11 September 2022

The Man Who Survived Two Atomic Bombs

Tsutomu Yamaguchi was, depending on your point of view either the luckiest man on Planet Earth or exactly the opposite. Either way, what happened to him in the August of 1945 is nothing short of amazing – and his survival miraculous.

Yamaguchi was a resident of Nagasaki but on the fateful day of 6 August 1945 he was in Hiroshima, on business for his employer, Mitsubishi. He was badly wounded when the bomb carried by Enola Gay exploded above Hiroshima but survived and returned to Nagasaki the next day.

Amazingly, he returned to work on August 9 – most of us in this day and age will take a day off work if we have a nosebleed, let alone get blown up by an atomic bomb. He was explaining the first bomb to his supervisor when Bocks Car flew over Nagasaki. The Fat Man atomic bomb was dropped on to the city and Tamaguchi became the victim of a second atomic blast. He was three kilometers away from Ground Zero but was not able to get treatment for the injuries he had received in Hiroshima – for obvious reasons.

He was recognised as a hibakashu (one of those affected by the explosions) but only of the Nagasaki bomb – he kept his remarkable story to himself for many years. The Japanese government finally recognised his presence in both cities in 2009. He died of stomach cancer in January 2010.

We may not have heard the last of Tsutomu Yamaguchi. Several months before his death he met the film director James Cameron (of Titanic and Avatar fame). It seems that the director is keen to shoot Yamaguchi’s story – and it certainly does deserve more exposure. Let’s just hope that Celine Dion doesn’t sing the theme music.