Re: [xmca] Hiroshima memory

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Fri Aug 05 2005 - 18:21:20 PDT

Thanks for reminding us of August 6th, David. There are war crimes and war
crimes. This one was a whopper. David Kennedy, former president
of Stanford, wrote recently about the way that the US and Britain began
targeting civilians to win a war in the 1940's-- the fire bombing of Dresden
commemorated by Vonnegut in *Slaughterhouse 5* was an example. As the
attached article indicates, 95% of the victims in Hiroshima were
noncombatants and the US justification is badly compromised.
 Violence begets violence. In phylogeny, cultural history, ontogeny and

 On 8/5/05, David Preiss <> wrote:
> XMCArs,
> Worth reading.
> David
> 'I wouldn't hesitate if I had the choice'
> August 6, 2005
> Paul Tibbets dropped the devastating bombs from the Enola Gay as it flew
> over Japan and, he tells Studs Terkel, he'd do it all again if he had to.
> One day [in September 1944] I'm running a test on a B-29. I land. A man
> meets me. He says he just got a call from General Uzal Ent [commander of the
> Second Air Force] at Colorado Springs, he wants me in his office the next
> morning at 9 o'clock. He said: "Bring your clothing - your B4 bag - because
> you're not coming back." Well, I didn't know what it was and didn't pay any
> attention to it - it was just another assignment.
> I got to Colorado Springs the next morning perfectly on time. A man named
> Lansdale met me, walked me to General Ent's office and closed the door
> behind me. With him was a US Navy captain - that was William Parsons, who
> flew with me to Hiroshima - and Dr Norman Ramsey, Columbia University
> professor in nuclear physics. And Norman said: "OK, we've got what we call
> the Manhattan Project. What we're doing is trying to develop an atomic bomb.
> We've gotten to the point now where we can't go much further till we have
> aeroplanes to work with."
> He gave me an explanation that probably lasted 45, 50 minutes, and they
> left. General Ent looked at me and said: "The other day, General Arnold
> [commander-general of the Army Air Corps] offered me three names." Both of
> the others were full colonels; I was lieutenant-colonel. He said that when
> General Arnold asked which of them could do this atomic weapons deal, he
> replied without hesitation: "Paul Tibbets is the man to do it." I said:
> "Well, thank you, sir." Then he laid out what was going on and it was up to
> me now to put together an organisation and train them to drop atomic weapons
> on both Europe and the Pacific - Tokyo.
> My edict was as clear as could be. Drop simultaneously in Europe and the
> Pacific because of the secrecy problem - you couldn't drop it in one part of
> the world without dropping it in the other. And so he said: "I don't know
> what to tell you, but I know you happen to have B-29s to start with. I've
> got a squadron in training in Nebraska - they have the best record of
> anybody we've got. I want you to go visit them, look at them, talk to them,
> do whatever you want. If they don't suit you, we'll get you some more."
> He said: "There's nobody could tell you what you have to do because nobody
> knows. If we can do anything to help you, ask me. Paul, be careful how you
> treat this responsibility, because if you're successful you'll probably be
> called a hero. And if you're unsuccessful, you might wind up in prison."
> I think I went to Los Alamos [the Manhattan Project headquarters] three
> times, and each time I got to see Dr Robert Oppenheimer [senior scientist on
> the project] working in his own environment. Later, thinking about it,
> here's a young man, a brilliant person. And he's a chain smoker and he
> drinks cocktails. And he hates fat men. And General Leslie Groves [the
> general in charge of the Manhattan Project], he's a fat man, and he hates
> people who smoke and drink. The two of them are the first, original odd
> couple.
> Dr Ramsey said the only thing we can tell you about it is it's going to
> explode with the force of 20,000 tons of TNT. I'd never seen a pound of TNT
> blow up. I'd never heard of anybody who'd seen 100 pounds of TNT blow up.
> All I felt was that this was gonna be one hell of a big bang.
> I think the two bombs that we used [at Hiroshima and Nagasaki] had more
> power than all the bombs the air force had used during the war on Europe.
> Even though it was still theory, whatever those guys told me, that's what
> happened. So I was ready to say I wanted to go to war, but I wanted to ask
> Oppenheimer how to get away from the bomb after we dropped it. I told him
> that when we had dropped bombs in Europe and North Africa, we'd flown
> straight ahead after dropping them - which is also the trajectory of the
> bomb. But what should we do this time? He said: "You can't fly straight
> ahead because you'd be right over the top when it blows up and nobody would
> ever know you were there." He said I had to turn tangent to the expanding
> shock wave. I said: "Well, I've had some trigonometry, some physics. What is
> tangency in this case?" He said it was 159 degrees in either direction.
> "Turn 159 degrees as fast as you can and you'll be able to put yourself the
> greatest distance from where the bomb exploded."
> I had dropped enough practice bombs to realise that the charges would blow
> around 1500 feet [about 460 metres] in the air, so I would have 40 to 42
> seconds to turn 159 degrees. So I practised turning, steeper, steeper,
> steeper, and I got it where I could pull it around in 40 seconds. The tail
> was shaking dramatically and I was afraid of it breaking off, but I didn't
> quit. That was my goal. And I practised and practised until, without even
> thinking about it, I could do it in between 40 and 42, all the time.
> We were in Tinian [US island base in the Pacific] at the time we got the
