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Sale 38 Lot 963

We offer what could easily be considered the most important uniform of the Twentieth Century, the flight suit worn by pilot Paul W. Tibbets on August 6, 1945 when his plane, the Enola Gay, successfully dropped the world's first atomic bomb to be used in warfare on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, sold with the Distinguished Service Cross awarded to Tibbets by Gen. Carl Spaatz upon Tibbets' return to Tinian the same day! PAUL WARFIELD TIBBETS, JR. (1915-2007) was raised in Cedar Rapids Iowa and in February, 1937 enlisted as a flying cadet in the Army Air Corps. Based in England, Tibbets piloted the lead bomber on the first Eighth Air Force bombing mission in Europe on August 17, 1942, and later flew combat missions in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations until returning to the U.S. to test fly B-29 Superfortresses. Tibbets also served at times as Eisenhower's personal pilot. In September 1944, he was selected to command the 509th Composite Group in connection with the atomic bomb research group, the Manhattan Project. On August 5, 1945, Tibbets formally named B-29 serial number 44-86292 "Enola Gay" after his mother. On August 6, the Enola Gay departed Tinian Island in the Marianas with Tibbets at the controls at 2:45 a.m. bound for Hiroshima, Japan. The atomic bomb, codenamed Little Boy, was dropped over the city at 8:15 a.m. local time and exploded at 1,800 feet. Total casualties were in the range of 90,000 - 140,000 persons, due to the initial explosion, injuries and subsequent radiation that came from the explosion. Tibbets' historic flight suit is light khaki-colored, with a zippered front closure that may be opened from top or bottom (two zippers), two chest pockets with button closures, reinforced stitched belt with metal buckle, front shin pockets unique to suits worn by members of the 509th (see below), and button ankle closures. A standard Army Air Corps patch is hand-stitched upon the left shoulder, and within the suit bears a manufacturer's label: "SUIT, SUMMER, FLYING AN 6550 SIZE M 38 ORDER 44-6258 AF AIRCRAFT APPLIANCE CORP CHICAGO ILL...". Tibbets' Distinguished Service Cross (second only to the Medal of Honor), is pinned slightly askew upon the left breast, exactly where it was placed by Gen. Carl Spaatz at 1430 on August 6, 1945 when Tibbets exited his plane: this seems the case, as there appear absolutely no other holes or defects in the fabric of the suit anywhere near the medal's location. The suit has been carefully preserved for over sixty years: four buttons are split (three are at the bottoms of the legs), there is one 1/2" stitched hole (likely contemporary), and a few tiny tack holes are present, otherwise this uniform is in very good to fine condition. Of utmost importance in the sale of any historic relic is the item's provenance, and this uniform's history is iron-clad. In 1979 Tibbets gave this flight suit to a Ohio museum (Tibbets resided in Columbus) along with an original typed and signed of provenance which now accompanies the suit. It reads, in part: "...The light weight summer flying suit was worn by myself and the members of my crew while on the first atomic mission...I was pilot of the 'Enola Gay' which dropped the first bomb. This is the uniform I wore on that day when the first atomic bomb was dropped. The Distinguished Service Cross on the uniform is the one given to me by General Spaatz after our first mission...[Signed] Paul W. Tibbets". Also present are two 8" x 10" color photographs, apparently taken at the same time and possibly in Tibbets' office, the first showing Tibbets full-length wearing the uniform, the second showing Tibbets and the museum owner with the pair holding the uniform between them. The uniform in the photograph is identical to ours in every respect, including the split buttons on the left breast pocket and pants leg, the angle at which the Distinguished Service Cross is attached, and the leather strap attached to the front zipper. Other reproductions of photos of Tibbets on Tinian are included showing that this uniform is consistent with that worn by Tibbets on his famous mission. Additionally, photographs of the flight suit's construction were examined by Robert Krauss, a long-time associate of the 509th "Atomic Bombers" and secretary of the 509th reunions. Krauss, who owns the flight suit of Bocks Car co-pilot Charles Albury, stated that he believed that the suits were identical in construction, and noted that the Tibbets suit offered here also bore the shin pockets unique to suits worn by members of the 509th. Further research shows that each 509th aviator had only one such flight suit, and likely only four have survived. The Distinguished Service Cross has also been examined, and bears the characteristic black metal "slot brooch" consistent with medals manufactured by the Robbins Company in 1945. Additionally, photographs of Tibbets immediately after receiving the medal show it in precisely the same position on the uniform as it still remains. In 2000 (21 years after he gave this suit to the Ohio museum), author Bob Greene interviewed the 84 year-old Tibbets for his book Duty. In the interview, Tibbets was asked about any memorabilia he might have kept from his famous flight. He replied that such items had no value to him, and that he could not understand why some veterans created "shrines" to their military service in their homes. Later in the interview, when asked about uniforms, he said: "My closet is empty...". Further in the book, Tibbets mentions that on the flight he wore a "khaki flight suit" for comfort. Additionally, in a 1984 letter, Tibbets exclaimed: "...there is no way I would stoop to commercializing by 'selling' pictures...". These statements make clear that Tibbets, a modest man, never had great emotional attachment to such items, and that lack of sentiment helps explains his donation of the flight suit to the Ohio museum. It should be noted that several years after the interview for Duty, Tibbets attempted to purchase the flight suit from the widow of the museum owner (further adding to the uniform's provenance), but his offer was declined. This historic relic is certainly on a par with any uniform worn in battle by Napoleon, Washington, Grant or Lee. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima was one of the monumental events of world history, finally ending the bloodiest war in history and arguably saving over a million lives on both sides. It ushered in the "atomic age", and commenced the Cold War that continues to dominate world politics to this day. Some called Paul Tibbets a hero, others a mass-murderer, and the debate over the ownership and use of nuclear arms rages on. And what did the bombing mean to Gen. Paul Tibbets? Tibbets never expressed any regret regarding the decision to drop the bomb. In a 1975 interview he said: "I'm proud that I was able to start with nothing, plan it, and have it work as perfectly as it did... I sleep clearly every night". In March 2005, he stated, "If you give me the same circumstances, hell yeah, I'd do it again". Tibbets specified in his will that there should be no funeral service after his death and no headstone because anti-nuclear demonstrators could make his resting place a pilgrimage site. The veteran aviator asked to be cremated and have his ashes dispersed into the waters of the English Channel.
Estimate $ 150,000-250,000

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