Tibbets In Saipan – Part I

The Wednesday, June 16th edition of the Marianas Variety has a couple interesting articles about Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay. I thought I would reproduce them here.

Tibbets says he didn’t want to return to CNMI
by Gemma Q. Casas
Variety News Staff

RETIRED U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets endured almost two days of flying hours to reach the CNMI, 60 years after he first set foot on the islands. But he says he doesn’t regret the long flight at all.

“It turned out to be somewhat like a homecoming,” he said in an interview yesterday at the Penthouse of the Dai-Ichi Hotel where he is billeted.

Locals and foreigners alike treated Tibbets like a celebrity the past two days on occasion of the 60th commemoration of the Battles of Saipan and Tinian. The 89-year-old former pilot was bombarded with request for autographs and photo opportunities.

But Tibbets admitted he hesitated at first returning to the islands which made him famous and which he made famous as well when he dropped atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945, from Tinian, the second largest island in the CNMI.

The bombing claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Japanese civilians but also led to the surrender of the Japanese government which ended World War II.

“I have read things about the Marianas chain, particularly Guam, Saipan and Tinian… I really didn’t know what was expected of me so I said, ‘I don’t really want to go to the Marianas, this trip’ But then I thought, that’s the wrong attitude. I owe those people something. They helped secure the land that we could use to have their place fly to Japan and so forth and so I said ‘I’m going to go out there,'” said Tibbets.

“I want all the native people to see who I am and what I am. In that way, they could make their opinion of whether (what) they have been given credit to is a myth or not,” he added.

With so many books written about WWII, Tibbets said the flying hours is nothing compared to his mission: “To set the record straight” of what really happened during the bombing missions.

“I wanted to come here and set the record straight, because when I die there’s no way I could make that record straight,” Tibbets said.

The former pilot and his manager arrived on Saipan, the capital of the now U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, on Monday from Ohio via Hawaii.

Their total flight hours could sum up to about two days including the brief stopover in Hawaii.

Tibbets said in his younger years, he could fly straight to a destination in fewer hours.

“It took us two days to get here. We stopped in Hawaii. Of course, when I had my own airplanes I could fly from Utah out here in an average of 35 to 36 hours which I did… I made one trip with four pilots on the airplane. Three besides myself. We did it in 72 hours, round-trip. I mean you got to depend on the speed of the airplane,” Tibbets said.

“In those days too, we didn’t have the comfort that you got in the airline today. The B-29 was the first one to be pressurized and to have heat. It was extremely well,” he added.

Former U.S. president George Bush Sr. also fought in the Pacific during WWII for the U.S. Air Force.

On his 80th birthday, the former president went skydiving.

When Tibbets learned about it, he said, “Good for him. But I couldn’t do that (anymore).”