Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War

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Overview

When Bob Greene went home to central Ohio to be with his dying father, it set off a chain of events that led him to knowing his dad in a way he never had before, thanks to a quiet man who lived just a few miles away and changed the history of the world. In 1945, Paul Tibbets had piloted a plane called Enola Gay to the Japanese city of Hiroshima, where he dropped the atomic bomb. On the morning after the last meal Greene ever ate with his father, he went to meet Tibbets. What developed was an unexpected friendship...
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Duty

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Overview

When Bob Greene went home to central Ohio to be with his dying father, it set off a chain of events that led him to knowing his dad in a way he never had before, thanks to a quiet man who lived just a few miles away and changed the history of the world. In 1945, Paul Tibbets had piloted a plane called Enola Gay to the Japanese city of Hiroshima, where he dropped the atomic bomb. On the morning after the last meal Greene ever ate with his father, he went to meet Tibbets. What developed was an unexpected friendship that allowed Greene to discover things about his father, and his father's generation of soldiers, that he had never fully understood before.

About the Author:

Bob Greene is a syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune and a columnist for Life magazine. His reports and commentary appear in more than 200 newspapers in the United States, Canada, and Japan. For nine years is "American Beat" was the lead column in Esquire, and as a broadcast journalist he has served as contributing correcpondent for "ABC News Nightline." His bestselling books include Be True to Your School, Good Morning, Merry Sunshine, and with his sister, D. G. Fulford, To Our Children's Children: Preserving Family Histories for Generations to Come. He lives in Chicago, IL.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
When bestselling author Bob Greene went home to be with his ailing father in 1998, he began a compelling relationship with Colonel Paul Tibbets, the man who piloted the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the A-bomb on Hiroshima. Greene tells of Tibbets's training for and execution of that vital military mission, at the same time more fully understanding his own father's role as part of the "Greatest Generation."
R. Z. Sheppard
In Duty, Bob Greene goes back to Columbus to see his dying father, a highly decorated World War II infantry officer. In an effort to understand his dad and the men of his generation, Greene persuades is hometown's most renowned veteran, Tibbets to finally break his silence. This book is remarkable not only for the scorching accounts of war but also because the book was written by a son desperate to know father who never talked about the most intense experiences of his lives.
Time
New York Times Book Review
"[Greene] delineates one of the most significant cultural divides in America—between the deeply dutiful World War II generation and its more cynical and radically individualistic descendants.
Rocky Mountain News
A personal odyssey...a touching look at the differences between generations and the many actions—large and small—that define us.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Riding the same wave of nostalgia and admiration that Tom Brokaw surfed in his acclaimed The Greatest Generation (1998), Chicago Tribune columnist Greene (Chevrolet Summers, Dairy Queen Nights) delivers a heartfelt tribute to his father's generation in this triangulated memoir. Called back to his hometown (Columbus, Ohio) to say good-bye to his dying father, Greene decides to seek out his father's longtime hero--an 83-year-old fellow WWII vet and Ohioan named Paul Tibbets. Tibbets was the man who, as a 29-year-old lieutenant colonel, piloted the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Combining excerpts from his father's wartime journals, interviews with Tibbets and his own personal recollections, Greene pays homage to the ideals of his father and conveys successfully what WWII meant to men of that generation. Meanwhile, through his conversations with Tibbets, Greene comes to better understand his late father. Like the aging pilot, Greene realizes, his father felt that the freedoms these men had fought for in the war are unappreciated by today's younger generations, and, like Tibbets, his father was angry about postwar cultural changes. Regrettably, what is occasionally a touching salute by a grieving son is marred by credulousness and overly dramatic prose. Greene's admiration and respect for the pilot of the Enola Gay even manages to get in the way of his well-honed investigative skills-- for example, he accepts with little follow-up Tibbets's assertion that he never had any regrets whatsoever about dropping the bomb. And Greene's relentlessly uncritical depictions of Tibbets's seemingly unreflective, unemotional and gruff persona--as well as his nostalgia for traditional values--wears thin. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
According to Greene (Be True to Your School), the man who won World War II was Col. Paul Tibbets, pilot of the Enola Gay--the B-29 bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan in August 1945. Greene, a syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune, has created a powerful and poignant tale of his personal relationship with Tibbets from their first meeting in 1998. With the skill and sensitivity of an accomplished journalist, Greene tells of Tibbets's involvement with the planning, training for, and execution of that fateful flight to commit the most violent act in history. More importantly, Greene relates how Tibbets and the surviving members of the aircrew have adjusted to their unwanted notoriety in peacetime. In addition, this book is a heart-wrenching story of Greene's relationship with his dying father, also a World War II veteran. Through Tibbets (who lived near Greene's father), Greene finally comes to understand how his father and the World War II generation came to embrace the true meanings of patriotism, courage, and duty. Strongly recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/00.]--William D. Bushnell, formerly with USMC, Sebascodegan Island, ME Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Kirkus Reviews
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Greene's (The 50-Yard Dash, 1997) memoir is touched off by the death of his father in central Ohio, in the same town where Colonel Paul Tibbets (the "man who won the war") also lived. Tibbets was the pilot of the bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. Greene's father, an ordinary soldier in WWII, would point out Tibbets in town but would never speak to him, and it was clear to young Greene that his father held the former airman in a certain amount of awe—for the manner in which he carried out his mission without question, and almost without flaw (Tibbets reached his target only 17 seconds late, after a journey of thousands of miles in a crude B-29 bomber). After Greene's father died, Greene sought out Tibbets and began a series of conversations on the war and its impact on his generation. While Greene writes well, the degree of sentimentality he brings to his subject is almost embarrassing, and his device of moving between his father's reminiscence of the war and his own accounts of meetings with Tibbets and others (such as a reunion of the famed "Doolittle's Raiders," who bombed the Japanese home islands in retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor) constantly distracts from the flow of the book. A dull and sentimental read.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781559353366
  • Publisher: Soundelux
  • Publication date: 5/1/2000
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Abridged, 2 Cassettes
  • Pages: 3
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Award-winning journalist Bob Greene is the author of six New York Times bestsellers and a frequent contributor to the New York Times Op-Ed page.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



