WASHINGTON: The lone remaining crewman of the Enola Gay — which dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan near the end of WWII — has died in Georgia, US media reported Tuesday.
Theodore Van Kirk, also known as “Dutch,” died Monday of natural causes at the Park Springs Retirement Community in Stone Mountain, Georgia, NBC television reported. Van Kirk was 93.
Twenty-four years old at the time, Van Kirk was the navigator on the Enola Gay, a B-29 Superfortress. The plane dropped “Little Boy” on Hiroshima at 8:15 am. August 6, 1945, killing 140,000 people.
It was the first time in history that an atomic bomb was used in combat. The second was three days later at Nagasaki, where some 80,000 were killed.
“The plane jumped and made a sound like sheet metal snapping,” Van Kirk told The New York Times on the 50th anniversary of the raid. “Shortly after the second wave, we turned to where we could look out and see the cloud, where the city of Hiroshima had been.
“The entire city was covered with smoke and dust and dirt. I describe it looking like a pot of black, boiling tar. You could see some fires burning on the edge of the city,” he added at the time.
Van Kirk said remembered “a sense of relief.”
On August 15, Japan surrendered, bringing the war to a close.
A funeral was scheduled for Van Kirk August 5 in his hometown of Northumberland, Pennsylvania. His burial will be private, CBS reported.