Joseph S. Stiborik served as a sergeant in the 393rd Bombardment Squadron, a part of the 509th Composite Group. He worked as a radar operator on the Enola Gay, helping to navigate the plane and watch for enemy aircraft. On August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay dropped the Little Boy nuclear bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
Stiborik was born on December 21, 1914 in Hallettsville, Texas to Anton and Cecilia Najvar Stibork. A first generation American, Stiborik’s parents emigrated from the highlands of Czechoslovakia. His father worked as the editor of a Czech-language newspaper. Joseph went on to attend Texas A&M University, and married his wife Helen on August 1, 1938.
Joe Stiborik always wanted to fly planes, but was rejected due to his heredity colorblindness. When World War II broke out, he volunteered for the Army Air Corps in October 1942. He was sent to radar school to learn how to operate the radar systems on U.S. army planes. While stationed in Pensacola, Florida, Colonel Paul 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. The week before the bombing mission in August 1945 was also difficult, as every member of 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, a moment of peace before the Hollywood-esque fanfare that would greet him at 2:30 AM the following morning. As the crew of the Enola Gay prepared for take-off, the military’s big brass stood in attendance as camera bulbs flashed and film crews recorded the beginning of the historic mission.
A few months later, 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, Texas where Stiborik worked for the Industrial Generating Company. He passed away there on June 30, 1984.
For more information on Joseph Stiborik's life, please see this article, courtesy of the Milam County Historical Commission.