THE 456th FIGHTER INTERCEPTOR SQUADRON

THE PROTECTORS OF  S. A. C.

 

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The Crew Of The "Enola Gay"

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Front row (L to R): Wyatt Duzenbury (flight engineer), Joseph Stiborik (radar), Dutch Van Kirk (navigator), George Caron (tail gunner), Robert Shumard (assistant engineer), and Dick Nelson (radio).
Back row (L to R): Morris Jeppson (weapon test officer), Robert Lewis (co-pilot), General Davies, Paul Tibbets (airplane commander and C.O. of 509th), Tom Ferebee (bombardier), William "Deak" Parsons (weapon officer).
 
The Flight Crew
Navy Capt. William "Deak" Parsons, Manhattan Project Scientist
Sgt. Joseph S. Stiborik, radar operator
S/Sgt. George R. Caron, tail gunner
Pfc. Richard H. Nelson, radio operator
Sgt. Robert H. Shumard, assistant engineer
S/Sgt. Wyatt E. Duzenbury, flight engineer
Capt. Theodore J. Van Kirk, navigator
Maj. Thomas W. Ferebee, bombardier
Col. Paul W. Tibbets, 509th Group CO and pilot
Capt. Robert A. Lewis, co-pilot
Lt. Jacob Beser, radar countermeasure officer
Lt. Morris R. Jeppson, bomb electronics test officer
 

The Ground Crew

Technical Sgt. Walter F. McCaleb
Sgt. Leonard W. Markley
Sgt. Jean S. Cooper
Cpl. Frank D. Duffy
Cpl. John E. Jackson
Cpl. Harold R. Olson
Pfc. John J. Lesniewski
Lt. Col. John Porter, ground maintenance officer

 

 

Biographical Data

 

Theodore "Dutch' Van Kirk

Theodore "Dutch" Van Kirk was assigned as the navigator aboard the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay. The crew of Enola Gay was part of the 509th Composite Group stationed on Tinian Island during World War II.

Van Kirk joined the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet program in October 1941. On April 1, 1942 he received both his commission and navigator wings and transferred to the 97th Bomb Group, the first operational B-17 Flying Fortress unit in England. The crew of the Red Gremlin also included pilot Paul Tibbets and Tom Ferebee, bombardier.

From August to October 1942 the crew flew 11 missions out of England. They were also the lead aircraft, responsible for group navigation and bombing. In October 1942 they flew General Mark Clark to Gibraltar for his secret North African rendezvous with the French prior to Operation TORCH. In November they ferried General Dwight D. Eisenhower to Gibraltar to command the North African invasion forces. After German reinforcements began pouring into the port of Bizerte, Tunisia, posing a serious threat to Allied strategy, a new mission emerged. On November 16, 1942 the crew led their group in an attack that took the Germans by complete surprise at Sidi Ahmed Air Base at Bizerte.

Van Kirk returned to the United States in June 1943 after flying a total of 58 missions overseas. He served as an instructor navigator until reuniting with Tibbets and Ferebee in the 509th Composite Group at Wendover Field, Utah, in late 1944. The group flew the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, with Tibbets as commander and Van Kirk as the group navigator. From November 1944 to June 1945 they trained continually for the first atomic bomb drop. The day they had so diligently prepared for arrived on August 6, 1945. The thirteen-hour mission to Hiroshima began at 0245 Tinian time. By the time they rendezvoused with their accompanying B-29s at 0607 over Iwo Jima, the group was three hours from the target area. As they approached the target Van Kirk worked closely with the bombardier, Tom Ferebee, to confirm the winds and aim point. The bomb fell away from the aircraft at 0915:17 Tinian time.

Van Kirk later participated in Operation CROSSROADS, the first Bikini Atoll atomic bomb tests. In August 1946 he completed his service in the Air Force as a Major. His decorations include the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross and 15 Air Medals. Van Kirk went on to receive his Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Chemical Engineering from Bucknell University in 1949 and 1950. For the next 35 years he held various technical and managerial positions in research and marketing with a major US company.

