Last crew member who dropped atomic bomb on Hiroshima dies

The last member of the crew who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan passed away.

On Monday, Theodore "Dutch" Van Kirk died of natural causes at a retirement community near Atlanta. He was 93 years old.

Van Kirk was was the navigator of the Enola Gay, a B-29 superfortress that unloaded the first atomic bomb in war.

Next week marks 69 years since the nuclear attack on Hiroshima. The blast on August 6, 1945 killed about 140,000 people, but helped bring an end to World War II.

Van Kirk told WXIA in 2010 that he had no regrets about his role in the day that changed history.

"You have to understand the Japan we fought was significantly different from the Japan in later years. I don't know how they did it," said Van Kirk.

The atomic bomb Van Kirk and his crew dropped over Hiroshima was made in East Tennessee at the Y-12 National Security Complex. The Oak Ridge facility opened more than 70 years ago in 1943.

The first workers at the complex separated the uranium needed to drop the first bomb, known as "Little Boy."

"I didn't have any idea what was going on," a former Y-12 chemist Bill Wilcox told WBIR in February. "At Y-12, the dirty stuff came in the door of the lab I worked in, and we made it clean going out."

But that changed once the first bomb dropped.

"My boss' secretary came rushing across the hall and said, 'They've dropped an atomic bomb on Japan,' and all of a sudden it came across that's what we were doing," said Wilcox.

Three days later, the U.S. dropped a second atomic bomb, known as "Big Boy," on Nagasaki, bringing an end to the war.

"End of the war that we had worked so hard for and prayed so long for, finally over," said Wilcox. "A war that had killed 54 million people, killed by other human beings - 54 million."

Contributing: WXIA


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