Military News

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Face of Defense: Grandson Carries on Grandfather’s Service

By Stefan Bocchino
377th Air Base Wing

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M.  – Air Force Col. Paul W. Tibbets IV, the Air Force Inspection Agency’s commander, is the grandson of retired Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets Jr., the pilot in command of the "Enola Gay" when it dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.

Tibbets said that while growing up he was aware of his grandfather’s World War II accomplishments. His father spent a 30-year career in the Army reserve as a pharmacist and hospital administrator, he said, retiring as a colonel.

"My father had the biggest influence on me joining the Air Force," Tibbets said. "When I was in 9th grade, I became involved in youth service projects. It was a passion of mine to serve. My father said ‘You seem to be very interested in serving -- what do you want to do with your life?' I told him I was interested in serving, and he told me to look into something like the ROTC or service academies."

Tibbets applied to the service academies and was accepted to the Air Force Academy, where he spent four years.

"The time that I spent with my grandfather was very limited growing up," Tibbets said. "It was an honor being a Tibbets, and I will always consider him a hero. The last time I saw him before leaving for the Air Force Academy, he told me, 'Paul, just remember, people are going to know you because of who I am. You be who you are and don't worry about who I was.' What I found out later was that he was really concerned his service would somehow have a negative effect on my career. I took his advice to heart the best I could."

Tibbets said he was interested in flying at the academy. Following graduation, he was selected to attend pilot training.

"There was no favoritism when I was chosen for bombers," Tibbets said, who has been in the Air Force for 22 years. "The Air Force can't afford to put someone in a job for which they're not qualified. I was told that it wasn't because of who I was, but because it was the best fit."

During World War II, General Tibbets flew B-17s in Europe. Later in the war, he returned to the United States to test-fly the B-29 Superfortress. He was selected to command the 509th Composite Group that was connected to the Manhattan Project. On Aug. 6, 1945, he flew a B-29, which he dubbed “Enola Gay” after his mother's name, during the bombing of Hiroshima.

"Even though there was controversy over the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, my grandfather said he never lost one minute of sleep," Tibbets said. "He emphasized that, 'My country asked me to do something, and I set forth with the men in the 509th Composite Group to accomplish it to the best of our ability, and it helped bring the war to an end.' It is interesting being a senior officer now and thinking about the challenges those men went through. They never lost focus on the mission they were to carry out, and they did it beautifully."

Tibbets was previously assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. That was the same unit his grandfather commanded during the bombing of Hiroshima.
 
"I competed to go to the 509th and was selected," the colonel said. "It was quite an honor to be in that organization. It's a highly skilled, highly capable organization with a very unique mission. Later, I was selected to command."
 
He commanded the 393rd Bomb Squadron, an operational squadron of B-2 “Spirit” aircraft at Whiteman, within the same wing his grandfather commanded.
 
"The wing commander made the decision that commanding the unit was where my skills were needed," Tibbets said. "It was one of those opportunities that the Air Force has given me, to command an operational squadron, and I'm obviously honored and thrilled to be a part of something like that. You add on that it was my grandfather's squadron and it meant just the world to me. Just as my grandfather did, I was focused on serving those entrusted to my command to the best of my ability. I thought, 'I won't let them down, I can't let my grandfather down, and I don't want to let my Air Force down.'"
 
General Tibbets died in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 1, 2007, at 92.
 
"It is a real privilege to serve our great nation, being part of something bigger than ourselves," said Colonel Tibbets, who took command of AFIA in July. "I am so proud of all our airmen and joint partners, who are a very small percentage of all Americans who are wearing the uniform and defending freedom. I love it."
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on AF.mil. These stories and commentaries focus on a single airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

Canadian Army

Canadian army pilot gives tour of helicopter
The pilot of a Canadian CH-146 “Griffon” orients Army Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter, acting director of the Army National Guard, and Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig Jr., the adjutant general of the Pennsylvania National Guard during Exercise Maple Resolve in October 2011. (Canadian army photo by 2nd Lt. Javin Lau)

CH-47F Chinook crew prepare for night operations
A CH-47F Chinook helicopter crew with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard’s B Company, 2nd of the 104th General Support Aviation Battalion prepares for night operations during Exercise Maple Reserve in October 2011. The Pennsylvania National Guard, due to its assets and proximity to the Canadian border, were called on to help the Canadian army with pre-deployment training requirements. (Canadian army photo by 2nd Lt. Javin Lau)

Wreath Laying at Lone Sailor Held in Remembrance of Pearl Harbor

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Shannon Burns, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Naval District Washington hosted a wreath laying ceremony at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., Dec. 7, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Among those in attendance were Pearl Harbor survivors and their family members as well as retired Rear Admiral Edward K. Walker Jr. At the time of the attacks Walker was just nine years old and stationed with his family at Pearl Harbor. At the time Walkers' father was a Lt. Cmdr. as the operations officer of a staff command. Walker said he remembers watching the smoke rise.

"I climbed up on the roof of our house and from there I could see the smoke. I was close enough that I could feel the concussions from the bombs, that went on for about an hour," said Walker. "Then the second wave came in. The planes flew over the mountain behind our house and on into Pearl Harbor."

Walker said he was honored to be a part of the wreath laying and that it was very personal to him.

"I'm very emotionally involved in the wreath laying," Walker said. "I served 38 years in the Navy and my father served 33.

Walker also said that remembering Pearl Harbor is important for several reasons.

"Most important is remembering the sacrifices, dedication and courage of the nearly 2,400 people who lost their lives that day," said Walker. "Pearl Harbor teaches us that we as military people must always be prepared to meet an enemy capability."

Walker invited retirees to come and enjoy the Navy Memorial.

"I want to ask all of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard veterans to please visit your Navy Memorial," said Walker. "You helped build it, you help keep it running. This memorial represents you, your dedication, your sacrifices, and your courage."

Following the wreath laying a panel discussion was held in the Navy Memorial Historical Society with Pearl Harbor survivors sharing their memories of that day.