Feature

The last surviving crewman of the Enola Gay

At 89, Theodore Van Kirk is the last surviving crew member of the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan, 65 years ago.

Theodore Van Kirk has no regrets about dropping the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, said Ed Pilkington in the London Guardian. At 89, Van Kirk is the last surviving crew member of the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan, 65 years ago. He was 24 years old when he was recruited for an unspecified mission shrouded in secrecy. The words “atomic” and “nuclear” were never mentioned, but Van Kirk was told that they would be dropping a bomb so powerful that it would destroy an entire city.

On the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, the Enola Gay flew from the Pacific island of Tinian to Hiroshima and released the 9,000-pound bomb. Van Kirk remembers the blast as a bright flash, followed by “a hell of a jolt. The sound was like the airplane being torn in half.” The bomb killed 70,000 people instantly, but Van Kirk says he’s never lost any sleep over the loss of life. “I’ve never found a way to fight a war without killing people. If you ever find that out, let me know.” The bottom line, he says, is that dropping the bomb made a full-scale invasion of Japan unnecessary, and thus saved countless lives. “I don’t know when the war would have ended had we not dropped the atomic bombs.”

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