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Paul Tibbets was a brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force and is best known for piloting the aircraft to drop the first atomic bomb in the history of warfare.
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Tibbets was raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where his father was a confections wholesaler. In 1927, the family moved to Florida. He attended the University of Florida in Gainesville and was an initiated member of the Epsilon Zeta Chapter of Sigma Nu Fraternity in 1934. His parents had wanted him to become a doctor, but he was determined to fly.
During World War II, Tibbets was named commanding officer of the 340th Bomb Squadron, 97th Heavy Bomb Group flying B-17 Flying Fortresses He flew more than 25 combat missions over occupied Europe and led the first bombardment missions in support of the North African invasion in Algeria.
Tibbetts returned to the U.S. in March 1943 to test the combat capability of Boeing's new B-29 Super Fortress. In September 1944, he was placed in command of the newly form 509th Composite Group, whose mission was to drop the atomic bomb. He chose Wendover Air Base in Utah for the training.
At exactly 8:15:15 a.m. the world's first atomic bomb exploded. The blast killed 70,000 to 100,000 people and wounded countless others. The course of history and the nature of warfare was changed forever. When the Enola Gay and her crew landed at Tinian at 2:58 p.m., they were greeted by General Carl Spaatz, a large contingent of brass, and a crowd of GIs. Spaatz decorated Tibbets with the Distinguished Service Cross and the other crew members with Air Medals.
Three days later, the U.S. dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, killing an estimated 40,000 people. The Japanese surrendered six days later, ending World War II. Above and Beyond (1952) depicted the World War II events involving Tibbets, with Robert Taylor starring as Tibbets and Eleanor Parker as his first wife, Lucy.
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