A pilot for all time
By Marv Kohlbeck
Two stories of military history that happened over 70 years ago came to my mind this week. It was Dec. 7, 1941, 75 years ago this week that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and on Aug. 6, 1945, the atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, which led to the eventual end of World War II.
Many of the veterans who participated in those major events are now deceased, so we need to rely on documented reports to remind us of the horrors of that war and how it ended.
I was 10 years old when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and I have always had an interest in its history and have visited the site.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity some time ago to visit with military history buff Gene Roehl, who lives in the Lindsey-Granton area. He told me about his research into locating and visiting with the command pilot of the B29 bomber that dropped the atomic bomb which brought an end to World War II. Roehl’s interest and time spent pursuing this part of military history enabled him to gain the information and numerous souvenirs from the command pilot.
According to Roehl, through his research and persistence he eventually met Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets in his home in Columbus, Ohio, on July 23, 1996. At that time Tibbets was 83 years old.
The two-day visit ended with Tibbets passing on military papers and possessions, commemorative stamps, and signatures and well wishes written on a painting of the B29 bomber that he piloted and signaled to drop the “doomsday” atomic bomb.
Tibbets and his wife did not have any children, so he passed on the numerous war souvenirs to Roehl along with an inscription on the picture of the plane stating, “For Gene Roehl with best wishes.” Tibbets died in 2005.
Roehl can be proud of the fact that he possesses souvenir items passed on to him by such a famous pilot.