Van Kirk Friend: He had no regrets

UNDATED — Sunday will mark 69 years since the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, killing over 150,000 people in the final stages of World War II. This week, we have been remembering the last surviving member of the Enola Gay crew that dropped the bomb, Ted ‘Dutch’ Van Kirk. The Northumberland native died Monday at the age of 93.

Friend of Van Kirk, Korean War veteran Thomas Reimensnyder of Mifflinburg, says Van Kirk never regretted his part of the Enola Gay crew, “There was also somebody that would say something to the effect, ‘Don’t you feel guilty for all the innocent people who were killed?’ He would come back and describe that in the long run it saved lives because if we were going to invade Japan, they were going to lose many people and we were going to lose many people. That was his way of explaining it and he always did a beautiful job.”

Reimensnyder says Van Kirk has discussed what it was like to be in the plane that day, and also the experience after the bomb was dropped, “The tail gunner said, ‘Here it comes.’ They didn’t have any idea what he meant, but the whole plane shook like it was falling apart. Then he said, ‘Here comes another one.’ The plane shook again a second time. Those were the shockwaves and the crew really wasn’t trained to be prepared for that. I thought that was interesting that that was the sensations they had, and then they came right back to Tinian and took off from there.”

You can hear more of Reimensnyder’s memories of Van Kirk by downloading Thursday’s WKOK Sunrise program here.

A visitation is planned for Van Kirk Monday at Joseph Epler Funeral Home in Northumberland from 2-4p.m. and 6-8p.m. A funeral is 10:00a.m. Tuesday at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Northumberland.

A Boeing B-17 flyover will take place during the private graveside services are underway at the Riverview Cemetery in Northumberland. Then, from noon to 6:00p.m., the plane will be on display at the Sunbury Airport on Packer Island. (Sara Bartlett)

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