Last crew member of Enola Gay dies
The last surviving member of the crew that dropped a catastrophic atomic bomb on Hiroshima once said he thought the bombing was necessary because it shortened the war and eliminated the need for an Allied land invasion that could have cost more lives on both sides.
But Theodore "Dutch" VanKirk also said it made him wary of war - and that he would like to see all of the world's atomic bombs abolished.
VanKirk died on Monday at the retirement home where he lived in Stone Mountain, Georgia, his son Tom VanKirk said. He was 93.
Theodore VanKirk (above) flew as navigator on the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945.
The bombing hastened the end of World War II. The blast and its aftereffects killed 140,000 in Hiroshima. Three days after Hiroshima, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. That blast and its aftermath claimed 80,000 lives. Six days after the Nagasaki bombing, Japan surrendered.
Whether the United States should have used the atomic bomb has been debated endlessly.
"I honestly believe the use of the atomic bomb saved lives in the long run," VanKirk told The Associated Press in a 2005 interview.
"There were a lot of lives saved. Most of the lives saved were Japanese," he said.