The B-29 super fortress "Enola Gay" blasted down the crushed coral runway carved through the battle-scarred jungle of the Pacific Island of Tinian.
The screaming of its four powerful engines shattered the deadly silence of this World War II island where over 8,000 Japanese had died in fighting with Marines. The bomber slowly rose from the grasp of the oppressive jungle floor below and thundered through the Pacific darkness with blazing exhausts and an accelerating cadence as its slashing props attached the night sky. It carried just one bomb, the atomic bomb "Little Boy." It was Aug. 6, 1945, at 2:45 a.m.
The pilot of the Enola Gay was then Col. Paul Tibbets. One year before, at the young age of 29, Tibbets was appointed to create and command the 509th Composite Group, a secret elite unit which he built into a 1,700-man fighting machine. Their sole mission was to drop the atomic bomb on Japan and end the war.
It had become evident that nothing would bring Japan to its knees short of a massive invasion of the country....or a catastrophic atomic air strike. The former would result in hundreds of thousands of American dead and wounded, the latter would result in neither for America. The choice for President Truman was obvious.
The bomb was released at 8:15 a.m., exploding at 1,890 feet above Hiroshima, Japan. Instantly, 80,000 people died and two-thirds of the city was leveled. Eight days later, but only after the dropping of a second atomic bomb over Nagasaki, WW II came to an end....and the Atomic Age began.
The controversy over the dropping of the bomb has never ended. Tibbets had borne much of the brunt of the outcry, but unfairly so. Until his dying day, which was Nov. 1 of this year at the age of 92, he steadfastly held that it was his patriotic duty and that he never had any regrets.
He was absolutely right, and no historical revisionists who spend endless hours on efforts to disparage our country with arrogant disdain for every decent value and principle for which we stand or action we take can change the facts.
If America had invaded Japan instead of using the atomic bomb, hundreds of thousands of American troops would have fallen, all beyond the 1 million casualties already incurred up to that point to defend our freedom and the survival of America in a war we did not start.
The bomb was dropped so that others could have life and live in peace. If there hadn't been a Pearl Harbor there wouldn't have been a Hiroshima.
Tibbets lived his life with an unwavering devotion to his country. He explained his patriotism in the context of the solid Midwestern values in which he was raised as a young boy in Iowa. He felt that the educational system of today was failing to teach young people to be proud of their country. In regard to the controversy about Hiroshima, in 2001 he told the Palm Beach Post, "Our young people don't know anything about what happened because nobody taught them and now their minds are being filled up with things that aren't true."
The only presidential invitation Tibbets ever received was from Harry Truman. When the Smithsonian Museum displayed part of the Enola Gay on the 60th anniversary in 1995, anti-nuclear demonstrators poured blood and ashes on the fuselage, so the exhibit was scaled down and then removed. What a disgraceful commentary on America and its leadership. Due to behavior like this, he chose not to have funeral services or to be buried with a headstone for he did not want his gravesite to be desecrated or used as a demonstration site for opponents of nuclear weapons. What a sad ending to a patriot's life. Tibbets was cremated and his ashes scattered over the English Channel.
The St. Charles resident has studied World War II history, has made several trips to battle sites in the South Pacific and has met Tibbets in person.