I don't collect autographs but I do have a few that are very special to me. I would include among those: Johnny Cash, Jim Lovell, Regis Philbin, Joe Dimaggio, Grace Kelly, and Antonie de Saint-Exupery, author of the children's classic The Little Prince (the last two courtesy of my thoughtful bride).
So it's worth noting that another name-signer in my small collection passed away yesterday. He was not a household name, yet was at the epicenter of the one of the most significant events in the human history.
Tibbets was already a heavily decorated pilot in the European and North African campaigns, flying 25 missions in B-17s when he was selected to fulfill the goal of the most secret plan of the war: the Manhattan Project.
The New York Times picks up the story at 8:15:15 am on August 6, 1945: "the bomb known to its creators as Little Boy dropped free at an altitude of 31,000 feet. Forty- three seconds later, at 1,890 feet above ground zero, it exploded in a nuclear inferno that left tens of thousands dead and dying and turned much of Hiroshima, a city of some 250,000 at the time, into a scorched ruin.
Estimates for the dead and injured in the bombing have varied widely over the years. A summary report by the United States Strategic Bombing Survey issued on July 1, 1946, estimated that 60,000 to 70,000 people had been killed and 50,000 injured.
After releasing the bomb, Colonel Tibbets executed a well-rehearsed diving turn to avoid the blast effect.
In his memoir “The Tibbets Story,” he told of “the awesome sight that met our eyes as we turned for a heading that would take us alongside the burning, devastated city.”
“The giant purple mushroom, which the tail-gunner had described, had already risen to a height of 45,000 feet, 3 miles above our own altitude, and was still boiling upward like something terribly alive,” he remembered."
More than 60 years later, President Truman's decision and the young colonel's execution of it are still so controversial that the Tibbets family has announced there will be no headstone or marker placed this week so as to not give detractors a place to gather.
The Times again, "General Tibbets expressed no regrets over his role in the launching of atomic warfare. 'I viewed my mission as one to save lives,” he said. “I didn’t bomb Pearl Harbor. I didn’t start the war, but I was going to finish it.' ”