Meeting his hero
Charles Reinhardt, a resident of
For years, these stories seeped into his head, teaching him what it meant to "pay the price of freedom."
Although his family members survived, many with whom Reinhardt's father and uncles fought did not, and in fact, Reinhardt believed some of his uncles might not have survived if World War II had taken the next logical step - a land attack on mainland Japan.
Estimates of the lives lost in such an attack vary, but most historians believe it would have resulted in thousands more American soldiers dying.
For this reason, Reinhardt
always saw the crews of the planes that dropped the a
So when Reinhardt, a retired
police lieutenant from
Being a firearms enthusiast, he might have made the trip anyway. Reinhardt frequently attends shows.
"But I wanted to meet the man who had saved so many lives," Reinhardt said during a recent interview.
Tibbets was the last remaining crew member from either flight, a valuable piece of living history whom Reinhardt needed to meet, if only to fill in the final pieces of an oral history his father and uncles had started relating when he was a small boy.
Tibbets was doing a tour of
gun and military shows in order to promote his book, "The Return of the
Enola Gay," and as expected sat and talked with people he met in
At the age of 30, on
Both that bomb and the one
dropped a few days later on
Reinhardt admitted he had
looked forward to the gun show and meeting the man who piloted the Enola Gay.
"All my life I had read about him," he said. "In my eyes he's a
hero because he ended World War II. If it hadn't been for him, we would have
lost many more lives invading
When Reinhardt arrived at the show, he found the clear-eyed, clear-minded 89-year old Tibbets seated at one of the tables, more than willing to talk about the experience.
The conversation ranged from the bomb delivery that fateful day in August 1945 to the current war efforts. "He said people need to support the troops now the way they supported him when he served," Reinhardt said. Did the pilot have any regret about delivering the bomb?
"He told me no," Reinhardt said. "He said it was a mission that saved American lives."
However, Tibbets was apparently surprised at the level of destruction the single bomb caused. Reinhardt described the Tibbets as "a legend in his own time."
"He knows he has a place in history," Reinhardt said.
Reinhardt is no stranger to
tough times. As a police officer starting out in the roaring 1970s of
Reinhardt made his living in
law enforcement, staring his 27-year career in 1974 as a police special. He
became a regular police officer in
Reinhardt said he retired to