Thursday, November 01, 2007

Requiem for the Candy Man

Paul W. Tibbets Jr. died yesterday at the age of 92. He will go down in history as the pilot of the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb in history ultimately killing more than 100,000 people.

I was in uniform in Europe then, waiting to be sent off for the invasion of Japan, and what Tibbets did may very well have saved my life. Afterward, he insisted his bombing of Hiroshima "saved more lives than we took" and that it would have been "morally wrong if we'd have had that weapon and not used it."

But the question of whether mass murder of civilian populations can ever be moral is far from settled. For more than six decades, after the second atomic bombing in history, of Nagasaki, there has been no use of nuclear weapons. But given the irrational hatred that exists in today's world, how long will that moratorium last?

In Tibbets' first flight as a teenager, he dropped candy bars with tiny parachutes on a beach to promote his father's confectionary store. It was a long way from there to dropping death on women and children.

In interviews late in life, Tibbets said he didn't want a funeral or headstone to attract protesters to his burial site. But he deserves better than that. He was a soldier doing his duty, not a head of state with the moral responsibility for sending him to do what he did.


Anonymous said...

He was a soldier doing his duty, not a head of state with the moral responsibility for sending him to do what he did.

That's true. The actual person who dropped the bomb was Harry Truman. Also Tibbets' sortie was not the first nor even perhaps the worst instance of violence being visited on an Axis city from the air.

War has usually visited untold suffering on the civil population of one side or the other and often both; when war is "total" then the line between a civilian and people who keep the infrastructure of the war machine going becomes almost non-existent (and allowable "collateral damage" widens the circle further still). "War is all hell" --- W. T. Sherman

tom said...

He saved my dad's life, a Marine scheduled to land in the Invasion of Japan, I'm not saying I'm glad he did it but I am saying it was justified.....war is hell, we should not have any more!!!
If only George Bush the younger had paid attention to history classes in YALE