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Enola Gay pilot, General Tibbets passes away

  • Published
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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