 

Morris R. Jeppson

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Morris R. Jeppson was a mission specialist assigned as the assistant weaponeer aboard the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay during its August 6, 1945 mission. His job for this mission was to provide assistance to U.S. Navy Captain William “Deak” Parsons with the final assembly and arming of the Little Boy atomic bomb in the bomb bay after Enola Gay had departed Tinian Field. The crew of Enola Gay was assigned to the 509th Composite Group stationed on Tinian Island during World War II.

 

Paul W. Tibbets, Jr.

Paul Warfield Tibbets, Jr. was born in Quincy, Illinois on February 23, 1915. He graduated from Western Military Academy in Alton, Illinois in 1933, and later attended the University of Florida and the University of Cincinnati where he majored in chemistry.

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He entered the Army Air Corps on February 25, 1937 at Fort Thomas, Kentucky. Immediately thereafter, he entered flying school at Randolph Field, Texas and in February 1938 graduated from pilot school at Kelly Field, Texas. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. His first assignment was to Flight B, 16th Observation Squadron, Lawson Field, Fort Benning, Georgia.

In April 1941, Tibbets became group engineering officer of the 3d Attack Group, Hunter Air Field, Savannah, Georgia. On December 4, 1941, he received orders to join the 29th Bomb Group at MacDill Field, Florida. However, before reporting to MacDill he was placed on temporary duty to take 21 Douglas B-18s to Pope Field, Fort Bragg, North Carolina to form an anti-submarine patrol; it was not until February 1942, Tibbets actually reported for duty with the 29th Bomb Group at MacDill Field as engineering officer. After three weeks, he was made commander of the 340th Bomb Squadron, 97th Bomb Group, which was formed from a cadre taken from the 29th Bomb Group. From February until June 1942, he was in training for an overseas movement.

In June 1942, he arrived in England and immediately went into combat operations, flying 25 combat missions in Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses, including the first American Flying Fortress raid against occupied Europe. In October 1942, Tibbets was given the special assignment of flying General Mark Clark to make his rendezvous with the French in preparation for the invasion of North Africa. Upon his return from this trip, he was retained to ferry General Dwight D. Eisenhower and his staff to Gibraltar on the night of the invasion. Tibbets then flew General Clark to Algiers where General Clark took control of the invasion forces.

For the next 30 days, Tibbets conducted bombardment missions in the North African area under the direct control of the British, pending build-up of the American bomber forces.

He led the first heavy bombardment mission in support of the invasion of North Africa. In November 1942, Tibbets reverted to control of the Twelfth Air Force and, with the arrival of the remainder of the 97th Bombardment Group, resumed normal combat operations in the Sahara Desert area. In January 1943, he was reassigned to the Twelfth Air Force Headquarters at Algiers as assistant operations officer in charge of bomber operations under then Colonel Lauris Norstad.

In March 1943, he returned to the United States for the purpose of participating in the B-29 program. This flight test work with the Boeing factory and Air Materiel Command continued until March 1944 at which time Tibbets was transferred to Grand Island, Nebraska as director of operations under General Frank Armstrong who started a B-29 instructor transition school. In September 1944, he was assigned to the Atomic Bomb Project as the Air Force officer in charge of developing an organization capable of employing the atomic bomb in combat operations, and mating the development of the bomb to the airplane. In this function, he was also charged with the flight test development of the atomic bomb itself. As these developments progressed, Tibbets was further charged with the tactical training of the bombardment organization and their deployment into the combat theater of operations.

Tibbets requisitioned 15 new Boeing B-29 Superfortresses and specified they be stripped of turrets and armor plating except for the tail gunner position; that fuel-injected engines and new technology reversible-pitch propellers be installed; and the bomb bay be re-configured to suspend, from a single point, ten thousand pounds. Such an airplane would fly higher, faster, and above the effective range of anti-aircraft fire.

