Friday, November 02, 2007

Enola Gay pilot dies aged 92

Tibbets waves goodbye from the cockpit before departing for JapanGen. Paul Tibbets passed away peacefully at his home in Columbus, Ohio, on Thursday 1st November. He was 92 years of age.

Tibbets is most famous—or notorious, depending on one’s point of view—as having been, as a lieutenant colonel in 1945, the pilot of the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber which delivered the atomic bomb to Hiroshima.

This was the first of only two occasions in which nuclear weapons have been used against human beings in their 62-year history.

Arguments pro and contra have been raised ever since the bombing took place, and Melancholicus will not rehearse them here; they can be found in print and in many corners of the internet by those who care to look for them.

The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima photgraphed by Bob Caron, tail-gunner of the Enola GayRegardless of how blessedly convenient was the atomic bomb as the device which finally brought World War II to its overdue end, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki cannot be morally justified. The full effects of a nuclear attack on an urban population were unknown before August 1945, but those who ordered the bombings or who argued that they ought to take place at least knew enough: they knew that these devices would cause massive destruction and the deaths of countless otherwise innocent people.

Hiroshima after the bombTo his dying day, Tibbets was unrepentant over his role in the destruction of Hiroshima. He never expressed any remorse, at least not publicly. As far as he was concerned, he did no more than his duty as a soldier. However, the persistent vilification he has endured from opponents of the bombing, and which has dogged him for over sixty years, must have been a torment to him, and may well have played its part in hardening his view of his own role in the affair.

It being now the month of November (today in fact is All Souls’ day), it would be a kindness to say two prayers for the souls of the departed — the first for those who perished as a result of that terrible blast on 6th August 1945, and from its cumulative after-effects; the second for the repose of Paul Tibbets, whose soul is now in the hands of God in eternity.

Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace.

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