View Full Version : Tsutomu Yamaguchi dies aged 93

Paul Pless
01-06-2010, 05:11 PM
He was an impassioned and articulate man, a respected teacher, beloved father and grandfather — but none of these explain the unique distinction of Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who has died in Nagasaki aged 93.
He was the victim of a fate so callous that it almost raises a smile: he was one of a small number of people to fall victim to both of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan.
On August 6, 1945, he was about to leave the city of Hiroshima, where he had been working, when the first bomb exploded, killing 140,000 people. Injured and reeling from the horrors around him, he fled to his home — Nagasaki, 180 miles to the west. There, on August 9, the second atomic bomb exploded over his head.
A few dozen others were in a similar position, but none expressed the experience with as much emotion and fervour. Towards the end of his life, Mr Yamaguchi received another distinction — the only man to be officially registered as a hibakusha, atomic bomb victim, in both cities.
“I think it is a miracle,” he told The Times on the 60th anniversary of the bombings in 2005. “But having been granted this miracle it is my responsibility to pass on the truth to the people of the world. For the past 60 years survivors have declared the horror of the atomic bomb, but I can see hardly any improvement in the situation.”
In the summer of 1945 he was 29 and working as a draughtsman designing oil tankers for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. His three-month secondment to a shipyard in Hiroshima was due to end on the morning of August 6, when the American B29 bomber Enola Gay dropped a 13-kilotonne uranium atomic bomb, nicknamed Little Boy. It exploded above Hiroshima at 8.15am.
“I didn’t know what had happened,” Mr Yamaguchi said. “I think I fainted. 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. I thought I might have died but eventually the darkness cleared and I realised I was alive.”
He and two colleagues staggered through the ruins where the dead and dying lay all around. At one collapsed bridge the three had to wade through a river, parting before them a floating carpet of corpses. They reached the station and boarded the train for Nagasaki. Reporting to work at the shipyard on August 9, his story of a single bomb destroying an entire city was met with incredulity.
“The director was angry. He said ‘you’ve obviously been badly injured, and I think you’ve gone a little mad’. At that moment, outside the window, I saw another flash and the whole office, everything in it, was blown over.” The next thing he remembered was waking to hear crying and cheering at the broadcast by Emperor Hirohito announcing Japan’s surrender.
A postwar career as a teacher and a long retirement followed, and Mr Yamaguchi rarely spoke publicly of his experiences. He began to do so only in 2005 after the death from cancer of his middle-aged son, Katsutoshi, which his father blamed on his exposure to radiation as an infant. “The son of 59 died, leaving the father of 89 behind,” he said. “He was still a baby to me. The death of my son takes away my will to live.”
Like most hibakusha, Mr Yamaguchi’s hatred of the bomb never expressed itself in anti-Americanism. One of his last visitors, James Cameron, is considering making a film about the bombs.

Ian McColgin
01-06-2010, 05:27 PM
What a horrific experience. What a remarkable man.

Ross M
01-06-2010, 06:37 PM
Amazing story. Thanks for posting it.


01-06-2010, 06:46 PM
What are the odds of him surviving both? It seems he was no different from you or I. I wonder how many others caught up in that calamity were like you and I?

01-06-2010, 07:49 PM
Reminds me of the saying "Mayor of Hiroshima" :D

01-06-2010, 08:40 PM
I heard it on the radio, amazing.

01-06-2010, 10:38 PM
“The son of 59 died, leaving the father of 89 behind,” he said. “He was still a baby to me. ....”
I am just beginning to understand this concept.

Remarkable story.

01-06-2010, 11:56 PM
He was severly burned in the explosions.

Why did he live a to a ripe old age? very confusing and against what we have been taught.

I knew a couple of Russians that lived through Chernobyl. They said they drank lots of red wine that day. Who knows.

01-07-2010, 05:33 PM
You could ask Paladin about Chernobyl...he spent some time there.

Flying Orca
01-07-2010, 06:31 PM
Now why doesn't that surprise me. Never mind Chuck Norris, Paladin's the man.