WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE — A grandson and namesake of the man who piloted the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II took over leadership Friday of the United States’ aging fleet of nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers.
During a historical ceremony Friday, Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets IV took command of the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base.
Tibbets’ grandfather, Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets Jr., was the pilot of the “Enola Gay,” the B-29 Superfortress known for dropping the “Little Boy” atomic bomb Aug. 6, 1945, on Hiroshima, Japan.
At the time, the then-colonel was assigned to the 509th Composite Group, a predecessor unit to the 509th Bomb Wing.
Now, his grandson is in command of the world’s only fleet of B-2 Spirits and the 5,500 Airmen who make the stealth bomber mission possible.
The outgoing commander, Brig. Gen. Glen VanHerck, is headed to be the Air Force Global Strike Command director of operations at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.
During his final farewell, VanHerck focused his speech on thanking those in attendance: the chaplain for the invocation, his family for their support and finally, the men and women of the 509th for their hard work during his tenure.
“Stay razor sharp and ready to go,” said VanHerck in the final farewell to his Airmen. “It’s a matter of when, not if, you will be called upon again. Keep leading and own it every day.”
Tibbets is coming from an assignment as the deputy director for nuclear operations, Global Operations Directorate, U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. He has been stationed at Whiteman twice before in multiple roles including a B-2 pilot, deputy chief of wing standardization and evaluation, director of operations, and commander of the 393rd Bomb Squadron.
Like VanHerck, Tibbets’ speech focused largely on thanking people: the Lord for making all things possible, the state and federal officials for their attendance and finally, the men and women of Whiteman.
“Thank you for the time, energy, passion and devotion you have dedicated to welcoming my family to Whiteman for the third time,” said Tibbets, who in past interviews has credited his father with helping inspire him to join the Air Force.
Tibbets said he hopes for three things from the base’s airmen: that they take care of themselves, that they take care of their families and to be excellent in their duties.
“If my grandfather was here today, he would tell all of you how proud he is of the great things you do for our nation,” he added. “Each one of you is a source of power for the mission — you make it happen each and every day. I will serve with passion, humility, courage and respect every day, and I ask the same of you.”