Paul W. Tibbets, Jr. died yesterday at the age of 92. He was the pilot of Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in the final days of World War II.
According to newspaper accounts, Tibbets will be cremated because he didn't want to take the chance of protesters or anyone defacing a headstone. To some, Tibbets was a killer of thousands. However, to those of a generation who is dying out, Tibbets was a hero, the man who brought them home from the Pacific, and saved innumerable American lives.
Tibbets himself told his story in The Tibbets Story. However, the book that touched my life was Bob Greene's book, Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War.
When Greene went home to Columbus, Ohio to be with his dying father, he realized his father's hero, Paul Tibbets, lived close by. In meeting with Tibbets, Greene learned about his father, and that generation, a generation of men who fought in the Pacific, and seldom talked about their experiences.
My father-in-law, Harry Holstine, fought in the Pacific. He was headed to Japan when the Enola Gay dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. My husband, Jim, feels the same way that Bob Greene and his father felt. If that bomb hadn't been dropped, Jim would not be here today, because Harry probably would never have made it home. Harry was that silent generation, who came home, and never talked about the battles he fought, and the medals he won. He told me more than he ever told Jim, and that wasn't much. His war diary, despite the fact he fought on numerous islands in the Pacific, talks about poker games, laundry and baseball.
Harry lived with us in Florida for ten years before his death. I couldn't have asked for a kinder father-in-law. So, no matter how others feel, Jim and I are grateful that Paul Tibbets brought Harry home.