Skip to comments.Last living crew member of Enola Gay dies in Georgia at age 93
Posted on 07/30/2014 4:22:58 AM PDT by Freeport
ATLANTA The last surviving member of the crew that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, hastening the end of World War II and forcing the world into the atomic age, has died in Georgia.
Theodore VanKirk, also known as "Dutch," died Monday of natural causes at the retirement home where he lived in Stone Mountain, Georgia, his son Tom VanKirk said. He was 93.
VanKirk flew nearly 60 bombing missions, but it was a single mission in the Pacific that secured him a place in history. He was 24 years old when he served as navigator on the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the first atomic bomb deployed in wartime over the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945.
He was teamed with pilot Paul Tibbets and bombardier Tom Ferebee in Tibbets' fledgling 509th Composite Bomb Group for Special Mission No. 13.
The mission went perfectly, VanKirk told The Associated Press in a 2005 interview. He guided the bomber through the night sky, just 15 seconds behind schedule, he said. As the 9,000-pound bomb nicknamed "Little Boy" fell toward the sleeping city, he and his crewmates hoped to escape with their lives.
They didn't know whether the bomb would actually work and, if it did, whether its shockwaves would rip their plane to shreds. They counted -- one thousand one, one thousand two -- reaching the 43 seconds they'd been told it would take for detonation and heard nothing.
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May God rest his immortal soul, and bring comfort to his family.
God rest ‘Dutch’ VanKirk’s soul. And thank him for his service.
Thank you for making our post-war world a safe, stable and prosperous one.
The A-Bomb got their attention. Also, it prevented the USSR from turning Japan into "North Japan/South Japan".
Such was the fanaticism and dedication of the Japanese.
It is not hyperbole to say that avoiding a land invasion of Japan saved a million lives.
Cannot believe these guys - those still with us - are this old now.
That's just on the American/Allies side. I've read estimates that a land invasion would have caused upwards of 5 million Japanese civilian casualties.
In advance of a planned invasion, the War Department placed an order for 500,000 Purple Hearts. After nearly 70 years, that inventory has yet to be exhausted.
My father mentored one of those depressed and suicidal men. Americans do not bomb innocents.
What do you mean “suicidal”? This hero lived to 93. RIP. Thanks.
My late father was on a yard mine sweeper headed toward Tokyo in August 1945, when, for unexplained reasons, his group was ordered back to Okinawa. He did not expect to survive the pending invasion of the Japanese mainland.
He told me once that his ship shot down a kamikaze while they were stationed off Okinawa. The plane hit the water, broke into pieces, and the cockpit section wound up on deck. Fortunately, no one on board was hurt. When they put out the fire, they looked at the body of the pilot, who they figured was no more than sixteen, and wondered what kind of people would send their kids out to kill themselves in this way....
“Americans do not bomb innocents.”
A week prior to the atom bombing of Hiroshima the U.S. firebombed Tokyo killing an estimated 50-70,000 people. The difference was that Hiroshima took only one bomber and one bomb to kill roughly same number of people that several hundred bombers and thousands of bombs had done a week earlier. Furthermore, in a war like WWII who is to say is innocent? The Japanese Imperial Army and Navy, supported by the people back home, killed some thirty million people, mostly Asians, during that war. There no need to add several hundred thousand more people, American soldiers, to that total when it could be avoided.
A real hero. He may have saved thousands and thousands of lives; American and Japanese.
It also saved Japan from being divided into Soviet and American zones, with most likely a civil war resulting, just like Korea.
Their blood is on Tojo’s hands.
The sheer magnitude of the invasion of japan under the name “Olympic” was going to make D-Day look tiny.
over a THOUSAND ships.
over 1 million tons in supplies
and the alies casualties were anticipated to be high.
You are correct. It would have been to the death for both sides. It would be no touchy feely introspective hollyweird BS.
There were thousands of children.. if ppeople cannot see that is an unjust way to defend in war, we have lost American virtue.
I met and spoke with Van Kirk a couple of times at booksignings. Great guy, wonderful sense of humor - was cracking jokes left and right.
With that kind of positive attitude it’s no wonder he made it into his 90s.
I don’t think that either Olympic or Coronet would have happened. Especially after Okinawa and Iwo Jima.
There would have been a naval blockade and continued conventional bombing. There would have been magnitudes more Japanese deaths from that than from the atomic attacks. And that’s not counting what the Sovs would have done to the Japanese army on the mainland.
Nuclear bombing of Japan:
Supreme act of Humanitarianism and Peace.
Having had the honor of meeting General Tibbets personally, I can happily refute such a ridiculous claim.
Japan had opportunity to surrender and end the war. The deaths of those children occurred because of Japan’s decisions. What we have lost is the understanding that warfare requires some very ugly actions; that is if you want to win.
The pleasure was mine, believe me. My copy of “Enola Gay” is signed and dated by the man himself and it’s one of my prize possessions.
Japan gave us no other choice.
Remember Tojo and company tried to kill the Emperor before he made his broadcast that convinced the Japanese to surrender. Had their plot succeeded, who knows what would have happened.
Try this again.