Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on August 3, 1975 · Page 59
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 59

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, August 3, 1975
Page 59
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Page 59 article text (OCR)

V Crewmates on Historic Flight to Drop First Atomic Bomb From left, Bombardier Ferebee, Pilot Tibbets. Navigator Van Kirk Paul Tibbets AsHelsTodav A-Bombing Japan Recalled Without Guilt By Kay Bartlett The Associated Press Russell L. S trout Making Bombs From Wastes At 10 minutes to 8 on-the first morning of last month Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger met some 20 reporters at breakfast and continued what can only be considered an organized maneuver by President Ford and his administration to make the idea of nuclear war thinkable. Recent developments permit no other conclusion. The drive has brought attack from Democrats, anger from Moscow, and shock from the public; but President Ford and Secretary Schlesinger have not retreated: They insist that it is not a new policy, just a reaffirmation of any old one of Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. But the emphasis and timing are new.. They are reaffirming America's option to use tactical nukes in a minor crisis and even to make a selective strike at the Soviet Union. Why are they doing it? They are doing it, it would appear, to reassert the doctrine of credibility, a doctrine that has almost theological overtones in the apocalyptic dogma of nuclear confrontation. It must not only be known that America has A-weapons but will use them. In a game where first-strike use is almost equivalent to suicide the world must know that we are willing to commit suicide. It is the horrible logic of modern man's Nuclear Dilemma. fast with us Schlesinger submitted to Congress, in May, an unpublished report on "The Theater Nuclear Defense Posture in Europe," later described as declaring that a conventional Soviet-led attack against Western Europe might force the U.S. to use battlefield nuclear weapons to avoid defeat. Schlesinger told U.S. News World Report, May 26, that in case of attack by North Korea "it is necessary to go for the heart of the opponent's power: destroy his military forces . . . more vigorous action. .. than the Vietnamese War." That kind of tough talk only means one thing. Pravda denounced him, June 1--so what? On ABC's "Issues and Answers," July 6, he said that nuclear weapons'would only be employed under "desperate" circumstances. But he didn't deny that they would be employed. Schlesinger is a personable figure with quick, subtle mind. At breakfast he was far from committing an indescretion. He came with a tape recorder, had a sheaf of statements by earlier defense secretaries to show policy hadn't changed; spoke'on the record and paused weightily before answering questions. Then, with a flushed face and a comma after each qualification he replied, "First use could conceivably (let me underscore 'conceivably') involve .*· what we define as strategic forces and possible, possibly '(underscore 'possibly') involve a selective strike at the Soviet Union. We do not necessarily exclude that, IN THE OLD WEST, a tough man knew but it is indeed a very, very low probabili- that carrying a gun was no good if the peo- ty." pie didn't think you would use it; the same. thing goes now for nations with nukes. The That made Pravda explode again, July Ford administration seems to have decid- 12- Nearly every reporter at the breakfast, ed it is time for the public to understand wrote a piece about it, not emphasizing a this. It is nonsense to say that it is just change of policy, but a change of emphasis Schlesinger- throwing his weight around, and tone. . -;, He wouldn't do it without the president's approval, though Moscow, for diplomatic reasons, assumes the contrary. Richard Nixon did the same thing. We mustn't show ourselves to be a pitiful, helpless giant. There's nothing like a bit of brutality now and then to prove our determination--Cambodia, Laos, the Christmas bombing of North Vietnam-They were all part of the Credibility Credo. And President Ford, too. responded in much the same way in the Mayaguez incident. There is another aspect to the affair. Proliferation has got out of hand. It is not really likely anymore that it can be stopped. Nation after nation joins the club, or soon will join: the superpowers, China. France. India, probably Israel, before long Brazil. If you can't stand the facts of life you can look the other way. According to some doomsayers with 10 kilograms of plutonium (22 pounds), a high school science lab. and the services of a technically literate designer, most nations could produce bombs. "You haven't said whether you will use the first strike?" a reporter asked Mr. Ford at the South Lawn press