Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sad finale for WW II hero


By PAT MURPHY

Instead of grand military honors he deserved, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets Jr. was unceremoniously cremated and his ashes deposited in an unmarked grave without public tribute for his unprecedented, historic role in World War II.

Before he died last week at 92 in Ohio, Tibbets told his family that after death he wanted anonymity and secrecy.

How sad.

Tibbets motive was to deprive protestors of a place where they could gather to vent their bile on Tibbets for piloting the B-29 bomber "Enola Gay" that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima and with it a tableau of the ghastly costs in life and devastation that comes with nuclear weaponry.

Tibbets never doubted the rightness of his mission—to carry out orders as a military commander to end the war with Japan quickly and spare perhaps millions of lives that would've been lost in a ground assault on the Japanese home islands.

Critics never saw it that way. Tibbets was demonized as an evil man, a mass killer.

Mind you, thousands of people labored to produce and deliver that first bomb, the 5-ton "Little Boy"—two U.S. presidents (Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman) ordered development and use of the bomb; physicists and engineers designed the bomb's bulky casing and detonation system; plant workers produced the nuclear explosive; scientists tested the first A-bomb in the desert, and support crews cared for Tibbets' special B-29 squadron during training in Utah and later on Tinian Island in the Pacific.

Yet, Tibbets was singled out and vilified for dropping the bomb.

No such villainy was ascribed to other World War II military figures for U.S. bombing raids in Europe that killed far more than the 70,000 to 100,000 who died in the incinerating Hiroshima A-bomb blast. "Conventional" bombs in Europe killed with the same finality and often with similar ghastly results, especially in "fire bomb" raids that set whole German cities ablaze.

In retirement, Tibbets expressed remorse that humankind resorts to war. But he never retreated from his belief in the mission.

Actually, Gen. Tibbets should be something of a hero to the anti-nuclear war movement rather than a villain.

Had Tibbets and his crew not dropped that first bomb, the world's superpowers might not have learned the awful consequences of atomic weaponry on cities and populations.

Since those horrific events in August 1945, nuclear powers have resisted nuclear weapons in warfare because of the image of that mushroom cloud over Hiroshima and the wasteland created by the bomb Paul Tibbets dropped.




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