people are looking over as if we're annoying them. I'm thinking "If only you knew," because they're watching a basketball game, and if only you knew that this old man over here is telling a story almost unfathomable in its details.

So in Branson, Missouri, here I am with Tibbets, Van Kirk and Ferebee, three old men in their 80s, and we would walk into restaurants and they would be looked at almost patronizingly by the younger patrons as if they're three old guys out for the Early Bird Special. And yet once again I couldn't help thinking, "These three guys, when this country needed the toughest airmen it could find to end World War II, these three guys were the guys." And I asked them what they were thinking about after the bomb had been dropped. This was before the era of CNN and instant news, and no one else in the world knew, even their superior officers didn't know what had just happened. For a number of hours they would not return to Tinian Island from where the plane had left. So only these men in the plane knew what had happened, and they told me that they couldn't be sure but they thought the war was over. These men, they can never be replaced for me. The first two copies of the book I received, I sent one to my mother and I sent one to Paul Tibbets and Paul read it and called me two days later and told me that by asking him the questions that I could never ask my father he, Mr. Tibbets, in answering those questions asked himself questions he had never asked himself before and he also told me that he had never told his sons the things he told me. So you had me asking him questions I could never ask my father and you had Paul Tibbets giving the answers he never told his own sons.

I gave a speech in Columbus, Ohio, at the public library about two weeks ago, when Duty first came out, and it was outdoors in the lawn of the library and I was talking about some of the same things, about how self-effacing their generation was and about how my father and Mr. Tibbets never sought the spotlight or center stage. As I was telling the stories, those were the same stories I'm telling you tonight, I looked out in the audience and there was Paul Tibbets sitting among all the others. The man who won the war obviously is shorthand. No one man did that, but it's shorthand based on fact, because Mr. Tibbets was not just asked to fly the bomb, he was told at the age of 29 to assemble a super-secret team of 1,800 men, find an air base. He chose Windover in Utah, which was just desert land, salt flats at the time, " and by the way, you can't tell any one on the base what you're there for. Only you can know." So the 1,800 men were not told why they were there. It was not until the flight to Hiroshima that Paul Tibbets crawled back through the plane and told the others what they were going to do and the tailgunner, Bob Caren, said to Mr. Tibbets, "We wouldn't be playing with atoms, would we?" Tibbets said "Yeah, that's right."

I couldn't have planned to write this story, and I wouldn't have written a book about my dad without Paul Tibbets, and I never would have written a book about Paul Tibbets had my dad not died.

I'm told that the format here is I should be quiet now and answer your questions. So any questions you might have about any parts of this story, I'll be happy to answer. I'm very honored to be here tonight, and I answered some very good questions beforehand from the high school students seated at the back of the room. I'm honored that you would ask me to be with you and I'm happy to answer anything you might ask.

actsnoblemartin
11-01-2007, 08:27 PM
Interesting article :)

He was a patriot.


Someone I've read alot about. The man that named his plane, The Enola Gray, after his mother. The one who dropped the first 'BOMB' against the Japanese:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071101/ap_on_re_us/obit_tibbets

Bob Greene, who had his own problems, wrote a book and some wonderful columns about Mr. Tibbets. Because of those columns and the subsequent hype, I was able to get my dad to talk more about his time in the service. I got to know him better. Greene had problems, but he was right on with this topic. Here is one speech:

http://www.lawac.org/speech/pre%20sept%2004%20speeches/greene.html

theHawk
11-01-2007, 10:57 PM
It would be wrong if we didn't, but Mr. Tibbets told me that he has never lost a night's sleep after the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima because he said he feels that [while] the carnage and death on the ground were awful beyond imagining, more than a million lives, American and Japanese lives, were saved because there was no ground invasion of Japan. Had there been a ground invasion, the deaths on the American side and the Japanese side, soldiers and civilians, would have been beyond imagination, it would have been the bloodiest, deadliest phase of the war. It would have gone on for months, if not years. When I was with Mr. Tibbets many times people of seventy and eighty would come up, men and women, with tears in their eyes and thank him for his mission and they would always say some version of the same thing, which is "because of you we got to live our lives because the men did not have to participate in what would have been a ground invasion of Japan."


Thats exactly how my grandfather felt about the bombings as well. Its like everybody just knew back then if they would had invaded Japan most of them would of not had lived. He was a Marine that fought against the Japanese.

diuretic
11-02-2007, 04:30 AM
I've never thought to condemn the bloke who drove the plane, someone had to do it, he was simply told to do it. If it didn't bother him for the rest of his long life, then bully for him.

On the other hand, some others felt differently:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Cheshire

If you read the Wikipedia article the section "Change of direction" is important. My father was in the Royal Air Force in WWII and he told me of Cheshire's feelings when I was a kid. I've always remembered it and thought it was relevant here.

Kathianne
11-02-2007, 05:44 AM
I've never thought to condemn the bloke who drove the plane, someone had to do it, he was simply told to do it. If it didn't bother him for the rest of his long life, then bully for him.

On the other hand, some others felt differently:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Cheshire

If you read the Wikipedia article the section "Change of direction" is important. My father was in the Royal Air Force in WWII and he told me of Cheshire's feelings when I was a kid. I've always remembered it and thought it was relevant here.

Not everyone had the means to do what Cheshire did, but great move on his part.