conference. June 26. He wouldn't answer. "Does the U.S. still disavow first use of nuclear weapons?" He wouldn't answer. Question No 14: "If North Korea attacks South Ko- 5t , ltl , vlull ,,, rea would you use nuclear weapons to stop g ere d species, it?" No answer. Followup question: "You're flatly not ruling it out though?" ^ nuc i ear nonpro iiferation treaty is a Answer: "I'm not either confirming it or WQrthy insl niment. b ut various nations denying 11. I'm saying we have the forces won - t sign it amj it ig hard to j^ ieve ^ zi it and they'll be used in our national interest fe gojng to prevent the multiplication of as they should be." warheads. Argentina. Chile, Taiwan. Pakistan. Iran. South Africa, West Germany t. are either seeking to acquire platonium separation plants or are tempted to use the resources they already have. A by- SCHLESINGER SPEAKS and the Presi- Product of a nuclear energy plant may be V dent nods his hea!{ Well before his break- wasl$ to make bombs. He's just Paul Tibbets now, or Mr. T. as his secretary calls him, the bespectacled vice president of a charter airline company in Columbus, Ohio. Thirty years ago this Wednesday he was Col. Paul W. Tibbets Jr., the man who pil- - oted the plane that loosed the terrible terror of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Over 70,000 people were killed and countless others injured and maimed as "Little Boy" detonated over the Japanese city with a flash more blinding than that of the sun and an ensuing mushroom- shaped cloud that was to become the symbol of holocaust for later generations. Overnight, the word Hiroshima was seared into history. It became a word like Auschwitz. . .Dachau.. .Dresden. Nobody ever had to explain. PAUL TIBBETS: a perfectionist, a pilot's pilot, a man who .almost became a doctor instead of a flier, a crack shot in competition, a teetotaler, a man who always took charge of his emotions. At first, he was a hero -- the man who ended the war. Later -- in some circles - he became a goat for his role in man's first use of nuclear weaponry against his fellow man. He was rumored to be insane, a drunkard, a cold-blooded product of the military. His travels had to be cleared by the military and it was not until 1964 that the Air Force finally told him he could say anything he wanted to say about the mission that put him into the history books. Over the years, Tibbets, now 60, often has been quizzed about his role. People want to know if he felt remorse, if he had guilt feelings, how he differed from Adolf Eichmann. Tibbets doesn't duck the questions any more than he ducked the 50 combat missions he flew before he was picked to organize and command the group that flew the first A-bomb missions. Sample: Is he proud of what he did that morning over Japan? "I'm not proud that I killed 80,000 peo- "ple, but I am proud that I was able to start with nothing, plan it and have it work as perfectly as it did.". Nobody really knows how many people were killed. It was wartime and there was not an accurate count. History book estimates range from 70,000 to 100,000 and one source reports 200,000. The years appear to have been good to that young colonel handpicked to usher in a nuclear age and change warfare. Tibbets -- 30 when he dropped the bomb -- stayed in the Air Force, retiring in 1966 as a brigadier general. His wavy black hair, a little saltier these days, is full, his physique still trim. Except for the aviator glasses, he looks very much like the man whose name and picture were everywhere back in 1945. As vice president of Executive Jet Aviation Inc.. Tibbets still climbs into the cockpit occasionally, piloting one of the company's 14 Lear jets and two Falcons. In a 1957 book, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, Harvard professor Henry- Kissinger expounded mankind's dilemma: "The refusal to run any risks would amount to giving the Soviets a blank check, "he said, adding that "the more · powerful the weapons . . . the greater becomes the reluctance to use them." That's why John Foster Dulles invented brinks- manship--rushing to the abyss to outstare your opponent. Kissinger recognized in 1957 the paralyzing fear of weapons: he proposed overcoming it by educating the public and by a "diplomacy which seeks to break down the atmosphere of special horror which now surrounds the use of nuclear weapons." That's what's happening now; we are being educated. In Vietnam. Nixon tried "limited war," without nukes, and it didn't work. Worse still, thought nuclear theologians, it weakened Ar.cnca's crucial credibility. Nixon hung on in Vietnam, less to win the war at the end than to demonstrate America's will. It is a maddening dilemma: no previous nation ever faced it. Kissinger at Harvard urged "a public opinion which has been educated to the realities of the nuclear age." We are the first generation