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Paul Tibbets, pilot of A-bomb plane, dies

Nov. 1, 2007 at 1:30 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Paul Tibbets Jr., who flew the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, died Thursday in his Columbus, Ohio, home at age 92.

Tibbets suffered several small stokes and heart failure in recent years, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

Tibbets fell in love with flight as a child and when he was 12, volunteered to ride in the backseat of a biplane, dropping leaflets for a candy company during fairs and carnivals in the Miami area, the newspaper said.

He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1938. Once the United States entered World War II, he was assigned to patrol the Atlantic Ocean coast for submarines, then flew some of the first daylight B-17 missions over Germany.

On Aug. 6, 1945, the 30-year-old colonel piloted the Enola Gay, a B-29 he had named for his mother, down the runway on Tinian Island for the fateful six-hour flight to Japan.

"If Dante had been with us on the plane, he would have been terrified," Tibbets said later.

Tibbets, who remained in the military until 1966, later was president of Executive Jet, an international air-taxi service based in Columbus.

Tibbets is survived by his wife, Andrea, and three sons.

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