On Aug. 6, 1945, 12 men were aboard the Enola Gay – the B-29 bomber that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
That historic, yet cataclysmic event, ultimately led to the end of World War II. The bomb, code named “Little Boy,” killed about 140,000 people from the blast and aftereffects.
The plane was named after Enola Gay Tibbets, the mother of the pilot Colonel Paul Tibbets.
Among the 12 men on the flight was Sergeant Joe S. Stiborik, who grew up in Taylor. He was the only Texan aboard the Enola Gay. He was the oldest crewmember aboard when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
Stiborik rebuffed in flying school and volunteered for the Army Air Corps in October of 1942, where he went to flight school and eventually became a sergeant.
While stationed in Pensacola, Florida, Colonel Tibbets visited Stiborik in his quarters, and convinced him to join the 509th Composite Group, and the crew of the Enola Gay. Stiborik and his fellow members of the 509th trained hard in the coming years, learning how to maneuver and operate their aircraft under the conditions of a recently detonated atomic bomb without knowing why they were doing it.
Just a week before the mission, the crew had to learn and memorize maps and other information about the bomb site. The night before the mission, Stiborik attended a Catholic mass. Some people believe he was torn because he knew the damage the bomb could do but understood it could help end the war. During the mass, a moment of peace before the fanfare would greet him and the crew early the following morning.
According to a report from Mental Floss (www.mentalfloss.com), Stiborik remember the crew sitting stunned in silence on the returned flight.
“"I was dumbfounded. Remember, nobody had ever seen what an A-bomb could do before. Here was a whole damn town nearly as big as Dallas, one minute all in good shape and the next minute disappeared and covered with fires and smoke,” Stiborik said in the article. “There was almost no talk I can remember on our trip back to the base. It was just too much to express in words, I guess. We were all in a kind of state of shock. I think the foremost thing in all our minds was that this thing was going to bring an end to the war, and we tried to look at it that way."
In November 1945, Stiborik was discharged and returned home to Texas. He and his wife settled down and had two daughters. They moved to Rockdale where Stiborik worked for the Industrial Generating Company. He passed away there on June 30, 1984.
In 2014, the final surviving member of the Enola Gay, Theodore Van Kirk, passed away at the age of 93.