WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. — 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 planes.
Brigadier General Paul W. Tibbets IV took command of the 509th Bomb Wing during a ceremony at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, replacing Brigadier General Glen VanHerck, who has led the wing since February 2014.
Tibbets’s grandfather, Paul W. Tibbets Jr., was assigned to a predecessor of the 509th Bomb Wing when he piloted the Enola Gay in the world’s first atomic bomb mission on Aug. 6, 1945. The bomb destroyed much of Hiroshima and killed tens of thousands of its citizens.
The government in Japan has said that thousands of people have been categorized as still sick from the Hiroshima bombing’s radiation.
Three days after Hiroshima another B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, killing about 70,000 people. Japan surrendered six days later, ending the war.
Tibbets told about 500 people attending the ceremony that his grandfather would be ‘‘touched by your appreciation for his service and the service of those that he was with back in that time.’’
His grandfather would also tell them, Tibbets said, that ‘‘he’s counting on you, he’s counting on us . . . to continue as you do each and every day to raise the bar and set the standard and continue the great work that our nation relies on us to to do.’’