RIP Tsutomu Yamaguchi
Tsutomu Yamaguchi died last week, at age 93.
Tsutomu Yamaguchi was a Japanese national who survived both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings during the Second World War. Although more than one hundred people are known to have been present in both cities when they were bombed, he is the only man to have been officially recognised by the government of Japan as surviving both explosions.
Yamaguchi lived and worked in Nagasaki, but in the summer of 1945 he went to Hiroshima on a business trip. On 6 August he was preparing to leave after three months in the city. At 8:15 he was making his way towards the docks when the American bomber Enola Gay dropped the Little Boy atomic bomb near the centre of the city, only 3 km away. The resulting explosion ruptured his eardrums, blinded him temporarily, and left him with serious burns over the left side of the top half of his body. Along with some colleagues he spent a night in an air-raid shelter before returning to Nagasaki the following day. In Nagasaki he received treatment for his wounds, and despite being heavily bandaged he reported for work on 9 August.
At 11 am on August 9, Yamaguchi was describing the blast in Hiroshima to his supervisor, when the American bomber Bocks Car dropped the Fat Man atomic bomb onto Nagasaki. His workplace again put him 3 km from ground zero, but this time he was unhurt by the explosion. However, he was unable to seek treatment for his now ruined bandages, and suffered from a high fever for over a week.
… At first Yamaguchi did not feel the need to draw attention to his double survivor status. However as he aged he felt that his survival was destiny and so in January 2009 he applied for double recognition. This was accepted by the Japanese government in March 2009, making Yamaguchi the only person officially recognised as a survivor of both bombings. Speaking about the recognition Yamaguchi said, “My double radiation exposure is now an official government record. It can tell the younger generation the horrifying history of the atomic bombings even after I die.”
Yamaguchi lost hearing in his left ear as a result of the Hiroshima explosion. He also went bald temporarily and his daughter recalls that he was constantly swathed in bandages until she reached the age of 12. Despite this Yamaguchi went on to lead a healthy life. However, late in his life he began to suffer from radiation-related ailments including cataracts and acute leukemia.
His wife was also poisoned by black rain after the Nagasaki explosion and died in 2008 (at 88) of kidney and liver cancer after a lifetime of illness. All three of his children reported that they suffered from health problems that they thought were inherited from their parents’ exposure.
In 2009, Yamaguchi learned that he was dying of stomach cancer. He died on 4 January 2010 in Nagasaki at the age of 93.
Entry filed under: Sublime.