Until his death in November 2007, at the age of 92, the Motts Military Museum was honored to have General Paul W. Tibbets Jr. as a member of our Advisory Board.
General Tibbets will be remembered for piloting the Enola Gay, the B-29 superfortress that dropped the first atomic bomb ever used in combat.
He was a loyal supporter and was always willing to help us with fund raising events.
The Motts Military Museum displays the largest collection of Gen. Tibbets memorabilia including his full dress blue Air Force Brigadier General uniform and much more.
Paul Tibbets was born in Quincy, IL., on February 13, 1915. He lived in Iowa and moved to Miami, FL. at the age of 9. At 12, he had his first airplane ride. It was to drop Baby Ruth candy bars at a carnival to the crowd below. With this job, his love for flying was born and would last a lifetime.
At the age of 13 he went to the Western Military Academy in Alton, IL. He attended the University of Florida in 1933. While there, he took flying lessons at the Gainsville Airport.
He then went to the University of Cincinnati Medical College, with the expectation of carrying on the family tradition of medical doctors. But, his love for flying became number one in his life. He spent all of his spare time and money taking flying lessons.
He left medical school in 1937 and joined the Army Air Corp. at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. Here he could fly at government expense.
While stationed at Ft. Benning, GA., and being a shotgun enthusiast, he was assigned to the base Skeet Shooting range. This is where he met George Patton. They became good friends and spent many hours on the shooting range. He also served as Patton’s pilot during tank range maneuvers. He has some great stories to tell about him.
Paul flew B10 and B12 aircraft in low flying excercises. Returning from one of these missions in December 1941, he heard on his aircaft radio that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. America was at war.
He was then transferred to the 29th Bomb Group to fly the new B17. He temporarily flew the B18 on antisub duty off the U.S. east coast. He was made Commander of the 40th Squadron, 97th Bombardment Group (Heavy) at MacDill Air Base, Tampa, FL. He trained his crew in the B17 and flew many hours, day and night. Most of this time, he slept in his clothes.
From Bangor, Maine, he flew across the North Atlantic to England. This was the first group of American-manned, tactical aircraft to reach the United Kingdom in WWII.
Paul was made the Executive Officer of the 97th Bombardment Group (Heavy). On August 17, 1942, he flew the first American plane on a daylight bombing raid over German occupied Europe. The mission was to bomb a rail yard in France. This mission was flown in the aircraft named, “Butcher Shop”, not his regular plane. His future missions were flown in the “Red Gremlin”. Paul had a great attachment to this aircraft and called it, “the Good Gremlin”.
He flew many missions over German occupied territory. On one of these missions he was wounded but was able to return to his base.
Before the invasion of North Africa he flew General Mark Clark on a secret mission to Gibraltar. It was from Gibraltar that General Mark Clark directed the invasion of North Africa, “Operation Torch”.
He later flew General Eisenhower (sitting on a 2 x 4) to North Africa on an inspection tour. Paul flew many missions in North Africa during 1942-43. He was then moved to Algiers and continued to fly missions.
General Doolittle sent Paul back to the states to help develop a new bomber, the B29. After extensive training with the B29, he was sent to Colorado Springs where he was selected to lead a top secret mission. He was 29 years old at the time. He would command the 509th Composite Group. From the Island of Tinian, Paul Tibbets would go down in history as the first pilot to drop the Atomic Bomb — the target, Hiroshima.
After the war he was consulted frequently about atomic testing and in the late 1940’s and 50’s he worked very hard to promote the new B47 Jet Bomber.
In 1954 he was a member of the NATO staff in Paris. Later Paul was put in charge of the 308th Bomb Wing in Savannah, GA.
In 1959 he was promoted to Brigadier General and was put in command of the Air Division at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL.
In 1962 he was selected to put together the National Military Command Center in Washington DC, at the Pentagon.
During 1964 he went to India to operate the Military Assistance Group, and in 1969, after this very impressive career, he retired from the military service.
In 1976 Paul was appointed president of Executive Jet Aviation, now Net Jets, with world headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, a position he held until his retirement.