Last Crew Member of Enola Gay Dies in Georgia

As this site begins to retell the story of WWII – A part of history passes….

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on July 30, 2014, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 46 Comments.

  1. A significant part of history, the last of a living legend.
    Reminds me of the Dam Busters story.
    Regards
    Ian aka Emu

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  2. I have read this in the news. May he rest in peace, and so may all those who were killed or died from the radiation. History is in the past; our future doesn’t look good right now.

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  3. Thanks for sharing. Always interesting and informative,

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  4. My dad, Dennis Wilson, heard the news about Hiroshima when he was outdoors training with his unit. They had been told they would be sent to invade Japan.

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  5. Rest in peace, Mr.VanKirk. Who knows how many lives were saved by the work of you and your colleagues? Perhaps even my own father, who was in the British RAF, and who, in the summer of 1945, was given the tropical disease injections he would need for war against Japan.

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    • John, I see you have a very large reason for thanking Mr. VanKirk and the Enola Gay crew. I as well. My father was on Okinawa awaiting the start of the invasion; and there are so many more of us. That is why I feel it necessary to constantly tell people to Remember!

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  6. Few of those heros wished to speak of their service. Seems it was a very private matter that perhaps made a real void in their life as well. So many killed with those two bombs. Thanks for sharing.

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    • Since they were never told exactly what type of bomb they were dropping, the images they witnessed had to be overwhelming. How could anyone relate to any story they told? They were a well-trained and loyal group of men who followed their orders. Thanks for stopping in, Bev.

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  7. Wow, he lived a good, long life. RiP.

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  8. What a personal history. I’ll have nothing so meritorious written on my tombstone.

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  9. I can’t even begin to imagine the weight on this man’s shoulders. What his dreams must have been like. The horror of what the bomb did, contrasted with lives of the Ally’s fighting men that were saved by not having to jump from island to island to end the war. RIP, old timer.

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    • That’s how my father felt after he met a bunch of them. The entire squadron wanted 11th A/B patches to wear over their own when they went into Japan – they felt awful about it!

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      • Wow, to ask for 11AB patches to cover up their squadron patches! Poor guys. Such a thing to carry with you the rest of your life.

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        • They had no way to be prepared for what they saw. They didn’t know what kind of bomb they were carrying and since only a few people ever saw one explode – how would you describe it? They went up and did their job – good men.

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  10. I have seen Major Van Kirk interviewed on several occasions on the Military Channel; may he rest in peace. General MacArthur once argued that the bomb was not necessary in Japan; they were beaten at it was only a matter of time before they sued for peace, which MacArthur believed they would do before an allied invasion. That said, as we have seen in terms of nuclear weapons development, had the US not done so, then the Soviets most assuredly would have done so quite independently and we might conclude that the cold war may have ended much differently. I also believe it is only a matter of time before weapons of mass destruction are used again … by radical agents of a resurrected Mahdi.

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    • WMDs have been a threat for a long time now. It was estimated back in the ’50s and ’60s just how much it would cost the human race as a whole if anyone started a nuclear war. If germ warfare is part of it – viruses, bacteria & diseases mutate in their attempts to survive – you might as well tell everyone on the planet to drink the Kool-Aid….

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  11. The Time post said “Whether the United States should have used the atomic bomb has been debated endlessly.” That debate will never end. I have often wondered, though, how many of those who have argued the most vociferously against it use were either born after the war and had fathers who might have been killed in an attack on Japan or who were utterly ignorant of the war.

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    • Good question!! That’s the trouble with trying to evaluate a situation in our times & thru our eyes – things are so very different between the eras. Some people need to digest what you said before they try to judge.

