By Waynette Farrington Sharon
Wayne Farrington - 1943 and Helen Farrington - 1943
About 12 years ago, my son had to come up with a true story involving an older "senior citizen" and he had to interview them. It could be a grandparent, but no matter...the story had to be interesting, not necessarily about war. So my son called my mom (she lived in Minden, we lived in Baton Rouge) and she agreed to be interviewed. But she decided that she would write the story herself and mail it to us. So she typed the following true story on her electric typewriter and mailed it to my son. He turned it in to his teacher and got an "A". Recently I was reminded of this story that I had stored in the family Bible, because Col. Paul Tibbets died and it was all over the news about his death. My dad held that man in high esteem. I changed the story from the present tense, like my mom had it typed, since even though it was "her" story, she died in 1995. (My dad died in 1980) I had heard bits and pieces about this experience from my mom when I was growing up, but I'd never put it all together, like she did in this story. She also told me that he WAS the crew chief (head mechanic) on the Enola Gay, but that he got "bumped" off when he got sick. So throughout my life, when I would study the war and the topic of the Enola Gay came up, I would just smile and quietly think to myself how close my dad came to making history by being the crew chief aboard that plane. What a legacy these wonderful folks left us with...they were truly "the greatest generation." They had it all...teamwork, optimism, courage, sacrifice--no where were these values better expressed than through the men and women who fought and won WWII.
It was late 1943. My mom, Helen Farrington, worked at the Louisiana Ordinance Plant in Minden, La. This was literally a “bomb making” facility. She had married my dad, Aubrey Wayne Farrington, in 1942. We called him “Honey”. (The reason we called him “Honey” was because I heard my mom call him that when I was an infant and I thought that’s what I was supposed to call him. Mother thought it was “cute”, so she didn’t tell me any different. Consequently all 4 of my brothers and half of Minden called him “Honey”.) My mom and dad were separated by the war, because he was stationed at Wendover AFB, Utah. She was lonely and missed my dad, so she made a spur-of- the- moment decision one day and hopped on a bus headed for Utah. She didn’t even bother to quit her job at the Ordinance plant. I guess she called them when she got to Utah.
She took off for Utah by bus, and after several days of traveling, she made it there. At that time, security was very tight on the base because (no one knew this at the time) that base was working on the atomic bomb.
In those days, a wife had to have a job on the base before she would be allowed to stay on base with her husband. My mom was sure to be escorted out of the base by morning, if she didn’t have a job. The two newlyweds went to the NCO Club (non-commissioned officers club) to “drown their troubles” and try to figure out how my mom could get a job on base. A waitress at the club overheard them and offered to give my mom her bed at the women’s barracks and her job—for a few days. The waitress’s mother lived in northern Utah and she said that she could get a few days off, and go visit her mother and give my mom her job and her spot in the women’s barracks—but she had only 2 days to find a job. At that time living quarters were scarce and my dad stayed in the men’s barracks and of course, couldn’t take my mom back there to sleep. She found a job in 2 days-working at the base telephone office .But they couldn’t get an apartment in “married housing” just yet. They had to put their names on a waiting list. Meanwhile Mom lived in the women’s barracks and my dad lived in the men’s barracks.
My mom noticed that just about all the calls that came for the top brass….they stated “Silver Plate”. “Silver Plate” was everywhere. She continued to live in some sort of women’s dorm. She and my dad put their names on a long waiting list for married housing. She worked for the telephone company on base from March until June of 1944. In July of that year, she got a better job working for the “Quarter-master”—that is the place where they hand out uniforms, coats, hats, fatigues, underwear, etc. Some mail was handled there too. She worked for the quartermaster, a Major Geller, until she and my dad left Utah for Louisiana in December of 1945.
Anyhow, while working for the quartermaster, she kept seeing things labeled “Silver Plate”. She asked my dad about it. He said he didn’t know exactly what was up, but something BIG was going on. He said there was some big secret testing going on in the desert in New Mexico and the boys on his plane and other planes were flying a lot of “practice missions” dropping dummy bombs in the area around the base in Utah. She and my dad were finally at the top of the list on the waiting list for an apartment on base, so they moved in. The Colonel in charge of everything, a “Colonel Tibbets” whom everyone hated because he wouldn’t tell them anything, was totally close-lipped to everyone’s questions, including his own wife’s questions.
