Friday, November 02, 2007

"The Man Who Won the War"

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.


Kay said...

I'll add my gratitude to Paul Tibbets. My father, who is now in Alzheimer's assisted living, fought in New Guinea and the Philippines in WWII. He was a freshman in college when he was drafted and he spent 3 years in the Pacific. My mother, who became engaged to him before he left (she was a senior in high school), wrote to him every day. Sadly, they did not keep the letters. My father is almost 83 years old. The generation who fought in that war is rapidly disappearing. I'm glad their stories will not disappear.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Kay. Harry was also in the Philippines and New Guinea. At times, I feel as if it was the forgotten war. So much of what's shown on TV is always Europe. And, I know, from the little I've seen, that they must have gone through horrible experiences. Harry told me enough to let me know that, but he had never even told his own son about it. I am glad someone has preserved some of the stories.

Maria said...

Bravo! What a wonderful post/tribute.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Maria!