The morning after the last meal I ever ate with my father, I finally met the man who won the war.

It was from my father that I had first heard about the man. The event — the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima — I of course knew about; like all children of the post-World War II generation, my classmates and I had learned about it in elementary school.

But the fact that the man who dropped the bomb — the pilot who flew the Enola Gay to Japan, who carried out the single most violent act in the history of mankind and thus brought World War II to an end — the fact that he lived quietly in the same town where I had grown up...that piece of knowledge came from my father.

It was never stated in an especially dramatic way. My dad would come home from work — from downtown Columbus, in central Ohio — and say: "I was buying some shirts today, and Paul Tibbets was in the next aisle, buying ties."

They never met; my father never said a word to him. I sensed that my father might have been a little reluctant, maybe even a touch embarrassed; he had been a soldier with an infantry division, Tibbets had been a combat pilot, all these years had passed since the war and now here they both were, two all-but-anonymous businessmen in a sedate, landlocked town in a country at peace...what was my dad supposed to say? How was he supposed to begin the conversation?

Yet there was always a certain sound in his voice at the dinner table. "Paul Tibbets was in the next aisle buying ties...." The sound in my dad's voice told me — as if I needed reminding — that the story of his life had reached itsmost indelible and meaningful moments in the years of the war, the years before I was born.

Those dinner-table conversations were long ago, though; they were in the years when my dad was still vital, in good health, in the prime of his adult years, not yet ready to leave the world. I had all but forgotten the conversations — at least the specifics of them, other than the occasional mentions of Tibbets.

Now my dad was dying. We had dinner in his bedroom — he would not, it would turn out, again be able to sit in a chair and eat after this night — and the next morning I told him that I had somewhere to go and that I would be back in a few hours, and I went to find Paul Tibbets. Something told me that it was important.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 20 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2014

    A terrific book.  It goes a long way to enlighten those of us wh

    A terrific book.  It goes a long way to enlighten those of us who grew up in the years since WWII to understand what shaped that generation. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    Excellent read!!

