SNELLVILLE, Ga - The body of the last surviving crew member of the plane that dropped the atomic bomb over Hiroshima was laid to rest.
Draped in an American flag,93-year-old Dutch Van Kirk's body started the journey home. His daughter was by his side as motorcycle officers led the way to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for what would be his final flight to be buried next to his wife in Pennsylvania.
Van Kirk, 93, lived in Gwinnett County. He died in his home Monday.
Channel 2’s Erin Coleman sat down with one of his good friends who said the nation lost a great American.
“I know we fought a good war, World War II,” James Starnes said. “He was one of many people who was willing to give everything to save our freedom.”
Kirk, who everyone called Dutch, was the navigator on the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Japan effectively ending World War II.
“I told him, I said, ‘Dutch, I understand you were 12 seconds late, that’s not a good navigator you know?’ And he said, ‘I made a little mistake and it worked.’”
Starnes and Kirk lived in the same Stone Mountain community. Starnes has his own place in history. He was the officer on deck of the USS Missouri and greeted Japanese leaders as they officially surrendered.
“We both thought it was very unusual that two people, through no choice of our own really, happen to be at a very historical place in history and we happen to live together,” Starnes said.
Nearly 69 years later, Starnes said it was a fitting send-off for an American hero and friend.
“He should be remembered as a great person, great warrior, great American,” Starnes said. “We’ll miss him.”