RIP: 'Dutch' Van Kirk, Last Surviving Member of the Enola Gay Crew

Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk, the last surviving member of the B-29 bomber Enola Gay which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, passed away in Stone Mountain, Georgia, on Monday, July 28.  “We were the Three Musketeers, Tom Ferebee, ‘Dutch’ Van Kirk, and I,” said pilot and mission commander Paul Tibbets.  Bombardier Ferebee died in 2000 and Tibbets in 2007.  The three had trained together in the United States then fought the Nazis in Europe and North Africa from their B-17E before becoming part of the top secret project.

Unlike Tibbets who stayed in the Air Force and rose to the rank of brigadier general, Van Kirk joined the thousands of veterans who took advantage of the GI Bill and earned degrees in Chemical Engineering.  He subsequently held a variety of technical and management positions during his 35 years at DuPont and, with Suzanne Simon Dietz as coauthor, wrote My True Course: Dutch van Kirk, Northumberland to Hiroshima, which was published in 2012.  In the book, his personal story was blended into the Enola Gay saga, adding unique insights into Tibbets, the atomic missions, and their aftermath.  The young airman, who enlisted before Pearl Harbor and seriously considered taking advantage of an official US program to switch to the Britain’s Royal Air Force, is followed through family correspondence, official records, and extensive interviews. 

In his last years Van Kirk frequently visited air shows and greatly enjoyed mingling with attendees and pilots.  Those he spoke with and who read his book found his memory and perceptions extremely valuable and, refreshingly, he always made clear whether he was speaking from direct personal knowledge or from something he had learned from other participants later or his own study.  He was not afraid to say “I don’t know.”  We are very fortunate  that his story was finally told.

D. M. Giangreco is author of How "Five Old Men" Started the Roll-Back of Hiroshima Revisionism

Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk, the last surviving member of the B-29 bomber Enola Gay which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, passed away in Stone Mountain, Georgia, on Monday, July 28.  “We were the Three Musketeers, Tom Ferebee, ‘Dutch’ Van Kirk, and I,” said pilot and mission commander Paul Tibbets.  Bombardier Ferebee died in 2000 and Tibbets in 2007.  The three had trained together in the United States then fought the Nazis in Europe and North Africa from their B-17E before becoming part of the top secret project.

Unlike Tibbets who stayed in the Air Force and rose to the rank of brigadier general, Van Kirk joined the thousands of veterans who took advantage of the GI Bill and earned degrees in Chemical Engineering.  He subsequently held a variety of technical and management positions during his 35 years at DuPont and, with Suzanne Simon Dietz as coauthor, wrote My True Course: Dutch van Kirk, Northumberland to Hiroshima, which was published in 2012.  In the book, his personal story was blended into the Enola Gay saga, adding unique insights into Tibbets, the atomic missions, and their aftermath.  The young airman, who enlisted before Pearl Harbor and seriously considered taking advantage of an official US program to switch to the Britain’s Royal Air Force, is followed through family correspondence, official records, and extensive interviews. 

In his last years Van Kirk frequently visited air shows and greatly enjoyed mingling with attendees and pilots.  Those he spoke with and who read his book found his memory and perceptions extremely valuable and, refreshingly, he always made clear whether he was speaking from direct personal knowledge or from something he had learned from other participants later or his own study.  He was not afraid to say “I don’t know.”  We are very fortunate  that his story was finally told.

D. M. Giangreco is author of How "Five Old Men" Started the Roll-Back of Hiroshima Revisionism

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