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Hanley (Doc) Harding

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Our New War... Part 27, A Tribute
By Hanley (Doc) Harding   
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Last edited: Thursday, November 01, 2007
Posted: Thursday, November 01, 2007

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General Paul Tibbets has passed on.

Retired U.S. Air Force General Paul W. Tibbets has died.  Not many school children know who he was, or anything of the General's historical signifcance.

Late in WW-II, then Colonel Tibbets piloted a lone B-29 bomber over Hiroshima, Japan, and dropped the first atomic bomb used in warfare.  After another B-29 dropped a second bomb, on Nagasaki, the Japanese surrendered, unconditionally.

Tibbets went on to earn several promotions, eventually managing the Pentagon's Crisis Center, before his retirement.

Rumors were promulgated of Tibbets' supposed heavy drinking and hospitalization with emotional trauma and feelings of guilt.  No such things ever occurred.  Tibbets was quite functional and clearheaded throughout his life and distinguished career.  He regretted the unfortunate loss of civilian lives, but not the decision to drop the bomb, nor his key role.

Another little-known piece of history is the vociferous arguments put forth by President Truman's Cabinet members and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concerning use of the bombs.  In light of the Navy and Marine Corps' combat experience against Japanese troops all across the Pacific Theater of Warfare, estimated troop losses which were expected to be suffered by an invasion of the Japanese home islands would probably number into the hundreds-of-thousands.  The Army even developed and tested a monster tank (the T-28) for the planned assault.  Alongside this 95 ton metal behemoth, the mighty German King Tiger looked like a Tinker-toy.

Thankfully, to most everyone concerned, the availability of the atomic bombs made the planned-for invasion unnecessary.  Since the Japanese were not known for their willingness to surrender, the ultimate decision to use the bombs probably prevented the deaths of all able-bodied men in Japan, who would have fought and died to repel an invasion.  Japan was thus able to more easily emerge from the ravages of WW-II and quickly rebuild.

Paul Tibbets was responsible for putting together and training the 509th Composite Bomb Group, whose sole responsibility was delivering and dropping the new atomic weapons.  It is a tribute to him that both drops were succesfully accomplished on their first tries.  As an interesting aside, Tibbets' son flew B-2 bombers.

Tibbets goes down in history as an American patriot, a clear-eyed military commander and leader of men, who got a difficult job done under much less than ideal conditions.  He stood on a cusp of history.

Doc Harding
November, 2007

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