In death, he wanted neither a funeral nor a grave marker, saying detractors of the bomb likely could use that spot to stage protests.
‘‘None of that came as a surprise,’’ said David Haggard, of Fort Dodge, a second cousin of the man who flew the bombing mission. ‘‘That’s how Paul would go about things. He would draw little attention to himself. He wants his ashes blown over the English Channel; he loved to fly there.’’
Haggard’s father, Roy, and Tibbets were first cousins.
A retired Air Force brigadier general, the 92-year-old Tibbets died Thursday at his home in Columbus, Ohio. He had been in declining health for two months.
Haggard, on a hunting trip Friday, said he remembers hunting in North Dakota with his father and Tibbets. In fact, he has a picture of that trip somewhere in the boxes packed when he retired as superintendent of Fort Dodge Community Schools. He doesn’t need the photo to remember the man, however.
And, like most of America today, he doesn’t need a photo to remind him of the man who may have saved the lives of millions of Americans.
‘‘Paul was pretty stoic about that whole experience,’’ Haggard said. ‘‘He was military to the core.’’
He said he remembers as a child visiting a base where Tibbets was commander. A young boy’s airplane got broken, and the father of that boy came to Tibbets’ home to say Tibbets’ son had been the one to break it.
‘‘I came forward to say he didn’t, but Paul quickly told me he’d take care of it,’’ Haggard said. ‘‘He was the commander. He would take care of it.’’
When Haggard talks about Tibbets, the respect is evident. Tibbets was a man who did his duty and did it well.
Haggard said his buddies in school knew the family connection, ‘‘but I don’t think it was ever considered that big of deal. I grew up in a small school, in Glidden.’’
He said his late father added to the idea that what Tibbets did was what he was trained and told to do.
‘‘Paul considered it a mission,’’ Haggard said. ‘‘That was what he was asked to do — to test the B29 and then to drop the bomb in Hiroshima. That was an order.’’
And as a military man, Tibbets did what he was ordered.
He named his bomber the Enola Gay, in honor of his mother, and he flew the ‘‘Little Boy’’ bomb to its destination. He did not minimize the effects of the bomb, neither did he let the horror of it ruin his life.
An AP report about his death used a quote taken from a 1975 interview with Tibbets: ‘‘We were at war. ... You use anything at your disposal. There are no Marquess of Queensberry rules in war.’’
Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org