Last airman in US bombing of Hiroshima dies: Media
The last surviving crewman of the Enola Gay â the U.S. plane that dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan near the end of World War II â has died.
Theodore Van Kirk, also known as âDutch,â died on July 28 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, one of a crew of 12 airmen. The plane dropped âLittle Boyâ on Hiroshima at 8:15 am August 6, 1945, killing 140,000 people, more than half the population of the city.
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 70,000 people were killed.
âThe plane jumped and made a sound like sheet metal snappingâ after the explosion, Van Kirk told The New York Times on the 50th anniversary of the raid.
âShortly after the second wave, we turned to where we could look out and see the cloud, where the city of Hiroshima had been.
âThe 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,â he added at the time.
Van Kirk recalled âa sense of relief,â because he said he sensed the devastating bombing would be a turning point to finally bring the war to a close.
On August 15, Japan surrendered.
Historians have long been at odds over whether the twin attacks brought a speedier end to the war by forcing Japanâs surrender and preventing many more casualties in a planned land invasion.