Tsutomu Yamaguchi: Survivor of two Atomic Bombs

Atomic Cloud over Nagasaki. (Credits: Wikimedia Commons)

Atomic Cloud over Nagasaki. (Credits: Wikimedia Commons)

On August 9, 1945 a Boeing B-29 Superfortress nicknamed “Bockscar”, piloted by Major Charles Sweeney, took off from Tinian’s North Field just before dawn around, carrying a plutonium bomb nicknamed “Fat Man”. Its initial target being the Japanese town of Kokura but after reaching the city, both pilots of the B-29 “Big Stink” – which accompanied the Bockscar as a camera plane to photograph the explosion and its effects – and “Bockscar” made the decision to fly its secondary target, Nagasaki because of fuel shortage and bad visual.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi was born on March 16, 1916 and a local resident of the Japanese city Nagasaki. It was 6 August 1945, Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on a business trip for his employer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, where he worked as an oil tanker designer. Yamaguchi and two other colleagues planned to leave the city after finishing their business trip however, around 0815 hours, when all of a sudden the B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay“, flown by Colonel Paul Tibbets, dropped the first atomic bomb code-named “Little Boy” on the Japanese city. An estimated of 80,000 people were killed by the blast and following firestorm. By the end of December, 1945, injury and radiation brought the total number of deaths to 120,000–150,000. Tsutomu Yamaguchi survived the bombing but suffered burns to his upper body and became deaf in his left ear, spending the night in Hiroshima in an air-raid shelter. 

Tsutomu Yamaguchi in 2009 (Credits: Justin McCurry via Wikipedia)

Tsutomu Yamaguchi in 2009 (Credits: Justin McCurry via Wikipedia)

Despite his injuries, Yamaguchi returned the next day to Nagasaki – about 180-190 miles southwest from Hiroshima – and decided to report back for work. Returning to work on August 9, Yamaguchi was describing what he witnessed in Hiroshima to his boss, questioning him how a single bomb could destroy a whole city like Hiroshima. When at 1101 hours, the B-29 Bockscar dropped the second and last atomic bomb code-named “Fat Man”. An estimated total of 75,000 people died from the blast and its later effects. Yamaguchi was unhurt by the explosion.

He would survive the war and was officially recognized by the government of Japan as the only person to have survived both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs. Yamaguchi would die of stomach cancer on January 4, 2010 at the age of 93! While his son died much earlier at the age of 59 because of cancer. His wife died in 2010 also as a result of cancer.


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Argunners Magazine is an independent online historian and collector's magazine, dedicated to the militaria and history of both Axis and Allied powers during the World War 1 & 2. Argunners is a central resource offering the latest militaria and war history news, journals, articles and press releases related to these themes.

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