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Pil-Mil, Breitling Forum Moderator
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A reply to fellow member Nokie which I posted over on the Breitling forum...

Hi, Nokie. I saw her at the Garber restoration facility in Silver Hill, Maryland some 30 plus years ago IIRC. Subsequent to that visit a lot happened... Controversy over the Enola Gay Exhibition | Atomic Heritage Foundation

Begging the forum's indulgence, this post may become a long and boring read for many but I have sadly been putting off writing about an incident which occurred a few years after my visit to the Garber facility. I have told the story numerous times over the years but after shooting that Tinian pic posted above (the watch is posed on a double sided silk survival map gifted to me by a WW2 Pacific theatre aviator) I decided to record it for posterity because memory fades with age...

In October 1994 (possibly 95 or 96 but not sure) I was serving as "mini-boss" (assistant Air Boss) during our Wings Over Houston CAF airshow. During a break between the morning and afternoon flying, I started to climb down the ladder from our controller position and noticed a golf cart parked below near the crowd line. A sign attached to the cart read "Col. Paul Tibbets -Guest of Honor". Seated alone, Col Tibbets needed some company I assumed. I went over to his golf cart and introduced myself. I thanked him for being there with us that day and began a conversation with him. I told him I had seen his airplane recently and was familiar with the "silverplate" modifications among others made to the aircraft. We talked about his airplane as well as the B-29 we had flying that day, "Fifi" of the Confederate Air Force (now the politically correct Commemorative Air Force) among other things relevant to respective careers.

After perhaps 20 minutes of conversation, a man behind the crowd line nearby had noticed the sign on the cart and was trying to get Col. Tibbets attention, asking him to come over and talk to him. Col. Tibbets leg power wasn't up to the task that day so I invited the man over the crowd line to come talk to us. The gentleman introduced himself as a survivor of the USS Indianapolis, the heavy cruiser which transported "Little Boy" from San Francisco to Tinian island. As many of you know, the ship was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine during its subsequent ill fated trip to the Phillipines. Col Tibbets told the man he had followed the career of the ship's captain, Charles B. McVay , after the war and expressed his sincere opinion that McVay was scapegoated by the Navy. A number of other subjects were discussed but two items stand out in my memory which I have never seen in print anywhere. The first was told by the Indianapolis survivor detailing the pickup and delivery of Little Boy. He described the incredible secrecy and security surrounding the article and the crate in which the bomb was packaged. He said they (ship's crew) thought the crate contained the plans for the invasion of Japan, having no idea what actual cargo was in the crate. The ship sailed to Hawaii and then on to Tinian for off loading of the "Plans". Here comes my favorite part... The sailor said he watched as two of the ship's cranes began to lift the crate from the ship's deck to a barge tied to the ship, the barge to be towed to shore and the crate offloaded there for the trip to Tinian's north airfield. When the crate was lifted high enough to clear the deck and begin lowering it to the barge, one of the two crane attachments FAILED! The crate then dangled precariously over the water and barge for a few moments until the sailors could stabilize it and complete the offload. Tibbets and I were both surprised of course, Tibbets mostly because he never knew that happened and me because my mind was racing cosidering the implications of the near disaster. Although not as serious, the second thing that stood out for me was Tibbets telling us (the Indy sailor and me) that the screws attaching some of the components to the bomb were coated with a potting compound which "might" help contain any leaking of radiactive material. He said not a lot was known about that "kind of stuff" in those days and it probably seemed like a good idea at the time...

I know, it sounds like I'm making this up but I assure you I am not. To this day, I feel supremely privileged and honored to have met and talked with these two gentleman who in their way, literally changed the future of the entirety of mankind forever...
God rest their souls.
 

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Wonderful “story”! It is easy to forget that during WWII, innovations in engineering, science, etc. were being made/discovered at a break neck pace. The need to complete design, trial and fielding of weapons systems and equipment, was truly astounding. Truly The Greatest Generation.
 
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