Once settled in their apartment, my parents began to entertain other couples-for supper and a game of poker. One couple was from New York and they loved to come and eat my mom’s black-eyed peas and cornbread. One night after a rather large supper, they were deep into a poker game when my dad remembered that he had left his car keys, locker keys, etc on his plane. (He was the crew chief on one of the planes there) So they all four jumped in a car and took off for the runway. The other three tried to talk my dad out of going back for the keys, but it was no use. He insisted, so they passed through 3 or 4 checkpoints with the proper identification papers until finally they saw the runway. They got out of the car and even though the runway and the plane were “heavily guarded”, they all four crossed through some barbed-wire fences, to get to the runway. Then three of them huddled behind a telephone pole, while my dad ran the rest of the way and got on board the plane and got his keys. The other couple was Staff Sergeant Wyatt Duzenbury, the flight engineer from New York and his wife. They remained close to my parents throughout their lives.
Years later, my dad was reflective on this fool-hearty thing that they’d done and he said if he had only known what was loaded on the plane, he never would have gone back and gotten those keys.
Both parents kept hearing the word “Tin-a-yen”.( that turned out to be Tinian) They kept hearing that the planes were going to ship out to “Tin-a-yen” where ever that was. They heard it was an island somewhere in the Pacific.
In February of 1945, my dad had a bad sore throat and fever. They put him in the hospital. My mom said it was more like a log cabin, than a hospital. But anyhow they kept him there for 2 nights. On the morning that he got out, he heard that his unit and the whole squadron had shipped out to “Tin-a-yen”—that strange island or whatever it was, in the Pacific . They had found a replacement for my dad—as the crew chief on the “Enola Gay”. They assigned him a job on the base as squadron “trainer” or something like that, until he was discharged in December of 1945.
His squadron trained in the Pacific on this island from February through August of 1945. And on August 6, 1945—the Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb(nicknamed “Little Boy”) on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later another atomic bomb (nicknamed “Fat Man”) was dropped on the town of Nagasaki, Japan. Japan surrendered on August 14, 1945.
I’ve heard this story my whole life and all the other stories about operation “Silver Plate.” My mom told the story that at first the “Enola Gay” didn’t have a name. Then because of the mission that Col. Tibbets knew that he was about to lead, (he would fly the lead plane himself in this mission) word was passed that each plane in the unit had to have a name. All Tibbets’ men thought he might name the plane after his wife, but –and the men didn’t know this—but the Colonel’s wife had just left him and was about to file for divorce. So Tibbets named the plane after his mother--Enola Gay.
My mom remembered that on the day Japan surrendered, that the base went wild, the town went wild. Everybody celebrated the end of the war...people who never drank..got stone drunk, confetti was everywhere, sirens were sounded, whistles blew, church bells rang and men kissed women that they’d never even met before. It must have been awesome!
My mom and dad had been married for 3 years and had no children at this time. But my mom swears that on this night, August 13, 1945, she conceived me. They left Utah in December of 1945 and returned to Minden, Louisiana where I was born on April 17, 1946.
Brig. General Paul W. Tibbets (U.S.A.F.Photo)
Feb. 13, 1915 - Nov. 1, 2007, aged 92
Biography of Paul Tibbets
Tibbets was born in Quincy, Illinois, the son of Paul Tibbets, Sr., and the former Enola Gay Haggard. He was reared in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where his father was a confections wholesaler. The family was listed there in the 1920 U.S. Federal Population Census. The 1930 census indicates that his family had moved and was living in Des Moines at the time. Thereafter, the family moved to Miami, Florida. Tibbets attended the University of Florida in Gainesville and was an initiated member of the Epsilon Zeta Chapter of Sigma Nu fraternity in 1934.
On February 25, 1937, Tibbets enlisted as a flying cadet in the Army Air Corps at Fort Thomas, Kentucky. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1938 and received his wings at Kelly Field, Texas (since closed). Tibbets was named commanding officer of the 340th Bomb Squadron, 97th Heavy Bomb Group flying B-17 Flying Fortresses in March 1942. Based at RAF Polebrook, he 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. "By reputation", Tibbets was "the best flier in the Army Air Force". One of those who confirmed this reputation was Dwight Eisenhower, for whom Tibbets served as a personal pilot at times during the war.
In September 1944, he was selected to command the project at Wendover Army Air Field, Utah, that became the 509th Composite Group, in connection with the Manhattan Project's Project Alberta.
