Tsutomu Yamaguchi, the man who is known to have survived two nuclear bomb attacks, lived to tell the tale to the rest of the world
As the 72nd anniversary of the World War II bombing in Nagasaki gets observed in Japan, one man is remembered again for a feat that can only be ascribed to fate.
Tsutomu Yamaguchi was the only man in history known to have survived the two atomic bombings in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki that took place in a span of three days in August 1945 as the World War II was coming to an end.
Yamaguchi was the only survivor to be recognised by the Japanese government only in 2009, out of a total of estimated 165 survivors of both bombings (Pic Courtesy : Twitter)
August 6, 1945 was supposed to be Yamaguchi’s last day in the city of Hiroshima. Yamaguchi, then 29, was on a brief assignment for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as he was eagerly waiting to go back to his home and family.
Little did he know that his fate was to change forever, as on 8:15 am that day, a US B-29 Bomber launched the world’s first ever nuclear attack on Hiroshima and the sky burst into light like that “of a huge magnesium fare”.
On the day of the blast, Yamaguchi who was less than two miles from the explosion spot, had dived into a ditch to survive.
After the blast, he was severely burned, temporarily blinded and permanently left deaf in one ear. His family could not recognise him when he went home.
He later told The Times: "I didn't know what had happened. I think I fainted for a while. When I opened my eyes, everything was dark, and I couldn't see much. It was like the start of a film at the cinema, before the picture has begun when the blank frames are just flashing up without any sound."
Three days later, such was the twist of fate that Yamaguchi had reached his home in Nagasaki, and as he was discussing what had happened in Hiroshima three days back with his folks, the next bomb was dropped.
Yamaguchi along with his family survived the second bombing. He suffered from severe radiation poisoning that would last for years.
Immediately after the war, Yamaguchi worked as a translator for American forces in Nagasaki and later as junior high school teacher.
He told The Independent "After I die, I want the next generation of hibakusha (a survivor of either of the atomic explosions at Hiroshima or Nagasaki in 1945) and the children after that to know what happened to us."
Yamaguchi started talking publicly about the bomb blast only in 2000s, when he launched a memoir that became part of the anti-atomic weapons movement.
Yamaguchi later journeyed to the United Nations in New York in 2006 and told his tale at a nuclear disarmament meet. He said: “Having experienced atomic bombings twice, and survived, it is my destiny to talk about it.”
Yamaguchi lived until he was 93 years old and died of stomach cancer in 2010. He was the only survivor to be recognised by the Japanese government in 2009.
Certification as an atomic bomb survivor in Japan qualifies individuals for a government compensation, monthly allowances, free medical checkups and funeral costs.
He told the Mainichi newspaper in the last year of his life: "My double radiation exposure is now an official government record. It can tell the younger generation the horrifying history of the atomic bombings even after I die. I could have died on either of those two days. Everything that follows is a bonus."
Tsutomu Yamaguchi wasn’t the only person to endure two atomic blasts. His coworkers Akira Iwanaga and Kuniyoshi Sato were also in Nagasaki when the second bomb fell, as was Shigeyoshi Morimoto, a kite maker who had miraculously survived Hiroshima despite being only a half-mile from ground zero.All told, some 165 people may have experienced both attacks, yet Yamaguchi was the only person officially recognised by the Japanese government as a “nijyuu hibakusha,” or “twice-bombed person.”