August 1, 2014 18 Comments
At 08:15:15L on 06 August 1945, the Enola Gay, dropped Little Boy on Hiroshima, and many things changed. Strangely, other than being the first use of an atomic weapon in war, there was actually little new about it. It wasn’t the deadliest raid of the war, that likely was the Tokyo fire raid, or perhaps the joint USAAF/RAF raids on Dresden, nor was it the first time an atomic weapon went off, that was Trinity, we spoke of that the other day. It was likely the most efficient, for whatever that is worth.
What Hiroshima did (along with Nagasaki, a few days later) was shock Japan, and perhaps give the Emperor the excuse he needed to end the war. Whatever the cause, the war did end, without the invasion of Japan that was reckoned would cost one million American casualties, at least.
But the reason I mention this today is that the crew of Enola Gay is all gone now. Theodore “Dutch” van Cleef, the crew’s Navigator, died the other day, and so BGEN Tibbetts’ crew have all passed now.
One of the things that I always recall about these men, who remained friends, and got together all their lives, was just how committed they were to doing it right. Tibbets reportedly, for the rest of his life, gave van Cleef grief because they dropped the bomb 15 seconds late. On a mission of thousands of miles over open, enemy held, ocean. That was how the war was won, discipline, duty, and attention to detail. We succeed in great measure according to how well we learn that lesson. We also need to learn, as they knew, that the crew is greater than the sum of its parts, as well. There are other lessons from them as well.
But for the moment let’s just remember, and commemorate the passing, of a man who helped to save millions of lives. Although I do note that he, like many others, wished we could put this particular genie, back into the bottle. I honor that as well.