The “Little Boy” dropped from the Enola Gay over the courtyard of Shima Hospital killed 340,000 Japanese and gave pilot Paul Tibbets a career.
But not one celebrated by Pierre Tristan in Tibbets Did Duty in Dropping Bomb, But Then Reveled in It
There’s no begrudging Tibbets for fulfilling his mission Aug. 6, 1945. No one had the right to demand of him that he represent some kind of national atonement. But there’s a difference between a soldier honoring his service and a war lover celebrating it. Tibbets didn’t just defend his role in the bombing. He reveled in it, toured on it, profited from it, re-enacted it. He used his stature to slur history and the memory of the Hiroshima victims when he joined forces with veterans groups opposing a Smithsonian exhibit featuring the Enola Gay and the victims of the bombing. The exhibit went on, the historical context and Japanese perspective summarily censored.
Tibbets died at 92 last week. It may be crude to speak ill of the dead. But it was a Tibbets specialty. He told Studs Terkel in a 2002 interview, just months after the Sept. 11 attacks, that nuking Arab and Islamic capitals was the best response. “If,” he said, “the newspapers would just cut out the s— ‘You’ve killed so many civilians!’ That’s their tough luck for being there.” What a hero.