Retired Sep. 1, 1966.
General Tibbets was born in Quincy, Ill., in 1915. He graduated from Western Military Academy in Alton, Ill., in 1933, and later attended the University of Florida and the University of Cincinnati where he majored in chemistry.
He entered the Army Air Corps on Feb. 25, 1937 at Fort Thomas, Ky. Immediately thereafter, he entered flying school at Randolph Field, and in February 1938 graduated from pilot school at Kelly Field, Texas. His first assignment was to Flight B, 16th Observation Squadron, Lawson Field, Fort Benning, Ga.
In April 1941, General Tibbets became group engineering officer of the 3d Attack Group, Hunter Air Force Base, Savannah, Ga. On Dec. 4, 1941, he received orders to join the 29th Bomb Group at MacDill Field; however, before reporting to MacDill he was placed on temporary duty to take 21 B-18s to Pope Field, Fort Bragg, N.C. to form an anti-submarine patrol. In February 1942, General Tibbets actually reported for duty with the 29th Bomb Group at MacDill as engineering officer. After three weeks, he was made commander of the 340th Bomb Squadron, 97th Bomb Group, which was formed from a cadre taken from the 29th Bomb Group. From February until June 1942, he was in training for an overseas movement.
In June 1942, he arrived in England and immediately went into combat operations, flying 25 combat missions in B-17s, including the first American Flying Fortress raid against occupied Europe. In October 1942, the general was given the special assignment of flying General Mark Clark to make his rendezvous with the French in preparation for the invasion of North Africa. Upon his return from this trip, he was retained to ferry General Eisenhower and his staff to Gibraltar on the night of the invasion. General Tibbets then flew General Clark to Algiers where General Clark took control of the invasion forces.
For the next 30 days, General Tibbets conducted bombardment missions in the North African area under the direct control of the British, pending build-up of the American bomber forces.
He led the first heavy bombardment mission in support of the invasion of North Africa. In November 1942, General Tibbets reverted to control of the Twelfth Air Force and, with the arrival of the remainder of the 97th Bomb Group, resumed normal combat operations in the Sahara Desert area. In January 1943, he was reassigned to the Twelfth Air Force Headquarters at Algiers as assistant operations officer in charge of bomber operations under Colonel (now General) Lauris Norstad.
In March 1943, he was returned to the United States for the purpose of participating in the B-29 program. This flight test work with the Boeing factory and Air Materiel Command continued until March 1944 at which time General Tibbets was transferred to Grand Island, Neb., as director of operations under General Frank Armstrong who started a B-29 instructor transition school. In September 1944, he was assigned to the Atomic Bomb Project as the Air Force officer in charge of developing an organization capable of employing the atomic bomb in combat operations, and mating the development of the bomb to the airplane. In this function, he was also charged with the flight test development of the atomic bomb itself. As these developments progressed, General Tibbets was further charged with the tactical training of bombardment organizations and their deployment into the combat theater of operations. He flew the first atomic bomb mission against enemy forces, dropping the bomb on Hiroshima.
With the end of the war in 1945, General Tibbets' organization was transferred to what is now Walker Air Force Base, Roswell, N.M., and remained there until August 1946. It was during this period that the Bikini Bomb Project took place, with General Tibbets participating as technical adviser to the Air Force commander. He was then assigned to the Air Command and Staff School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., from which he graduated in 1947. His next assignment was to the Directorate of Requirements, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, where he subsequently served as director of the Strategic Air Division.
In June 1950, General Tibbets was assigned to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and from July 1950 until February 1952, was B-47 project officer at the Boeing Airplane Company, Wichita, Kan., where the service test of the B-47 to determine its operational suitability took place. From February 1952 until August 1954, he was commander of the Proof Test Division at Eglin Air Force Base. The general then received orders assigning him to the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, from which he graduated in June 1955. His next assignment was director of war plans, Allied Air Forces in Central Europe at Fontainebleau, France. In February 1956, he returned to the United States as commander, 308th Bomb Wing, Hunter Air Force Base, Ga.
In January 1958, General Tibbets was reassigned to MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., where he assumed command of the 6th Air Division. He is a rated command pilot.
In February 1961, General Tibbets was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force as director of management analysis (redesignated as Directorate of Status Analysis effective March 27, 1961).
In July 1962, General Tibbets was assigned to the Joint Staff, Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as deputy director for operations, J-3. In June 1963, with reorganization of the Operations Directorate, Joint Staff, General Tibbets became deputy director for the National Military Command System.