Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Paul Tibbets - American Hero

I was reviewing a list of all the famous people that passed away in 2007, one man shined above the rest-Paul Tibbets. Tibbets was the commander and pilot of the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in the final days of World War II. Like many of our fathers and grandfathers, he lived in a time that is forgotten by many now and removed from history books in public schools. Men like Tibbets were given missions and they performed their duties with honor and high distinction. Yet later in life, he unfairly became a target by anti-American and anti-war activists for performing his duty for his country.

Years ago, I read Bob Greene's excellent book "Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War." The book parallels Greene; understanding and paying tribute to his late father, with understanding the life and career of Paul Tibbets. It's a fine read for anyone who had a father in WWII, to understand the times they had to live in and get a true picture of the man-Paul Tibbets. It hit home to me because my father was in the 40th Infantry Division. They were to be one of the first troops to hit the beach in the invasion of Japan under Operation Olympic. Japan refused to surrender. Projected American casualties for the invasion were 400,000 to 800,000. Japanese fatalities were projected as five to ten million. Because of Tibbets and his crew members, many lives were saved. Japan surrendered and the invasion did not have to take place.

“I viewed my mission as one to save lives,” Tibbets said. “I didn’t bomb Pearl Harbor. I didn’t start the war, but I was going to finish it.” “There is no morality in war. A way must be found to eliminate war as a means of settling quarrels between nations.”

As Bob Schieffer stated so well; "Tibbets became a national hero, and he expressed no regrets, then or later. He felt the bomb had saved more lives than would have been lost had the war gone on. But as the years passed, the bombing became so controversial that he asked that he be cremated when he died for fear protesters would deface a gravestone. In a nation where the median age is now 35, the name Paul Tibbets meant nothing to many. Yet, when he died, his passing drew little comment. His obituary was buried deep inside the major newspapers, and TV gave his passing less coverage than the death of singer Robert Goulet. Not so for those of a certain age. For us, it is a somber reminder that the war we can still remember is getting to be a long time ago".

God Bless Paul Tibbets

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