UK & World News

  • 30 July 2014, 7:08

Last Surviving Hiroshima Bomb Crewman Dies

The last surviving crew member of the Enola Gay - the plane that dropped a nuclear bomb over Hiroshima - has died.

Theodore Van Kirk, the plane's navigator, died on Monday at his home in Stone Mountain, Georgia, aged 93.

His role was to guide the Boeing B-29 Superfortress to the spot over Japan where the US's first nuclear device, Little Boy, was dropped.

The blast killed 140,000 people and, together with the Nagasaki blast, which killed another 80,000, helped bring about a Japanese surrender.

In 2005, Mr Van Kirk, whose nickname was Dutch, was interviewed by the Associated Press and told them atomic bombs do not settle anything and he wanted the weapons banned.

The dropping of the bomb ushered in the Cold War era, a period of heightened tension between the West and the Soviet Union, during which both sides stocked up on huge nuclear arsenals.

While he might have disapproved of the after effects of the Hiroshima attack, he later told the Daily Mirror it had been the right thing to do.

When asked if he regretted being involved, he said: "No, sir, I do not.

"I have never apologised for what we did to Hiroshima and I never will. Our mission was to end the Second World War, simple as that.

"If we had not dropped that bomb, there is no way the Japanese would have surrendered. We would have had to invade the country and the death toll would have been truly unimaginable."

As well as killing tens of thousands, the Hiroshima attack left hundreds of thousands injured. Many were permanently disabled and later generations were said to have been affected by congenital illnesses or deformities.

In 2007, after co-operating with a documentary on the bombing called White Light/Black Rain, Mr Van Kirk met Hiroshima survivor Shigeko Sasamori, who had been 13 at the time of the attack.

At a preview of the film at which they met, the Japan Times said Mr Van Kirk continued to stand by his views that the bombing had been right.

Ms Sasamori, who was treated in the US for her major burn and later married in America, disagreed with him.

The Enola Gay was named after the mother of the pilot Paul W Tibbetts Junior.

Mr Van Kirk's son Tom said he and his siblings were very fortunate to have had such a wonderful father.

He told AP: "I know he was recognised as a war hero, but we just knew him as a great father."

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