Tibbets selected a B-29 bombardment squadron, the 393rd, in its final stage of training, and Wendover Army Air Field located on the Utah/Nevada border for "starters". The 393rd BG was fully equipped and the base had a fully manned "housekeeping" group. Wendover Field was isolated but close enough to Los Alamos to work together. The Salton Sea was an ideal distance for bombing practice.

Then on December 17th, 1944, formal orders were issued activating the 509th Composite Group, consisting of seven subordinate units. In March 1945 the First Ordnance Squadron, a unit designed to carry out the technical phases of the group responsibilities, became part of the 509th. The personnel count now exceeded 1500 enlisted men and some 200 officers. Quietly, the group started moving overseas to Tinian Island in the Marianas chain.

On the afternoon of August 5th, 1945, President Truman gave his approval to use the weapons against Japan. By the time the plane left, its familiar arrowhead tail motif had been changed on both sides to the letter "R" in a circle, the standard identification markings for the Sixth Bomb Group. The idea behind the change was to confuse the enemy if they made contact, which they did not. At 02:30 A.M. August 6th, the B-29 nicknamed Enola Gay by Tibbets lifted off North Field with Colonel Tibbets and his crew en route to Hiroshima, Japan. At exactly 09:15 plus 7 seconds (08:17:17 Hiroshima time) the world's first atomic bomb was released. The course of history and the nature of warfare were changed.

With the end of the war in September 1945, Colonel Tibbets' organization was transferred to what is now Walker Air Force Base, Roswell, New Mexico, and remained there until August 1946. It was during this period that the Bikini Bomb Project took place, with Colonel Tibbets participating as technical adviser to the Air Force commander. He was then assigned to the Air Command and Staff School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, from which he graduated in 1947. His next assignment was to the Directorate of Requirements, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, where he subsequently served as director of the Strategic Air Division.

In June 1950, Colonel Tibbets was assigned to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and from July 1950 until February 1952, was Boeing B-47 Stratojet project officer at the Boeing Airplane Company, Wichita, Kansas, where the service test of the B-47 to determine its operational suitability took place. From February 1952 until August 1954, he was commander of the Proof Test Division at Eglin Air Force Base. Tibbets then received orders assigning him to the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, from which he graduated in June 1955. His next assignment was director of war plans, Allied Air Forces in Central Europe at Fontainebleau, France. In February 1956, he returned to the United States as commander, 308th Bombardment Wing, Hunter Air Force Base, Georgia.

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Enola Gay bombardier Thomas Ferebee with the Norden Bombsight on Tinian after the dropping of Little Boy.

In January 1959, Tibbets was reassigned to MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, where he assumed command of the 6th Air Division. He was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. In February 1961, General Tibbets was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force as Director of Management Analysis (redesignated as Directorate of Status Analysis effective March 27, 1961). In July 1962, General Tibbets was assigned to the Joint Staff, Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as Deputy Director for Operations, J-3. In June 1963, with reorganization of the Operations Directorate, Joint Staff, General Tibbets became Deputy Director for the National Military Command System. In August 1964 General Tibbets was assigned as the assistant commanding offer to the U.S. supply mission to India based in New Delhi.

Upon return to the United States, General Tibbets retired from the U.S. Air Force on August 31, 1966. He had completed more than 29 and one-half years of service, but he was not through flying. Initially he resided in Geneva, Switzerland, operating three Lear jets throughout central Europe. There, he helped to educate the air ministries about the jet's uses. He also advised the air ministries about the aviation controls and guidelines they later instituted within their countries. Back in Columbus, Ohio in 1970, he joined Executive Jet Aviation, an all-jet air taxi service company, where he served in different capacities. He rose up the corporate ladder to become Chairman of the Board in 1982. The company changed ownership in 1985 and he retired again. During these 15 years, Paul Tibbets acquired almost 400 hours in Lear Jets, flying with an Air Transport Pilot rating.

Since his second retirement, General Tibbets enjoys speaking about his career in aviation. He is very active making public appearances all over the United States, as well as signing copies of his book Return of the Enola Gay.

 

 

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