Theodore Vankirk, know too many as “Dutch”, has passed away at the age of 93. VanKirk is the last living member of those who flew the Enola Gay over Hiroshima, putting an end to World Word II and bringing to the world a new weapon of mass destruction.
Vankirk died peacefully at his home in Georgia at the age of 93. Living in peace near Stone Mountain, his family said he lived a good life.
Dutch was only 24 years old when he flew as navigator on the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress dropped the infamous Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945.
Vankirk’s interview in 2005 told the story of the mission that made history. “Little Boy” was the name given to the 9,000 pound bomb and Vankirk told the story as if it was just yesterday when it happened. In the end, he said the crew only hoped to escape the mission with their lives.
In all, that and the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaski just three days later, took the lives of some 220,000 people, bringing a final end to WWII.
“I honestly believe the use of the atomic bomb saved lives in the long run. There were a lot of lives saved. Most of the lives saved were Japanese,” VanKirk said.
But it also made him wary of war.
“The whole World War II experience shows that wars don’t settle anything. And atomic weapons don’t settle anything,” he said. “I personally think there shouldn’t be any atomic bombs in the world — I’d like to see them all abolished.
“But if anyone has one,” he added, “I want to have one more than my enemy.”
Like many World War II veterans, VanKirk didn’t talk much about his service until much later in his life when he spoke to school groups, his son Tom said.”I didn’t even find out that he was on that mission until I was 10 years old and read some old news clippings in my grandmother’s attic.”
Anyone who would enjoy the life story about Theodore VanKirk may find the book “My True Course,” written by Suzanna Dietz. Chronicled in 2012, the book is available in several market venues.
A funeral service is scheduled for VanKirk on August 5th 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.