> OK. They had sent this Norwegian to the weather station out on Guam [the
> US's westernmost territory] and I had a copy of his report. We said that,
> based on his forecast, the sixth day of August would be the best day that we
> could get over Honshu [the island on which Hiroshima stands]. So we did
> everything that had to be done to get the crews ready to go: aeroplane
> loaded, crews briefed, all of the things checked that you have to check
> before you can fly over enemy territory.
> After we got the aeroplanes in formation I crawled into the tunnel and
> went back to tell the men, I said: "You know what we're doing today?" They
> said: "Well, yeah, we're going on a bombing mission." I said: "Yeah, we're
> going on a bombing mission, but it's a little bit special." My tailgunner,
> Bob Caron, was pretty alert. He said: "Colonel, we wouldn't be playing with
> atoms today, would we?" I said: "Bob, you've got it just exactly right."
> So I went back up in the front end and I told the navigator, bombardier,
> flight engineer, in turn. I said: "OK, this is an atom bomb we're dropping."
> They listened intently but I didn't see any change in their faces or
> anything else. Those guys were no idiots. We'd been fiddling round with the
> most peculiar-shaped things we'd ever seen.
> So we're coming down. We get to that point where I say "one second", and
> by the time I'd got that second out of my mouth the aeroplane had lurched,
> because 10,000 pounds [about 4500 kilograms] had come out of the front. I'm
> in this turn now, tight as I can get it, that helps me hold my altitude and
> helps me hold my airspeed and everything else all the way round. When I
> level out, the nose is a little bit high and as I look up there the whole
> sky is lit up in the prettiest blues and pinks I've ever seen. It was just
> great.
> The shock wave was coming up at us after we turned. And the tailgunner
> said: "Here it comes." About the time he said that, we got this kick in the
> arse. I had accelerometers installed in all aeroplanes to record the
> magnitude of the bomb. It hit us with 2 G. Next day, when we got figures
> from the scientists on what they had learned, they said: "When that bomb
> exploded, your aeroplane was 10 miles [17 kilometres] away from it."
> You see all kinds of mushroom clouds, but they were made with different
> types of bombs. The Hiroshima bomb did not make a mushroom. It was what I
> call a stringer. It just came up. It was black as hell, and it had light and
> colours and white in it and grey colour in it, and the top was like a
> folded-up Christmas tree.
> Terkel: Do you ever have any second thoughts about the bomb?
> Tibbets: Second thoughts? No. No. 1, I got into the air corps to defend
> the US to the best of my ability. That's what I believe in and that's what I
> work for. No. 2, I'd had so much experience with aeroplanes I put this
> thing together with my own thoughts on how it should be because when I got
> the directive, I was to be self-supporting at all times.
> On the way to the target, I was thinking: I can't think of any mistakes
> I've made. Maybe I did make a mistake; maybe I was too damned assured. At
> 29, I was so shot in the arse with confidence I didn't think there was
> anything I couldn't do. Of course, that applied to aeroplanes and people.
> So, no, I had no problem with it. I knew we did the right thing. I thought,
> yes, we're going to kill a lot of people, but by God we're going to save a
> lot of lives. We won't have to invade [Japan].
> Unknown to anybody else, there was a third one. See, the first bomb went
> off and they didn't hear anything out of the Japanese for two or three days.
> The second bomb was dropped and again they were silent for another couple of
> days. Then I got a phone call from General Curtis LeMay [chief of staff of
> the strategic air forces in the Pacific]. He said: "You got another one of
> those damn things?" I said: "Yes, sir." He said: "Where is it?" I said:
> "Over in Utah." He said: "Get it out here. You and your crew are going to
> fly it." I sent word back and the crew loaded it on an aeroplane and we
> headed back to bring it out to Tinian, and when they got it to the
> California debarkation point, the war was over.
> Terkel: Since September 11, what are your thoughts? People talk about
> nukes, the hydrogen bomb?
> Tibbets: I don't know any more about these terrorists than you do. When
> they bombed the Trade Centre, I couldn't believe what was going on. We've
> fought many enemies at different times. But we knew who they were and where
> they were. These people, we don't know who they are or where they are.
> That's the point that bothers me. Because they're gonna strike again, I'll
> put money on it. And it's going to be damned dramatic. But they're gonna do
> it in their own sweet time. We've got to get into a position where we can
> kill the bastards. None of this business of taking them to court; the hell
> with that. I wouldn't waste five seconds on them.
> Terkel: When you hear people say: "Let's nuke 'em, let's nuke these
> people," what do you think?
> Tibbets: Oh, I wouldn't hesitate if I had the choice. I'd wipe 'em out.
> You're gonna kill innocent people at the same time, but we've never fought a
> damn war anywhere in the world where they didn't kill innocent people. If
> the newspapers would just cut out the shit: "You've killed so many
> civilians." That's their tough luck for being there.
> *This is an edited 2002 interview from The Guardian .*
> *David Preiss***
> *-------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *
> *Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile: <>
> *
> *PACE Center at Yale University:<>
> *
> *Homepage:*
> *Phone: 56-2-3544605*
> *Fax: 56-2-354-4844*
> *E-mail:,*
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Sep 01 2005 - 01:00:08 PDT