that can destroy itself, the first generation in which Man is the endan- FIVE YEARS AGO, Tibbets gave up competitive shooting, a sport at which he excelled. In 1960, when he was based in France, his precision and concentration were good enough to earn him the European International Skeet title. But no more. "I became so obsessed with perfection I'd get furious if I missed a shot," says Tibbets. "Now I just go out and shoot for the fun of it. If I miss, I miss." He allows, with a smile, as how he might be mellowing. Besides shooting, Tibbets enjoys playing with a ham radio at his home in Columbus, which he shares with his French-born second wife. His first marriage ended in divorce. One of his two sons by his first wife followed him into aviation and pilots the executives of Winn-Dixie wherever they have to go. The other son became a pharmacist. Tibbets was in medical school at the University of Cincinnati when he became fascinated with flying. "I was spending every spare dime on flying lessons." he says. That, he decided,, was where his heart was. Not medicine. "I had to conjure up all my nerve to tell my father. Although my father was not a doctor, there had always been a doctor in the family. He didn't explode like I thought he would. He just said I was a damn fool to go out and kill myself." Mrs. Tibbets. however, had faith in her son. Right there and then she announced that Paul would do all right in flying. Her name -- an Indian name -- was Enola Gay. and it was painted onto the nose of the B29 the night before it took off on its historic mission. Tibbets enlisted in 1957 and soon became a top pilot leading combat missions over Europe and North Africa and bringing home some pretty badly shot up planes. Bw he always got them home. He himself caught some flak on one mission and was awarded the Purple Heart. He became the military's chief test pilot for the B29. He still talks about that airplane with some passion. "I knew everything about that plane. I knew exactly what it would do." In August of 1944. Tibbets and his copilot, Capt. Robert A. Lewis, were setting altitude records for the B29 high over New Mexico when Tibbets got a strange call. He was to go to Colorado Springs right away. No explanation. "They just told me to bring all my clothes because 1 wouldn't be coming back." Tibbets was given but one order: Develop an outfit with the capability to drop the A-bomb. Ironically, this young Air Force pilot knew about the bomb before the man who ultimately would make the final decision to drop it on mankind, Harry S. Truman. Truman was not briefed until after Franklin D. Roosevelt died in April. 1945 and Truman became president. Secrecy was all important. Tibbets never even told his wife what he was doing. "I learned to be the world's best liar," he recalls. "People were always asking what I was doing. I was always thinking ahead of what would sound logical. Then if I met someone six months later, I'd have to try and remember what I told him before." Tibbets inherited the 393rd Squadron as the nucleus around which to build the 509th Composite Group. He handpie.ked many of the men, including his bombardier, Maj. Thomas W. Ferebee. and his navigator. Capt. Theodore J. Van Kirk. He had flown with them in combat. Tibbets could get anything he wanted. He just put the code word "Silver Plate" on a request and it was granted instantly. He hadn't turned 30 yet. "Nobody in the future will ever be given the responsibility and authority that was given to a 29-year-old man." Tibbets says now. "Today, four-star generals have less authority than 1 had then." The scientists aboard and Tibbets knew what the big B29 was carrying, but the crew members were not specifically told. The official word was just that it was something big, something that would level eight miles. "They weren't told, but then they weren't dumb either." says Tibbets. "The secrecy was such -that no one was going to ask a lot of questions." Only Tibbets' tail gunner, Sgt. George R. Caron, used the word "atom." · Caron, a design engineer in Denver now. recalls that conversation -- and why his guess was such an accurate one. He had been reading a book about atomic power and the Columbia cyclotron. ' Tibbets came back and asked if he had figured out what was going on. "I said. 