Grandson of pilot who nuked Hiroshima now 2nd in command of US long-range bombers
Brigadier General Paul W. Tibbets IV has been promoted to vice commander of the US Air Force’s Global Strike Command (AFGSC), headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, the Pentagon said.
The newly-appointed officer is the grandson of Brigadier General Paul Tibbets Jr., who piloted the B-29 bomber – its notorious nickname, ‘Enola Gay,’ chosen after Tibbets’ mother – which dropped the Little Boy uranium bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
Deployment of the Little Boy marked the first of two atomic bombs used in warfare, with the second one being dropped on Nagasaki, just 560 miles from Hiroshima.
At least 90,000 people are believed to have been killed in the inferno, and many others died from radiation sickness, burns, and other injuries during the months that followed, as well as illness and malnutrition. As many as 40,000 died in Nagasaki.
Tibbets IV has been transferred to the Global Strike Command after serving as the commander of the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, the same bomber detachment his grandfather served in.
Though most victims in both cities were civilians, the new vice commander of the AFGSC claimed the nuclear bombings were a military necessity.
“These events laid the groundwork for strategic deterrence today,” he told Air Force Times on the 70th anniversary of the bombing in 2015. “Through a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent, we have avoided the actual employment of those types of weapons since 1945,” he added.
According to the official explanation, the bombings were necessary to force the Japanese Empire into unconditional surrender, thus sparing US soldiers from having to invade mainland Japan, which would have cost many lives. However, some experts argue that the first-ever use of nuclear weapons was to intimidate the Soviet Union.
The US has never offered formal apologies for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, though in May last year, Barack Obama became the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima. Speaking at the cenotaph monument to the victims of the Little Boy bomb, he simply stated that “we come to ponder the terrible force unleashed in a not-so-distant past... we come to mourn the dead.”