Col. Paul W. Tibbets, pilot of the B-29 “Enola Gay” that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, passed away on November 1, 2007, at his Columbus, Ohio home at the age of 92. Notably, he opted against burial at Arlington National Cemetery, a decision driven by a specific reason.

A Quick Look Back at The Day of The Bombing

It was August 5, 1945, when President Truman approved the use of atomic weapons against Japan. The next day, Paul Tibbets flew Enola Gay, his B-29 serial number 4486292, which he chose and named after his mother.

The uranium bomb called “Little Boy” instantly killed 80,000 people and a lot more later on due to radiation exposure. That and the other A-bomb that dropped in Nagasaki finally compelled Japan’s Emperor Hirohito to announce their unconditional surrender in World War II.

Hiroshima bombing 1945
Effects of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. (Wikimedia Commons)

No Regrets

Tibbets immediately became a national hero who ended the war with Japan. He was even awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and invited by President Truman to the White House. In 1976, he reenacted the bombing at a Harlingen, Texas, air show and claimed that it “was not intended to insult anybody.” The Japanese were not pleased.

His family was also proud of him. His grandson, Paul Tibbets IV, graduated from the US Air Force and flew the B-2 Spirit as a commander of the 393d Bomb Squadron, one of the two squadrons that his father had commanded during his career.

Tibbets had no regrets about the Hiroshima bombing and never waivered from his view that dropping two atomic bombs on Japan saved far more lives than they took. As he said in an article written by NBC News in 2007:

“I knew when I got the assignment it was going to be an emotional thing… We had feelings, but we had to put them in the background. We knew it was going to kill people right and left. But my one driving interest was to do the best job I could so that we could end the killing as quickly as possible.”

Paul Tibbets
Tibbets in 2003 (Wikimedia Commons).

Planners of the pending invasion of Japan were predicting as many as one million casualties, along with six million Japanese being killed to subdue the last of the Axis Powers.