Thursday, August 7, 2014

Last Crew Member of the Enola Dies-- Part 2

At the time of that famous mission on August 6, 1945, Theodore VanKirk was 24 and was serving as the navigator on the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima in Japan.

He was teamed with pilot Paul Tibbets and bombardier Tom Ferebee in Tibbetts' fledgling 509th Composite Bomb Group for Special Mission No. 13.

The mission went perfectly according to VanKirk.  He guided the Enola Gay through the night sky, just 15 seconds behind schedule.  As the 9,000-pound bomb nicknamed "Little Boy" fell toward the sleeping city, he and the rest of the crew wondered if they would escape with their lives.

They did not know if the bomb would work, and, if it did, whether the shock waves from it would rip their plane to shreds.  They counted the seconds as they passed by.  They had been told the explosion would take place at 43 seconds, but nothing happened.

VanKirk recalled: "I think everybody in the plane figured it was a dud.  It seemed a lot longer than 43 seconds."

--GreGen

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