Enola Gay navigator dies
Theodore (Dutch) Van Kirk, the navigator and last surviving crew member of the Enola Gay, died on 28 July at the age of 93.
Enola Gay was the name given to the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945.
The 6+ hour flight from Tinian, in the Mariana Islands, was conducted in darkness, using astro with a hand-held sextant. At daybreak, Capt Van Kirk confirmed a visual fix on Iwo Jima - just a few seconds late - and the bombadier released the uranium bomb at 31,000 over Hiroshima at 0815 local time.
Three days later, another B-29 dropped a plutonium bomb on Nagasaki - and, on 15 August, Japan surrendered, bringing World War II to an end.
'Dutch' Van Kirk had become an Army Air Forces cadet in October 1941 and flew 58 missions over Europe and North Africa as a B-17 navigator out of England. He then returned to the United States to train navigators. When Colonel Tibbets - the Enola Gay captain - was selected to command the 509th Composite Group in 1944 to train for delivering the atomic bomb, he brought Captain Van Kirk with him. They trained on the newly-developed B-29s.
Major Van Kirk retired from military service in 1946, having received the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross. He gained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering and became a marketing executive with DuPont.
Details from The New York Times below . .
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