Paul Tibbets

Paul Tibbets, the son of a prosperous businessman, was born in Quincy, Illinois, in 1915. His parents wanted him to train as a doctor but instead he had a strong desire to become a pilot. After studying medicine at the University of Florida, Tibbets entered the USA Army Air Corps at Fort Thomas, Kentucky, in 1937.

Tibbets was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in 1938. On the outbreak of the Second World War he was sent to England where he became Squadron Commander of the 340th Bomb Squadron Bombardment Group. He flew 25 missions in Europe before supporting the Allied invasion of North Africa. During this period he flew the B-17 Flying Fortress.

In March 1943, Tibbets returned to the United States where he began testing the new B29 Stratofortress. An outstanding pilot, General Henry H. Arnold, chief of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF), described Tibbets as the "best damned pilot in the Air Force".

Brigadier General Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project, selected Tibbets to be the man responsible for organizing and training a team of men to deliver the atom bomb being produced by a group of scientists being led by Robert Oppenheimer.

Tibbets requisitioned 15 new B29 Stratofortress and arranged for them to be adapted for the operation. This included fitting fuel injected engines, a re-configured bombing bay and changes to the aircraft's armour plating.

When President Harry S. Truman gave the order to drop the first atom bomb on Japan, Tibbets was selected as the pilot of the adapted B29 called the Enola Gay. On 6th August 1945, the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. It has been estimated that over the years around 200,000 people have died as a result of this bomb being dropped. Japan did not surrender immediately and a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later. On 10th August the Japanese surrendered and the Second World War was over.

In 1946 Tibbets was also technical adviser during the Bikini Bomb Tests. Brigadier General Tibbets also did a tour of duty with NATO in France. He retired from the United States Army Air Force on 31st August, 1966. A successful businessman, Tibbets was chairman of Executive Jet Aviation (1982-85).

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