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  • Posted March 26, 2012

    Coud not put it down. I did not want this book to end. My dad w

    Coud not put it down.
    I did not want this book to end. My dad worked on the Manhattan Project. My uncles: USS St. Louis, in the jungles, on Iwo Jima, guarded German POW's in Wisconsin, guarded Goering at the war trials. One fellow I knew carried the packs of the older soldiers, another was on the ship going to invade Japan. I knew a SeaBee who was on the Mariana Islands and knew the fellow who invented the SeaBee insigna. My dad was in his 30's with 3 kids and terrible eyesight, and he got his draft papers! Thank you, Paul Tibbets for ending the war. You are (were) a great man. I had a chance to meet you but did not. You are my hero.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2006

    A warm, compassionate, insightful story

    Reading Bob Greene's account of his quest to get to know his father, and the role Paul Tibbets played in drawing that out, was truly breath-taking. He (Greene) would at times touch a nerve in his narrative, and I would reflect on how I wish I had gotten to know my Dad better, and all the unanswered questions I would ask him, if I could. Thanks, Bob. Your book is one of the finer reads I have had in many a year. I would rate this book a 5, without hesitation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2006

    WONDERFULY WRITTEN

    This book is well written, an outstanding piece of literature. Truley shows the hearts of the American military men and women, and its supporters. I'm proud to read such a work of art, and plan to read it many times over.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2005

    Amazing!

    This is a WONDERFUL book that I have read many times. It really makes evident why people in the military do what they do. It's beautifully written.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2001

    They Died Before, They're Dying Again...

    This was a wonderful book. If there is a book that can highlight the differences between today's older and younger generations, this would be it. It doesn't do it in any sort of controversial way. At times, it's done with humor. Sometimes a bit of sadness. Always with respect. Some of the comments by General Tibbets caused me to look at myself and ask myself some rather unpleasant questions. (I'm 41) At the same time the above descriptions bring the book home to the heart, it also allows us to see ourselves, at whatever age one might be, in the light of our now passing heritage. There are some surprising insights in it. Spend some time with it, this Memorial Day weekend. It's worth it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2001

    A Hero Who Modestly Rejects the Hero's Mantle

    This book clearly deserves more than five stars! 'Doolittle's Raiders -- Those Were Real Heroes' This quote came from Paul Tibbets, the man who piloted the Enola Gay (named after his mother) to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in August 1945. He was referring to the crews that bombed Japan shortly after the start of the U.S. engagement in World War II, in a stirring symbolic strike at our Pacific enemy of those years. They had no way to come back to American bases with their planes, and had to fly onto the Asian mainland and hope to find their way back to the U.S. on their own. Many did not survive the mission. What many do not know is that Tibbets also headed the unit that prepared to drop the atomic bombs. He ordered himself to pilot the first flight, out of his sense of responsibility for getting the job done right. Many who have not read the book will think this book is a biography of Tibbets, who has remained out of the limelight since World War II. That thought is partially correct. But the book is much more than that, even though that would have been a lot. The author became interested in Tibbets because the author's father was so obviously in awe of Tibbets. The father would mention seeing Tibbets in their common hometown of Columbus, Ohio, but never approached him. Inspired by his father's interest, the author finally meets Tibbets shortly before the author's father dies. Then begins one of those wonderful human experiences that we each should have, and books like this allow us to experience vicariously. Although Tibbets never met the father, he instantly understood him. In many informal talks and visits, the author came to understand for the first time both Tibbets and his own father who had left a tape recorded oral history. There is a wonderful epiphany near the end of the book when the author finally understands why Tibbets meant so much to his father. I won't spoil it for you, but it's worth reading the whole book to get to this one story. This book will be very appealing to anyone who read and liked The Greatest Generation. By focusing on the lives of just a few men (Tibbets, two of Tibbets' crew mates, and Greene's father) you get a richness and wholeness to the lives that makes it all come together much better than can happen with briefer stories. In a sense, the two books are companion pieces. In fact, I recommend that most people read Duty first, and then read The Greatest Generation. If you have already read The Greatest Generation, you should reread it after you have read Duty. You'll have many new insights as a result. My next suggestion is that you then seek out someone who fought in World War II (a relative would be great if you have one) and talk to them about their experiences and what you thought you learned from these two books. You should be able to lift a generational curtain in the process, and make some wonderful human contact that would not have otherwise have been possible. In this way, you can pay real tribute to all those who made our modern world possible. To me, I beg to differ with Paul Tibbets' quote. I think

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2001

    Dads, Sons and a Generation

    Bob Greene does a wonderful job of weaving his fathers recorded messages in with the man who flew the Enola Gay. Greene is able to paint a picture of a generation of men who did what they were asked to do without question or fear a failure. In a 'Field of Dreams' like way Greene gives the reader an opportunity to be apart of a father/son relationship that I am sure male readers could identify with.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2000

    My Whole Family is Reading 'Duty'

