Homo homini rodentius est

My Mother the Bomb

Watcha’ cookin’ up there, Enola Gay?

Most mothers have to make do with the usual childhood tributes that come in the form of homemade tissue boxes and inexpensive knick-knacks. Imagine how tickled Enola Gay Tibbets must’ve been when her son, Paul, named the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb after her. Paul Tibbets, commander of the mission that bombed Hiroshima into dust, died this week at the ripe old age of 92.

To the end, neither Tibbets nor his bombardier Tom Ferebee, who passed away in 2000, expressed any second thoughts about having reduced 100,000 civilians into what Tibbets once described as “a black, boiling mess.” In a 2002 [interview] with Studs Terkel for the Guardian, in which he discloses that there were plans to drop the bomb in Europe as well as Asia, Tibbets maintained that the mission saved more lives than it cost by preventing an allied invasion of Japan. Asked by Terkel if he knew in advance of the capabilities of the bomb, he acknowledges that he was told in advance that the bomb would contain the equivalent of all the conventional bombs dropped on Europe during the war. Pressed by Terkel about what he thinks when people casually advocate use of atomic weapons against enemies, including terrorists, Tibbets responds, “I’d wipe ’em out. You’re gonna kill innocent people at the same time, but we’ve never fought a damn war anywhere in the world where they didn’t kill innocent people. If the newspapers would just cut out the shit: ‘You’ve killed so many civilians.’ That’s their tough luck for being there.”

And what did Enola Gay think of having her name attached to the mission that changed everything forever? In Tibbets’ words:

Well, I can only tell you what my dad said. My mother never changed her expression very much about anything, whether it was serious or light, but when she’d get tickled, her stomach would jiggle. My dad said to me that when the telephone in Miami rang, my mother was quiet first. Then, when it was announced on the radio, he said: “You should have seen the old gal’s belly jiggle on that one.”

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