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, a man who had changed the history of the world.
Greene's father -- a soldier with an infantry division in World War II--often spoke of seeing the man around town. All but anonymous even in his own city, carefully maintaining his privacy, this man, Greene's father would point out to him, had "won the war." He was Paul Tibbets. At the age of twenty-nine, at the request of his country, Tibbets assembled a secret team of 1,800 American soldiers to carry out the single most violent act in the history of mankind. In 1945 Tibbets piloted a plane--which he called Enola Gay, after his mother -- to the Japanese city of Hiroshima, where he dropped the atomic bomb.
On the morning after the last meal he ever ate with his father, Greene went to meet Tibbets. What developed was an unlikely friendship that allowed Greene to discover things about his father, and his father's generation of soldiers, that he never fully understood before.DUTY
is the story of three lives connected by history, proximity, and blood; indeed, it is many stories, intimate and achingly personal as well as deeply historic. In one soldier's memory of a mission that transformed the world -- and in a son's last attempt to grasp his father's ingrained sense of honor and duty -- lies a powerful tribute to the ordinary heroes of an extraordinary time in American life.
What Greene came away with is found history and found poetry -- a profoundly moving work that offers a vividly new perspective on responsibility, empathy, and love. It is an exploration of and response to the concept of duty as it once was and always should be: quiet and from the heart. On every page you can hear the whisper of a generation and its children bidding each other farewell.
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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.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
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 its most 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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