Daily Archives: 06/20/2004

Tibbets In Saipan – Part II

And here is the second article about Paul Tibbets that ran in the June 16th edition of the Marianas Variety. Since their website lacks an archive, I thought I would reproduce it here for posterity:

NMC students grill Enola Gay crew
by Anges E. Donato
Variety News Staff

WHAT reaction do you get from Japanese people when you meet them and they find out who you are? Do you believe in killing innocent civilians if the need is great enough?

These were two of the toughest questions from Northern Marianas College students that retired Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets, Morris Jeppson and Dutch Van Kirk had to answer during and open forum at NMC yesterday morning.

But the returning Enola Gay crew members were unfazed and even seemed to enjoy being grilled by the students.

“I’ve been used to tough questions. I’ve been answering tough questions all my life. (The students’) questions were intelligent and I enjoyed answering them all. They are a good bunch of students and I like them,” Van Kirk told Variety in an interview.

To the first question, Tibbets replied that he generally had no trouble dealing with the Japanese. The Enola Gay – which dropped atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 – is actually quite popular in Japan, he added.

He said one Japanese businessman once told him, “We look up to you the way the American Negroes look up to (former President) Abraham Lincoln. You granted us emancipation. You freed us.”

Van Kirk earned the applause of the NMC faculty and students with his witty reply to the second question.

“Yes, I do believe the killing of civilians is justified if the need is great enough. Mussolini was a civilian, Adolf Hitler was a civilian. In fact, I have certain people on my list that I’d like to see killed,” Van Kirk said.

He and Jeppson then gave the students some words of advice.

“Always have an inquisitive mind. Don’t believe all the baloney you read in your books, although not all of them are baloney. Get your own thoughts. I’ve always had a happy life because although Paul (Tibbets) gave me a lot of orders, I didn’t follow all of them,” Van Kirk said, partly in jest.

Jeppson added, “Just have a good life and do a good job.”

Tibbets declined to comment.

For their part, the students said they were very honored to have met the Enola Gay crew.

“It’s heartwarming. I never expected to meet anyone from history, especially from World War II. It’s an honor,” Liberal Arts student Francine Manibusan said.

Accounting student Tatiana Babauta said she was very impressed by the Enola Gay crew, especially by their wit.

Signing autographs
Tibbets signing his book at the Dai Ichi lobby; &copy Marianas Variety & Jacqueline HernandezThe three Enola Gay crew members also signed autographs at the Dai Ichi Hotel lobby yesterday afternoon.

Between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., the signed copies of Tibbets’ book “Enola Gay,” as well as photos of the plane and a poster on the mission.

Hideyuki Suzuki, a tourist from Tokyo who happened to passed by the lobby, could not believe his luck when he saw Tibbets, Jeppson and Van Kirk signing autographs.

Suzuki, however, was unsure at first if he could buy a copy of the book.

“I am Japanese. Can I buy a copy?” he asked one of the veterans’ assistants.

After paying for his copy, Suzuki lined up to have the three men sign it. He also posed for a photograph with them.

“The story of the Enola Gay is well known and I am interested in (Gen. Tibbets) book about it,” Suzuki told Variety.

He added, “Frankly speaking, I’m very sorry that the atomic bombing had to happen, but that’s part of war. And war is miserable. That’s why we should try to avoid it.”

Autographed copies of Tibbets’ Enola Gay book are sold at $60 each while photographs of the plane are available at $34 each. Those who want both the book and the photograph may buy them at $80.

The posters, which bear the signatures of three crew members and the 60th anniversary commemoration cancellation stamp, are sold at $100 each.

I think the Marianas Variety needs a good editor. Besides the clunky language and misspellings (the leader of Nazi Germany was Adolph Hitler), I know the Enola Gay dropped Little Boy on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945 and a different plane, B-29 #77 – rechristened Bockscar after the bombing, dropped Fat Man on Nagasaki on August 9th. Enola Gay did not drop both bombs, and nowhere does Tibbets make that claim. It’s just a half-assed assumption by a lazy reporter. I’m surprised nobody even bothered to fact check some of the stuff written in this article.

Other media in the region covered the visit by the Enola Gay crew, most notably the Saipan Tribune. Since they archive their stories, let me just link to them in reverse chronological order.