Enola Gay pilot, General Tibbets passes away

1940's -- ROSWELL ARMY AIR FIELD, New Mexico -- Col. Paul Tibbetts, Jr., of Miami, Fla., poses in front of his B-29 Superfortress "The Enola Gay" (named for his mother).  The Enola Gay is the same plane he piloted when his bombardier dropped the first atom bomb over Hiroshima, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Then Col. Paul Tibbetts Jr. poses in front of his B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay," the plane he piloted when the first atom bomb was used as a weapon during World War II. General Tibbets died of natural causes Nov. 1 at the age of 92 in Columbus, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force photo)

1990's -- WASHINGTON -- Retired Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets talks about his experience flying a B-29 Superfortress, known as the Enola Gay, and dropping the first atomic bomb used as a weapon during World War II.  He also autographed copies of his book "The Return of the Enola Gay," during a book-signing event in the Pentagon.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt.  Jim Varhegyi)

Retired Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets talks about his experience flying the B-29 Superfortress known as the Enola Gay and dropping the first atomic bomb used as a weapon during World War II. General Tibbets died of natural causes Nov. 1 at the age of 92 in Columbus, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

SAN ANTONIO (AFPN) -- Retired Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets Jr., the pilot of the first atomic bombing mission, died of natural causes Nov. 1 at the age of 92 in Columbus, Ohio.

The general was the pilot of "the Enola Gay," the B-29 Superfortress which dropped the first atomic bomb, "Little Boy" on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, which many historian consider the end of World War II.

General Tibbets, a native of Quincy, Ill., entered the Army Air Corps on Feb. 25, 1937, at Ft. Thomas, Ky., after attending college at University of Florida and the University of Cincinnati where he majored in chemistry. He graduated from pilot school at Kelly Field, Texas, and went to his first assignment with the 16th Observation Squadron at Lawson Field, Ft. Benning, Ga.

After flying multiple combat missions in Europe and North Africa, the then-B-17 Flying Fortress pilot returned to the United States in March 1943 to participate in the B-29 program. In September 1944, the general was assigned to the Atomic Bomb Project as the Air Force officer in charge. He helped develop the employment capabilities of the atomic bomb in combat operations including the mating of the development of the atomic bomb to the airplane. He also was in charge of the flight test development of the atomic bomb itself.

During what many consider one of the most daring air raids in American history, the Enola Gay, named after General Tibbets' mother, took off from the island of Tinian in the Northern Mariana Islands headed for Japan. 

General Tibbets retired from the Air Force on Sept. 1, 1966.

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