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Last crew member of Enola Gay dies in Georgia


ATLANTA (AP) - The last surviving member of the crew that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima 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 was the navigator of the Enola Gay, a B-29 Superfortress aircraft that dropped "Little Boy" - the world's first atomic bomb - over the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. The bomb killed 140,000 in Hiroshima. A second atomic bomb dropped by another plane killed 80,000 in Nagasaki three days later. VanKirk was 24 years old at the time.

Tom VanKirk said he and his siblings are very fortunate to have had such a wonderful father who remained active until the end of his life.

"I know he was recognized as a war hero, but we just knew him as a great father," he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday.

In a 2005 interview with the AP, VanKirk 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.

A funeral service was scheduled for VanKirk on Aug. 5 in his hometown of Northumberland, Pennsylvania. He will be buried in Northumberland next to his wife, who died in 1975. The burial will be private.

Last Surviving Member Of Enola Gay Crew Dies

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KMCCLA July 29 2014 at 7:43 PM

It just goes to show, that we are losing the members of the Greatest Generation every day, soon there will be few left. Another hero will be laid to rest, and Taps will be blown in his honor. Some may look at the bombing with disgust and contempt. However it and the following bombing did one thing -- it ended the war. Millions more would have died -- on both sides -- if a land invasion would have taken place.

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5 replies
aaldrew July 29 2014 at 7:36 PM

RIP hero. Thank you.

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3 replies
GARY July 29 2014 at 8:11 PM

I know of a couple of places that should be nuked...but all the politicians with balls are gone!!

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8 replies
doketx July 29 2014 at 7:22 PM

Where are all the namby-pamby bleeding hearts that say we shouldn't have dropped the bomb, and let at least 1/2 million Americans die instead?

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9 replies
lv2213frs July 29 2014 at 7:38 PM

It is done and there is no sense in beating ourselves up over it time and time again. Truly, nobody wanted to see all those innocents lose their lives but it finished it once and for all. Time to move on.

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7 replies
flysalot2 July 29 2014 at 8:30 PM

America loses another great American who was an important part of our history. RIP Mr. Van Kirk.

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phd July 29 2014 at 8:31 PM

While one can respect his opinion, the fact remains that an invasion of Japan would have cost the US about 1 million casualties and would have extended the war for months, possibly a year or more. That fact seems to have been forgotten in the historical discussion about the use of the two bombs. As I recall, the pilot felt he had shortened the war, echoing what many on-duty service men felt at that time.

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9 replies
Tim and Marnie July 29 2014 at 8:19 PM

A surprisingly naïve world view from Mr. VanKirk . Especially since the free world has benefitted from the protection of our nuclear umbrella ever since that day.

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7 replies
bvklaw July 30 2014 at 1:40 AM

On August 6, 1945, my husband was a child of six and had been starving in a Japanese prison camp in Indonesia for almost three years. His father had died in another camp about a year earlier. An older cousin was a slave laborer on the Burma Road; he and his fellow prisoners were told they would have their throats slit if Japan was invaded. Dropping the bombs on Japan was a terrible thing, but it saved many more lives than people know.

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3 replies
chdblwinnr July 29 2014 at 10:18 PM

Thank you for your service Dutch. May you rest in peace.

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