'Colonel, is it a chemist's nightmare?' He said no. Then I thought about the cyclotron and I said, 'Colonel is this a physicist's nightmare? Are we splittin' atoms this morning?" And he said yes." Sunday Ga/ette-Mail -- August 3,1975 mand, NATO and at the Pentagon. That rankles Tibbets a bit. "After all, I had given my all for them. I guess they just didn't want to get involved in a personal matter, but it would have helped my morale." Stories also spread about Ferebee the bombardier, who now lives in Maitland, Fla.. just outside of Orlando. One newspaper printed a story that he was locked up in a mental institution suffering deep remorse over the incident. A reporter called Ferebee's commanding officer to verify the story. "Part of it's true," said the commanding officer with a chuckle. "I just saw Ferebee about an hour ago and he seemed to be in deep remorse with a hangover. Otherwise, it's nonsense. Want to come out and talk with him?" NEITHER TIBBETS nor Ferebee nor Caron ever suffered guilt feelings. Tibbets explains: "You've got to take stock and assess the situation at that time. We were at war. You only fight a war to win it-that is until we got into that mess over in Vietnam. "You use anything at your disposal. There are no Marquess of Queensberry rules in war. I sleep clearly every night. I didn't get mad at the Japanese and decide to go do this to them. "I was fighting for patriotism and what I believed was right. Plus I had some classmates who were beheaded by some Japanese practicing their swordsmanship." Tibbets is--and always has been--a believer of logic over emotion. He recalls his first combat mission, when he dropped conventional bombs. "I looked down and saw the white puffs on the ground. I realized, 'Hey--someone's getting killed down there. I wonder who and why.' Then I told myself that was not for me to think about." Tibbets puts the scene into an analogy. "The doctors who are failures are the doctors who begin assuming the symptoms of the patient. They begin to identify too much with them. To think about what was happening on the ground was like the doctor identifying with the patient." The controversy as to whether the bombings of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and Nagasaki three days later were necessary to end the war quickly and to save Ameican and Japanese lives goes on and on. Ferebee, who sells real estate in ti.^ Orlando area, said he was talking to a former Navy ""an the other day who remarked that the bombing probably saved his life. He was among the first scheduled to hit the beaches of Japan if the A-bomb had not ended the war. Characteristically, the soft-spoken Ferebee didn't tell the Navy man who he was. that he had been the man in the nose of the Enola Gay who watched carefully as the cross-hairs came over the target and the 10,000-pound bomb tumbled out. Ferebee forgot to put on his goggles as he watched the bomb fall out sideways, dolphin a little and then right itself for the fall to earth and detonation at 1,850 feet over Hiroshima. He did not yet know, as he saw it fall, that it was an atom bomb. Tibbets remembers Tom Ferebee as the coolest man he ever met under enemy fire. And well he was. Ferebee flew a total of 63 combat missions before he decided he might be pushing his luck just a bit. Ferebee remembers well the first time he met the straight-laced Tibbets. It was earlier in the war and some crew members had shown up at a Florida training base in no shape to fly. Tibbets didn't fly off the handle. He simply ordered them to dig a useless ditch in the hot Florida sun. The next morning, the crew was mighty bright-eyed. That was typical. (Please turn to Page 4E) THE 13 MEN in the crew have pretty much lost touch with each other. Tibbets still sees Ferebee occasionally and says he receives occasional letters from Caron. but the others have gone their separate ways. Some left the service right after the war, pursuing their careers. Others like Ferebee and Tibbets made the military their careers. Tibbets says all the publicity hasn't really bothered him. "I've been called just about everything. . .cold-blooded, a drunkard, crazy. . .you name it." Eve'n now. he will occasionally be in. troduced to someone who will regard him most strangely. "I just laugh and say yea. I'm crazy as hell." There was a rather widespread belief that the pilot of the Hiroshima plane cracked up over guilt feelings. The man who actually had the emotional problems was Maj. Claude Eatherly. the pilot of the Straight Flush, the weather plane that preceded the Enola Gay over Hiroshima to check for clouds. Eatherly later was in a mental institution, and also committed small crimes. Tibbets said he was aware that Eatherly had problems before he ever flew the weather mission, but chose not to bump him. "He was a good pilot and we needed a good pilot." EaUierly now lives in Texas. Despite the publicity--and the confusion--the Department of Defense never came out publicly and announced that Tibbets, the real Hiroshima pilot, was very sane indeed and working on sensitive as- sijjhrnents with the Strategic Air Com- Men's Center-gore Slip-on 14 80 Cutting corners? We never would . . . but you can with this great looking center-gore slip-on. It comes in a deeply burnished rich brown. Strap and buckle treatment wraps it up! Men's Shoes--Firs* Floor ^ 2 HflMS ^ 0 « vTM«-.=c or J S'r«!.

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