On August 5, 1945, Colonel Paul Tibbets formally named B-29 serial number 44-86292 Enola Gay after his mother (she was named after the heroine, Enola, of a novel her father had liked). On August 6, the Enola Gay departed Tinian Island in the Marianas with Tibbets at the controls at 2:45 a.m. for Hiroshima, Japan. The atomic bomb, codenamed Little Boy, was dropped over Hiroshima at 8:15 a.m. local time, killing about 140,000 Japanese, with many more dying later.
The film Above and Beyond (1952) depicted the World War II events involving Tibbets, with Robert Taylor starring as Tibbets and Eleanor Parker as his first wife, Lucy. In 1980, a made-for-television movie aired, again telling a possibly more fictionalized version of the story of Tibbets and his men, with Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing from "Dallas") playing the part of Tibbets and Kim Darby as Lucy. The film was called, Enola Gay: The Men, the Mission, the Atomic Bomb. Tibbets was also portrayed in the films Day One and The Beginning or the End.
Tibbets' first marriage, to the former Lucy Wingate, ended in divorce in 1955; he later remarried, to Andrea. In 1959, he was promoted to Brigadier General. He retired from the U.S. Air Force on August 31, 1966.
In the 1960s, Tibbets was posted as military attaché in India, but this posting was rescinded after protests. After retirement, he worked for Executive Jet Aviation, a Columbus, Ohio-based air taxi company now called NetJets. He retired from the firm in 1970 and returned to Miami, Florida. He later left Miami to return to Executive Jet Aviation, having sold his Miami home in 1974. He was president of Executive Jet Aviation from 1976 until his retirement in 1987.
The U.S. government apologized when Japan complained in 1976 after Tibbets re-enacted the bombing at an air show in Texas, complete with mushroom cloud. Tibbets said it was not meant as an insult.
In 1995, he called a planned 50th anniversary exhibition of the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian Institution which attempted to present the bombing in the context of the suffering it caused, a "damn big insult.
An interview of Paul Tibbets can be seen in the 1982 movie Atomic Cafe. He was also interviewed in the 1970s British documentary series The World at War.
His grandson Lt. Col. Paul W. Tibbets, IV, as of 2006 is commander of the 393rd Bomb Squadron, flying the B-2 Spirit. The 393rd is one of two operational squadrons under the same unit his grandfather commanded, the 509th Bomb Wing.
Tibbets was interviewed extensively by Mike Harden of the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, and profiles appeared in the newspaper on anniversaries of the first dropping of an atomic bomb.
Tibbets expressed no 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 died in his Columbus, Ohio, home at the age of ninety-two. He had suffered small strokes and heart failure in his final years and had been in hospice care. Tibbets laid down in his will that there should be no funeral service after his death and no headstone for fear this might lead to demonstrations at his grave. He wanted to ensure that his resting place could never be a pilgrimage site for opponents of the use of nuclear weapons. Tibbets asked to be cremated, and have his ashes dispersed into the waters of the English Channel.
Reference: Paul_W._Tibbets, Edited by Billy Hathorn, Class of 1966
TO THE MEMORY OF...
Herbert Lamar Farrington born 23 December 1923 - died 11 November 1947
LA S2C USNR WWII
Section G-1 Minden City Cemetery
My dad is buried in the Springhill Cemetery. I have attached a picture of his grave.
You can see the "Honey" on it. He was born 2-13-1922 and died on 7-14-1980
What an amazing story Waynette has shared with us on her father's role in World War II. In all the years I have known her and her parents, I never knew this story. Thank you so much for telling it. I remember your calling him Honey. I always thought it referred to the color of his hair. I bet Colonel Tibbets didn't call him Honey! Thank God for the courage of Honey Farrington and men like him and my Uncle "Bub" Cates who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and lived to tell about it. Not all of them did. And remember the Bataan Death March? Did anyone have a family member who survived that horrific experience? God bless them everyone!
Eve Baskerville, Class of 1964
( Note:) The Bataan Memorial Death March was a challenging march through the
high desert terrain of White Sands Missile Range, N.M., conducted in honor of
the heroic service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War
II, sacrificing their freedom, health and, in many cases, their very lives.
Submitted Here are some photo's of the Enola Gay compliments of Wayne Ellis, class of 1972