By Rick Palsgrove, Groveport Editor
The recent opening of the film, “Oppenheimer,” which deals with the United States’ development and eventual use of the first atomic bomb during World War II, brought up memories of Groveport’s connection with the pilot who flew the plane that carried the bomb.
General Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., piloted the B-29 bomber “Enola Gay,” which dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan on Aug. 6, 1945.
The bombing, as well as another mission by a different crew a few days later on Nagasaki, are credited with helping bring an end to the war in the Pacific during World War II.
While Tibbets is noted for his heroism in World War II, what may not be as well known is that, in the late 1960s, he served as an auxiliary police officer in the village of Groveport after he retired from the military in 1966.
According to Groveport Police Officer and historian Ernie Bell, former police chief Al Whipple knew Tibbets from the military and brought Tibbets on board Groveport’s fledgling police department in the late 1960s for a short time.
“It’s possible the designation was more honorary than anything,” said Bell. “But Tibbets did help out by getting involved in the officers’ firearms training at the time.”
According to Bell, Tibbets was with the Groveport Police force from 1967 to around 1971.
“The records are kind of sparse back then,” said Bell. “One of the reasons he was brought in was because he was an avid skeet shooter (Tibbets also shot skeet with General George Patton while in the military) and the Groveport Police had a skeet shooting team that went to competitions around the state. He was a friend of Chief Al Whipple back then also. He also helped in firearms qualifications for the officers. “
Bell said his favorite item in his Groveport Police historical collection is Tibbets’ Groveport Police badge and ID card.
“It is by far the most significant item we have and the most historical,” said Bell.
Current Groveport Police Chief Casey Adams’ father Roger Adams served as a Groveport Police officer in the early 1960s and through 1980 before becoming chief himself from 1981 to 2001. Casey, as a young boy, remembers Tibbets visiting the Adams home and sharing stories of his experiences.
“He (Tibbets) said the plane’s crew was told not to watch the atomic bomb as it exploded because of its brightness and to turn and get the plane out fast,” recalled Casey.
Tibbets went on to serve as president of Executive Jet Aviation (Now NetJets) until he retired from there. He passed away at his Columbus home in 2007 at age 92.