    I am one of those saved from a beach invasion of Japan by the Enola Gay Crew. My orders bore the code designation LION 9 (Landing invasion and occupation Navy) We were equipped with Army uniforms, helmets etc with no real training for that activity. My two sons, my wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Paul Tibbets and to read what to us is the very best commentary on my generation. Thank you for a most entertaining and inspiring book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2000

    A Must Read for any Son of a Vet

    My father served as a medic in the United States Army's 199th Infantry Regiment of the 30th Infantry Division -- the famed Old Hickory division -- from D-Day plus four until VE Day. He participated in five major battles: in Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland, Central Europe, and the German Ardennes Offensive -- which is better known as the Battle of the Bulge. He died this past February and I only know this much about his service from the research my brother did in order to give a proper eulogy. Apart from telling us years ago that he would like for his casket to be draped with an American flag, he never really discussed his experiences in the war or his pride at having served. Bob Greene's touching exploration of his dying father's wartime service and the effect it had on him and his family through the rest of his life, discovered through Greene's exploration of the life and legacy of Paul Tibbets -- the Man Who Won the War -- fills an emotional and historical vacuum in my own life and education. I was touched by the simple observations and enlightened by what I learned from the author's conversations and experiences with Mr. Tibbets, Mr. Van Kirk and Mr. Ferebee. If you are the child of a World War II veteran, treat yourself to this book. You won't regret it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2000

    An excellent novel

    This is an excellent novel written about the flight to Hiroshima. I would like to thank Paul Tibbets for doing his duty and I think that he did help win the war. You saved American and Japanese lives and I thank you. I really liked the part in the book that discusses the tapes that were left to Bob Greene.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2000

    'Doolittle's Raiders -- Those Were Real Heroes'

    This quote came from Paul Tibbets, the man who piloted the Enola Gay (named after his mother) to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in August 1945. He was referring to the crews that bombed Japan shortly after the start of the U.S. engagement in World War II, in a stirring symbolic strike at our Pacific enemy of those years. They had no way to come back with their planes, and had to fly onto the Asian mainland and hope to find their way back to the U.S. Many did not survive the mission. What many do not know is that Tibbets also headed the unit that prepared to drop the atomic bombs. He ordered himself to pilot the first flight, out of his sense of responsibility for getting the job done right. Many will think this book is a biography of Tibbets, who has remained out of the limelight since World War II. That thought is partially correct. But the book is much more than that, even though that would have been a lot. The author became interested in Tibbets because the author's father was so obviously in awe of Tibbets. He would mention seeing Tibbets in their common hometown of Columbus, Ohio, but never approached him. Inspired by his father's interest, the author finally meets Tibbets shortly before his father dies. Then begins one of those wonderful human experiences that we each should have, and books like this allow us to experience vicariously. Although Tibbets never met the father, he instantly understood him. In many informal talks and visits, the author came to understand both Tibbets and his own father who had left a tape recorded oral history. There is a wonderful epiphany near the end of the book when the author finally understands why Tibbets meant so much to his father. I won't spoil it for you, but it's worth reading the whole book to get to this one story. This book will be very appealing to any

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2000

    Best book I have read in years.

    I found the book to be most informative and emotional, it brought tears to my eyes many times. I found it very hard to put it down. Well done Mr. Green.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2000

    terrific

    I learned a lot about Hiroshima and a lot more about the men who fought in WW II. It's a great read. Greene did a terrific job.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2000

    An honorable tribute to the Veterans of WWII

    I really enjoyed reading this book. It is a book to be read by everyone whose Parents or Grandparents were of the World War II Generation. This is an honest, insightful, and honorable tribute to the hero Paul Tibbets of the Enola Gay, and to Major Time Greene of the 91st Infantry Division, one of the many unsung heroes that put it all on the line to save the free world. One comes away with a knowledge of how our greatest generation viewed the world and their moral character. One also gets a wake up call as to their opinion of the current generation. If you have recently laid to rest a Parent of Grandparent from the WWII era, as I have, this book will help you cherish their memory even more.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2000

    Outstanding book on the man behind the dropping of the bomb.

    Mr Greene has written about two men that are very dear to him, his father and General Paul Tibbets, pilot of the Enola Gay. Both men are true heroes and served this country well. Mr. Greene deftly mixes information gathered in numerous interviews with General Tibbets, with information about Bob's own father who served in WWII. The book brings to light fasinating facts about the pilot and crew that came together in the famed B-29, The Enola Gay, and dropped the first atomic bomb. In an era when many people try to ignore the past or rewrite history, this look at one of the most significant events of this past century should be required reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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