Paul Tibbets, North Africa, “Red Gremlin”

There are 600 limited edition prints in this series. Tibbets signed only 100 prints. Print Size 12×18″

Limited Edition Prints are signed and numbered by the Artist and by Paul Tibbets. $150.00

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All signatures by both the Aviator and the Artist is done in soft graphic pencil.

Poster Print $14.95

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Poster prints are autographed by the artist only.

Captain Paul W. Tibbets

Paul W. Tibbets joined the Army Air Corp in 1937. He was studying to become a doctor but left his studies for his dream to become an aviator. Paul was at the perfect age, young, fit and sharp as a tack. Just what the Army was looking for in its aviators. Aviation was calling to Paul for the excitement of combat and to be able to serve his country.

With the United States still weathering the depression, jobs were scarce. Especially the few aviation openings that were available in the Air Corp. Paul out performed his fellow classmates to earn his wings and to receive the “highest flying rating of his class”. Paul was a diligent student applying himself to aviation as he did in his medical studies.

Paul at first wanted to fly the new pursuit fighters. The fighters were still predominately bi-winged aircraft. During his flying training he became interested in flying observation aircraft. Here Paul gained experience in multi engine aircraft, logging over 1,500 hours flying the B-10 and other multi engine aircraft.

Paul’s interest then switched to flying bombers. Paul was assigned to the third attack group in Savannah, Georgia. Here he practiced low level bombing tactics flying the new Douglas A-20, less than 100 feet off the ground at full throttle. Paul said that it was very exciting flying the A-20. This bomber did not have a pilot and co-pilot sitting side by side, in the A-20 the pilot sat in a cockpit just like a fighter. The aircraft had a narrow fuselage and was fast. In the rear of the bomber was a gunner and in the nose was a bombardier/navigator. Paul told me that it was exciting to flay as fast as possible as low as you dared. Hugging the Georgia country-side I am sure many a farmer and resident of the area was caught off guard to have a twin engine bomber zoom only 100 feet over their heads.

This practice was ultimately necessary for combat. Bombers in Would War One flew at high altitude to drop their bombs. However the Army realized that if a bomber could slip into enemy territory at tree-top level it could be very effective. Paul helped in the development of this technique. And he did perfect this approach.

It was also harder for a pursuing fighter to shoot down a bomber flying low because the fighter could not attach the bomber from below. It was also hard to track and shoot at the bomber because it would only take just a little bit of weaving by the bomber to throw off the aim of the fighter. Paul being the scholar that he was wrote down all his experiences in low level bombing and helped train other pilots in the practice. This would prove to be one of the most effective bombing tactics of World War Two.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Paul was sent to the 29th Bomb Group to train in the new Boeing B-17. Following his training Paul was transferred to Mac Dill Air Base as the first officer of the new 97th Bomb Group. It was here that Paul and his crews adapted them selves to work together as a team in the large bomber. The B-17 was new and it was an exciting aircraft for its time. The B-17 was big and well armed.

Paul soon developed as an officer whose military discipline and natural diplomacy worked well with his fellow pilots and crews. Paul trained them to be highly effective as a team, drilling them over and over in the duties they would need to survive in the skies over Europe.

Paul gained the respect of his superiors and his men. His squadron was sent to England and Paul helped plan the first day light raids over German occupied Europe. On August 17, 1942, Captain Paul Tibbets led the first raid of four engine bombers into northern France. Their target was the Sotteville marshaling yards at Roven. The raid caught the Luftwaffe off guard and the mission was successful.

The first bombing over Europe was experimental. The bombers started flying missions further and further into enemy territory. The bombers were escorted by fighters but the range of the fighters was limited. To reach Germany the bombers would have to fly to the target with out fighter protection.

Stupidly the Luftwaffe considered these missions mealy as nuisance raids and did not pursue the American bombers as they should. The idea is to shoot down every bomber to discourage having their country harmed yet the Luftwaffe did not take these missions seriously at first. This gave confidence to the American planners like Paul and their missions became more confidant and daring.

In early October, Paul was promoted to Major. At the time he was leading the raids over Le Trait and Lille. One hundred plus bombers were now flying these missions. The B-17’s were carpet bombing industrial and transportation districts. Even though loses were high for the bomber squadrons, their effectiveness proved enough to pursue future missions. Paul named his B-17 the “RED GREMLIN” and flew many missions into Europe till the end of October 1942.

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This is my painting of Tibbet’s Fortress. The painting is 2×4 feet. Paul did not autograph this painting but it is available for $1,500.00 you pay the postage.

