HomeNewsArticle Display

Theodore Van Kirk, Enola Gay navigator, passes away

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- The navigator on the famous B-29 Superfortress that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II, died July 28 in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

Van Kirk was 93.

"Whiteman (Air Force Base) and the nation have lost a great patriot," said Brig. Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, the 509th Bomb Wing commander. "Maj. Theodore Van Kirk was a vital member of a historic unit, the unit from which the 509th Bomb Wing was born, and his contributions to American military history and to Allied victory in World War II will forever be remembered."

A veteran of 58 World War II combat missions, Van Kirk was selected to be a member of the 509th Composite Group by Col. Paul Tibbets, the commander of the 509th CG. The group was the predecessor to the 509th Bomb Wing, which is stationed here.

Before the mission over Japan, Tibbets told Van Kirk the group had been chosen for a top-secret bombing mission that might end the war.

On Aug. 6, 1945, the Enola Gay, crewed by Van Kirk, Tibbets and 10 others, dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima; Van Kirk, a captain at the time, was only 24 years old. His skill and professionalism ensured the Enola Gay arrived at the drop point a mere 15 seconds after the initially planned time, quite the accomplishment given technological and logistical limitations during World War II.

Van Kirk completed his military service in August 1946 with the rank of major. His decorations include the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross and 15 Air Medals.

(Information courtesy of 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs)

Engage

Facebook Twitter
RT @ArmedwScience: #EllsworthAFB is looking for more innovative ways to expand the lifespan of its aircraft. Engineers are using a new deve…
RT @DeptofDefense: .@usairforce loadmasters perform a combat cargo offload qualification as a part of exercise #ThracianFall19 at Cheshnegi…
RT @AirmanMagazine: .@GenDaveGoldfein explains the @usairforce's way-ahead in advanced battle management: Multi-Domain Command and Control.…
Houston -- we are landing October 15 - 17. Cant wait to see what you have to show us! @AggieNetworkhttps://t.co/f3fDo0ntAZ
.@GenDaveGoldfein shares how success in “the future fight” relies on three key components. Find out what they are h… https://t.co/4Hhp3lW1pV
RT @DeptofDefense: “Without us, you live in the dark!” Electricity keeps the mission going at @RAFMildenhall, England. Meet one of the air…
RT @AFSpace: @AirWarCollege faculty members met w/ @US_SpaceCom & AFSPC senior leaders last week. The faculty learned about the challenges…
KC-135 Stratotankers provide the Air Force with global strike & rapid mobility. Like any of our assets we train &… https://t.co/zjATXCfQlN
RT @AF_Falcons: Maybe it will snow in February for the game... Colorado: no need to wait https://t.co/vq7KPsiITx
Cyber security is everyone's responsibility. First step, #BeCyberSmart. https://t.co/mVZr4nJoJK
“There have been some great Airmen, both military and civilian, at Tyndall AFB before, during and after the storm.… https://t.co/EiEga9ur0N
RT @AFSpecOpsCmd: Our community is deeply saddened by the passing of one of our own, TSgt Peter Kraines, a Special Tactics Pararescueman. O…
RT @PACAF: #Airmen with the 31st and 33rd Rescue Squadrons: saving lives is what they do. @KadenaAirBase #Pararescue #HH60 #Readiness #A
RT @HQUSAFEPA: Not our typical #wingman. A butterfly lands on a 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief at #Aviano Air Base, Italy 🦋…
Hey Atlanta, Georgia! #AmericasAirForce will be in your hometown this weekend. Join us for the @AtlantaAirShow, be… https://t.co/oW2L7QoGT3
RT @ncaawrestling: .@AF_Wrestle is building something special and putting in the work on The Terrazzo #LetsFly https://t.co/N4GDrg6uF9 📸:…
RT @AF_SBIR_STTR: The Air Force tech accelerator AFWERX is dangling the prospect of an extra injection of capital for commercial startup fi…
RT @AETCommand: It's Week 2 of #NCSAM2019 and here are a few practices you can implement to defend your family and #becybersmart: verify an…
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: This past weekend our @AFThunderbirds and @rafredarrows put on an amazing show at the #PacificAirShow. I'm sure ACM Mi…