CHANTILLY, VA - It is a warm Sunday afternoon, tourists wander in and out of the Smithsonian Institution Air and Space Museum. As they enter the Udvar-Hazy Center, one of the first things they see is a table with stacks of books almost hiding the man and woman signing them.
Behind those stacks and the captivating story within the pages, are Dutch Van Kirk and Suzanne Simon Dietz. Dietz is a WNY author and the the Porter Town Historian. Van Kirk is a proud member of the "greatest generation". Van Kirk is also the surviving member of the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
The book, "My True Course: Dutch Van Kirk Northumberland to Hiroshima" tells Van Kirk's life story. Van Kirk provided the anecdotes, Dietz provided the writing. You may be asking how these two characters fit together. How does the historian in the Niagara County town of Porter come to write the life story of this man, who changed history? Where is the Western New York connection?
After the war, Dutch left the military and aviation, heading to Bucknell University to pursue a chemical engineering degree. After graduation, Dutch took a job with Dupont, and wound up living for several years in the Love Canal section of Niagara Falls. He spoke to many community groups about the mission and the war, even addressing the audience at the Buffalo premier of the film "Above and Beyond" which told the story of the events and people that led up to the bombing of Hiroshima.
As they say, there's always a WNY connection.