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Mocksville's Bomb

Updated: Apr 19

Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr. was born on February 23rd, 1915 in Quincy, Illinois. Tibbets attended military school at the Western Military Academy and then went on to the University of Florida in Gainesville. During this time, he took private flying lessons at Miami's Opa-Locka Airport. After a few years of college, Tibbets enlisted in the United States Army and became a pilot in the United States Army Air Corps. During training, he showed himself to be an above-average cadet. He was soon commissioned as a second lieutenant and received his pilot rating in 1938. In June 1941, Tibbets transferred to the 9th Bombardment Squadron of the 3rd Bombardment Group as the engineering officer and flew the A-20 Havoc. He was then promoted to captain and received orders to join the 29th Bombardment Group for training on the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.

On December 7th, Tibbetts was informed of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and then in February 1942 he was named the commanding officer of the 340th Bombardment Squadron of the 97th Bombardment Group, equipped with the B-17D. In July, the 97th became the first heavy bombardment group of the Eighth Air Force to be deployed to England. A few weeks later, in August, under the tutelage of the Royal Air Force, the commander, Colonel Frank A. Armstrong Jr., appointed Tibbets as his deputy. In 1945, at the Wendover Army Airfield, he was promoted to colonel, Tibbets was there to provide support for the Manhattan Project. On August 6th, 1945 at 02:45, in accordance with the terms of Operations Order No. 35, Tibbets and his plane, the Enola Gay, left for Hiroshima, Japan. The atomic bomb, code-named “Little Boy,” was dropped over Hiroshima at 08:15. Tibbets was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross immediately after landing. He was seen as a national hero who had ended the war with Japan.

However, as much as Tibbets was regarded as a hero, he dropped the atomic bomb with little to no remorse. Colonel Tibbets was no stranger to dropping bombs on innocent people. He had experience being the lead bomber for countless missions before Hiroshima. When Tibbets

released his first bomb, a slow penetration raid against a marshaling yard in Rouen in occupied France. He thought back to a lesson that his medical professor taught him back in college. He said that his peers had failed the program because “they had too much sympathy.” This led

Tibbets claims: “I made up my mind then that the morality of dropping that bomb was not my business... I don't care whether you are dropping atom bombs, or 100-pound bombs, or shooting a rifle. You have got to leave the moral issue out of it.”

The dropping of the atomic bomb relates to Mocksville, North Carolina because one of the pilots chosen for the mission was Thomas Ferebee who is originally from Mocksville. Ferebee activated the plane’s automated Norden bombsight, centered its crosshairs on the Aioi Bridge and called “bomb away.”

--Sarah Sandak


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