The last crew member of the Enola Gay — the bomber which infamously dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan near the end of WWII — has died in Georgia. Theodore Van Kirk, who was also known as "Dutch," died Monday of natural causes at the Park Springs Retirement Community in Stone Mountain, a manager there told NBC Atlanta affiliate WXIA. Van Kirk was 93.
When he was just a young man of 24 years old, Van Kirk was the navigator on the Enola Gay, a B-29 Superfortress, which dropped "Little Boy" on Hiroshima at 8:15 a.m. August 6, 1945, killing 140,000 people. It was the first time in human history that an atomic bomb had ever been used. The second and last instance came three days later at Nagasaki, where 80,000 perished.
"I know he was recognized as a war hero, but we just knew him as a great father," son Tom Van Kirk said in a telephone interview with the AP on Tuesday. In a 2005 interview with the AP, Dutch Van Kirk said his World War II experience showed that wars and atomic bombs don't settle anything, and he'd like to see the weapons abolished.
- Last surviving Enola Gay crewman dies in Stone Mountain (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- Pilot of plane that bombed Hiroshima dies