Tibbets's historic mission in the aeroplane Enola Gay marked the beginning of the end of the second world war.

It was the first time man had used nuclear weaponry against his fellow man. It was the morning of August 6, 1945, when the aircraft and its crew of 14 dropped the five-tonne "Little Boy" bomb over Hiroshima.

The blast killed 70,000 to 100,000 people and injured countless others.

Three days later, the United States dropped a nuclear bomb on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 40,000 people. Tibbets did not fly in that mission.

The Japanese surrendered a few days later, ending the war.
 
No remorse

"I knew when I got the assignment it was going to be an emotional thing," Tibbets had told The Columbus Dispatch for a story on the 60th anniversary of the bomb.

"We had feelings, but we had to put them in the background. We knew it was going to kill people right and left. But my one driving interest was to do the best job I could so that we could end the killing as quickly as possible."

Tibbets, then a 30-year-old colonel, never expressed regret over his role. It was, he said, his patriotic duty - the right thing to do.

"I'm not proud that I killed 80,000 people, but I'm proud that I was able to start with nothing, plan it and have it work as perfectly as it did," he said in a 1975 interview.

"You've got to take stock and assess the situation at that time. We were at war. ... You use anything at your disposal."