Laid-Back History: The Man Who Survived Two Atomic Bombs

I thought we ought to start off this new series with a bang. What better way to do it than tell the story of the man who survived two atomic bombs? This is the story of probably one of the unluckiest men to ever live. Or maybe the luckiest.

On August 6, 1945, Tsutomu Yamaguchi arrived athe dockyards of Hiroshima, Japan. He worked for the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as a marine engineer and was in Hiroshima at the beckoning of his employer. In hindsight, it isn’t surprising that Hiroshima was a target.

The 29-year-old suspected nothing off about the day as he made his way to work. However, at 8:15 this all changed when Tsutomu spotted a lone B-29 flying above the city. Just as suddenly he saw what resembled “the lightning of a huge magnesium flare.” Instinctively, the engineer threw himself into a nearby ditch as the city around him was nearly annihilated by a not-so-little bomb called “Little Boy.”

Being around 2 miles away from the center of the blast, he survived but suffered horrific burns on his face and arms and a ruptured eardrum. Needless to say, the lucky engineer fell unconscious and awoke sometime later to find the city in complete ruin. He dragged himself from the ditch and managed to find several coworkers who had also survived. After sheltering for the night, the men discovered that somehow the nearby rail station was operational and chose to make their exit.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi would arrive in his home city of Nagasaki on the 8th. After going to the hospital, the bandaged Yamaguchi was nigh unrecognizable by his family. Like a mensch, the man proceeded to go back to work the next day. And like a mensch, he again survived as Nagasaki proceeded to be annihilated again. Occurring at around 11 am, Tsutomu had been trying to explain to his disbelieving boss what had occurred in Hiroshima when the explosion explained it for him.

After getting his bearings, the engineer made his way home to discover the fate of his wife and 5-month old son. Fortunately, a little of his luck was extended to his family as they both survived the bombs as well. Soon, however, the radiation of the bombs would take its toll on Tsutomu as he nearly died of radiation poisoning. However, he would inevitably seem to pull through.

He would later return to his work as an engineer. The burns would fade to the point that no one knew him to be a hibakusha (explosion-affected person) much less a double hibakusha. He would end up siring two more children and live out the rest of his life in relative obscurity, only opening up about the bombings in the early 2000s. Tsutomu Yamaguchi died in 2010 at the age of 93. Lucky.


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