In a Nutshell
Back in August of 1945, engineer Tsutomu Yamaguchi fell victim to two atomic attacks within the space of just four days. United States’ B-29 bombers whizzed over both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, dropping 22-kiloton plutonium bombs in the process. Miraculously, Yamaguchi survived both of them and was able to reveal his frightening World War 2 experiences.
The Whole Bushel
It’s extremely unfortunate to be caught up in one atomic attack, let alone two, which is why it’s amazing how Tsutomu Yamaguchi lived to tell the tale. At the time, Yamaguchi was a 29-year-old naval engineer, working away from home manufacturing a new oil tanker for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. But, on the morning of August 6, 1945, he witnessed an overhead B-29 bomber eject a tiny object.
He soon realized it was a deadly weapon when white light burst open into the sky, and the bellowing sound from the explosion erupted. Luckily, Yamaguchi was able to throw himself into a nearby ditch, but the shockwaves still hurled him into the air, and slung him into a field of potatoes. After regaining consciousness, he discovered a huge mushroom cloud above Hiroshima, as well as severe burns to his face and forearms.
After spending a night in an air raid shelter with two colleagues on August 7, he made an eventful journey to a local train station. Throughout the journey, Yamaguchi observed burning buildings, destroyed bridges, and scores of corpses in the roads. Eventually, he managed to board the train back to Nagasaki and was accompanied by a plethora of burnt passengers.
Upon return to his wife and child, it emerged that the bomb, which was labeled as ‘Little Boy’, obliterated roughly 80,000 people on impact, and plenty more in the aftermath. Shortly after, President Harry Truman, insinuated that if Japan didn’t surrender, they should expect further atomic attacks.
Of course, Japan didn’t surrender. So, as he arrived for work on August 9 at Mitsubishi’s Nagasaki office, while burnt and bandaged up, another flash of light and another deafening boom emerged. It was later reported that Yamaguchi thought the mushroom cloud had followed him from Hiroshima. But, it hadn’t, and the ‘Little Man’ which landed on Nagasaki was much stronger and toxic.
Now, although he survived both colossal nuclear explosions, the radiation which was emitted started to have an impact. His hair started to fall out, the wounds transitioned into gangrene, and he was vomiting unceasingly. However, he made a full recovery, enjoyed a fruitful career, and had two more children with his wife.
Yamaguchi didn’t start publicly speaking about the events until the 2000s, as he joined the anti-atomic weapons force to try and ensure it never happens again. In his speech in New York back in 2006, he stated, “Having experienced atomic bombings twice and survived, it is my destiny to talk about it.”
Despite Tsutomu Yamaguchi being the only recognized ‘nijyuu hibakusha’, which translates as ‘twice-bombed person’, there were actually 165 survivors of both attacks. Moreover, in 2009 he received the distinction, but just a year later at the age of 93, he sadly passed away.