The war in North Africa was coming to a head. Rommel and Montgomery were slugging it out and American leaders were planning to enter the fray. Because of Paul’s reputation as a bomber pilot he was chose to help in the transport of Allied military leaders and planners for “Operation Torch,” the invasion of Africa. Paul flew General Mark Clark and other diplomats to Gibraltar to set the stage for the up coming invasion of North Africa by the Americans. Paul also flew General Dwight Eisenhower to Gibraltar and back.

Paul and Eisenhower hit it off and they would become good friends. Instead of sitting in the back of the bomber for the trip to Gibraltar, Eisenhower sat on a wooden two by four in the cockpit in-between Paul and the co-pilot. Paul respected Eisenhower because he was a hands on type of leader. Eisenhower was most interested in sitting with the men that served with him when he could and he enjoyed sitting up in the cockpit with the pilots and talk about anything and everything but most of the conversations were about tactics.

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This painting is for sale.

At first the Americans were only using fighters and medium size bombers in Africa. The A-20 bomber that Paul fell in love with was being used with great effect using the studies that Paul helped develop over Georgia. The B-25 was also represented in the Theatre as well as an assortment of twin-engine British aircraft. Bringing larger bombers were considered in North Africa and Paul was interested in joining the campaign.

Paul and his group were then transferred to Algiers in North Africa. Here he helped plan the systematic bombing of the primary German military and transportation targets. The targets included harbors, docks, and airfields. Paul led the first heavy bomber raid in North Africa.

Problems with bombing in North Africa were different than in Europe. The British and the American before Paul joined in found that low level mission were more effectively that flying at high altitudes. Plus in most cases when the bombers came in low and fast they could avoid the German radar and could catch the enemy off guard. That is how Paul attacked the German airfield. The B-17 could also carry twice the bomb load than the medium bombers that had been used up to this time.

On their first mission they bombed the German airfield at Bizerte catching many of the enemy squadron pilots and crew on the ground killing most of them while they were in the mess hall. Paul and his crew flew many missions in North Africa helping in the suppression of the Luftwaffe and disrupting their supplies.

Paul then returned to the United States to help over see the development of the new Boeing B-29. Problems with the bomber were slowing its delivery to the Army Air Corp. Paul test flew the aircraft helping the company and its engineers work out the problems with its development.

Paul was then approached by his commanding officers about a secret project. They told Paul that they needed him to train a secret squadron for the delivery of the first nuclear device with the B-29.

The development of the atomic bomb had started just a few months before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Now the bomb was becoming a reality and was within one year from deployment.

Paul selected a remote air base to train his men for this special mission. Col. Paul Tibbets was solely responsible for the organization, training, and command of the first Nuclear Strike Force. The 509th Composite Group.

The defensive maneuvers that Paul would put his B-29 through to escape the blast of the bomb pushed the B-29 to its limits. After his squadron finished their training they were sent to TinianIsland in the Pacific. Once on Tinian, they keep their mission on the base top secret.

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This is my painting of Paul’s B-17. 2×4 feet and available for sale.

Naming their aircraft was a ritual that pilots and crews did. Paul chooses his mothers name “Enola Gay”.

As in Europe and North Africa Paul helped in the strategic planning on the missions. The targets were chose carefully and the weather over these targets was studied daily. Finally the first atomic bomb arrived and a date was set for its delivery.

On the morning of August 6, 1945 with his crew in place, Paul released the brakes on the “Enola Gay”. Even with the engines at full throttle, the extra weight of the huge bomb had Paul use the entire runway. Finally the lumbering B-29 rose for their twelve-hour flight.

The weather reports came in that the primary target, Hiroshima was clear. With the bomb armed, Paul and his crew viewed Hiroshima as it shimmered in the morning sun. The Bombardier, Thomas Ferebee had now taken over the controls of the Enola Gay.

Paul had hand picked Thomas because he had served with him over Europe. With the B-29 level and Major Ferebee viewing the city through his Norton bombsite, he pressed the button that released the 2,000lb bomb.

Paul banked his B-29 over hard to escape the blast of the bomb. As they banked the Enola Gay around, Paul and everyone on board viewed the city after the blast. There was a 45,000-foot mushroom cloud over the city.

Paul finished the war as commanding officer of the 509th Composite Group. After the war Paul continued his service with the Army Air Corp and on through its separation from the Army into the United States Air Force. He retired from the Air Force in 1966 as a Brigadier General.

Paul Tibbets led the first attack on German occupied Europe that eventually led to the demise of Hitler’s war machine. He also led the first four engine bomber mission in North Africa. Paul was then to fly the mission that would end the war with Japan. Paul was chose for this mission because he was considered our top bomber pilot.

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Paul Tibbets and the Enola Gay

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Paul Tibbets at the Fantasy of Flight museum.

Paul Tibbets passed away on November 1, 2007.

Even though I did not get to know him well, I am proud to have had the opportunity to tell his story.