Paul Tibbets was a retired Air Force brigadier general who flew the Enola Gay (named after his mother) when it dropped Little Boy, on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

In his later years, he would draw the ire and criticism of nuclear activists something he would make no apologies for. He stated that his actions had brought an end to the bloodshed of World War II and ultimately saved lives by stopping the carnage.


Early Life and a Love of Aviation

Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr. was born in Quincy, Illinois, on February 23, 1915, the son of Paul Warfield Tibbets Sr. and his wife, Enola Gay Tibbets. In 1923, his family moved to Hialeah, Florida, to escape from harsh midwestern winters. As a boy, he was very interested in flying. 

Tibbets had his first airplane ride when he was 12 at a carnival at the Hialeah horse track outside of Miami. Tibbets was flying with barnstormer Doug Davis in a biplane. As part of an advertising stunt, Tibbets tossed Baby Ruth candy bars with tiny paper parachutes to the crowd. 

Later, the family moved back to the Midwest where Tibbets graduated high school from the Western Military Academy. He attended both the University of Florida at Gainesville and the University of Cincinnati pursuing a degree in medicine. While in Florida, he took flight training at Miami’s Opa-Locka Airport. 

Although his parents wanted him to become a doctor, Tibbets wanted to become a pilot. So, he dropped out of school and enlisted in the Army’s Aviation Cadet Training Program on February 25, 1937. 

Paul Tibbets during the time he was while flying combat missions against the Germans. (U.S. Army Air Force)

Pre-War Military Career 

Paul Tibbets was sent to Randolph Field in San Antonio, Texas, for primary and basic flight instruction. His passion realized, he became an outstanding pilot. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and received his pilot’s wings in 1938 at Kelly Field in San Antonio.