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    • I certainly do think about what would have happened if the Allies were forced to invade. I did wish to write about it but find myself strapped for time. Nevertheless, messages intercepted and deciphered by the USN and US Army clearly disclosed Japan was near collapse. These deciphers even disclosed how each Japanese coal ship sunk by the Allies negatively affected smelting production. Indeed, Japanese war materiel production was nearing a hopeless situation. The deciphers also disclosed the starvation being endured by the civilians and how even twelve year old school children were put to work for the war effort. FDR and then Truman were fully reported to on the Japanese situation. I won’t bring up the question of the atomic bombs as each person interested in this bit of history will have their own opinions based on a number of situations as you mention. 🙂

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      • I have trouble remarking on the bomb so many years after the fact – we’re looking at the effects of it with 2014 eyes. (Personally, I’m thrilled my father didn’t have to go in as scheduled!) There was only a short time, after Japan changed her codes that we wee unable to decipher the messages, yes we basically knew every step she was taking. But, it was very surprising just how much was stored underground in Japan – basically small cities worth of fuel and food stashed out of view of the Allies and her own people. It’s always great to have these discussions with you!

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        • And you’ve heard about the Matsushiro Underground bunkers in Nagano? It was started in November 1944 and was to serve as their “Pentagon” in the waning days of the war. Later, a decision was made to accommodate the Emperor but he refused. There was an English documentary about it but the source eludes me.

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          • I did not know about the English documentary – accommodate the Emperor – how? But, there was an episode of Underground Cities that showed the complex bunker beneath Hiroshima and the people inside witness the A-bomb blast and survived. Nagano, I may have to look up and refresh my memory or just plain learn about. The 11th Airborne had to clean out quite a few tunnel complexes during their occupation.

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  12. gp, Indeed, an historic moment with the passing of one of our greatest from WWII, Theodore “Dutch” VanKirk, Phil

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  13. A part of history determined by courage that was followed by atomic weapons control, may he rest in peace

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  14. The aircraft are widely known, the crew however are not. They changed the course of history and whilst it could be argued that if it were not them then someone else, but it was them and they should be remembers for that. Pioneers of the sky and history. May they all rest together once more but this time in peace.

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    • Thank you for you comment. My father met quite a few from the squadron and he felt very sorry for them – the images they would carry with them throughout their lives.

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  15. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

    I read the Enola Gay book; I couldn’t put it down!

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  16. Such an immense responsibility at 24. May he rest peacefully.

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  17. We look back on nuclear weapons through the lens of the cold war; and we rightly oppose them – my country, New Zealand, led the way here. The irony remains that the original use of these devices in 1945 was intended to save lives – and almost certainly did. Allied planners, preparing for the invasion of Japan scheduled for 1945-46 – Operations Olympic and Coronet – calculated that 1 million Allied casualties were likely, on the basis of the Okinawa experience. That was quite apart from Japanese casualties, including civilians.

    At the time, nobody knew that nuclear weapons would become the pivot of a new ‘cold’ war. And yet there was a chance that the use of them might avert the war carrying on into 1946-47, paradoxically saving lives. The gamble worked; but it was still the classic ‘rock and a hard place’ calculation, underscoring the point that war carries a human cost irrespective of which way events play out. In that sense, nobody wins.

    The very last conventional shots fired against the Japanese mainland – ending a naval bombardment against Kamaishi on 9 August 1945 – were fired by the New Zealand cruiser Gambia. And our ship was targeted by the very last Japanese attack of the war, a kamikaze that plunged towards her a few minutes AFTER the surrender a few days later. My brother-in-law, the RNZN’s official artist, did a painting of the moment, a few years ago.

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    • Thank you very much for this information, Matthew. The rest of the world knows very little about all the contributions your country has made and hopefully your book will change that! I know I’m trying in my own way, unfortunately – smaller scale. So, all the help you give is quite appreciated!

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  18. I heard this on the news but it was good to read the Times article. Thank you.

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    • I hadn’t realized any of the crew were still with us, so I learned something too when I first got up this morning. Thank you for reading, Gallivanta.

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  19. I hope he rests well, tis well deserved

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  1. Pingback: Last Crew Member of Enola Gay Dies in Georgia | theconservativehillbilly

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