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Man hit by two atomic bomb blasts and lived to tell the tale

Man hit by two atomic bomb blasts and lived to tell the tale

Tsutomu Yamaguchi went on to live a long life after the blasts killed thousands of people

Thousands of people lost their lives when two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945, but Tsutomu Yamaguchi was not one of them.

Yamaguchi was 29 years old when he was hit by the blast of the first bomb, which struck in Hiroshima on 6 August. He had been walking to work in the city on the last day of a business trip there, and was set to travel home to his wife and son the following day.

Yamaguchi was approaching the yard for his employer, Mitsubishi, when the American plane dropped the bomb over the city.

According to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the uranium bomb had an explosive yield equal to 15,000 tonnes of TNT, and burned approximately 70 percent of buildings in the city, including 42 out of 45 hospitals which were left unable to function.

Among the thousands hurt or injured were 90 percent of Hiroshima's physicians and nurses, meaning even those who survived the bombing were hindered in their ability to get care.

Yamaguchi actually witnessed the small object floating down from the plane, and had just enough time to jump into a ditch as the ear-splitting noise of the explosion pierced the air.

He was thrown backwards as a result of the blast, with his ears left ringing and his eyes struggling to adjust. He had been less than two miles from where the bomb hit and was left with bad burns, but he was able to get up.

Yamaguchi was due to travel home the day after the first bomb.
Newscom / Alamy Stock Photo

“I didn’t know what had happened,” he later told the The Times. “I think I fainted for a while. 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 without any sound."

Yamaguchi headed in the direction of the Mitsubishi factory, but the building was gone. He managed to find two colleagues who had survived and spent the night in a makeshift shelter while fires burned around them.

Somehow, the city's train station remained operational, so Yamaguchi quickly headed for the station and was able to board his train home - to Nagasaki.

Once he arrived on 8 August, he went to the hospital and realised the extent of his injuries, which included severe burns and symptoms of mild nuclear poisoning.

Just one day later, Yamaguchi was summoned by Mitsubishi to explain what he had seen in Hiroshima. It was while he was there that a slightly larger plutonium bomb exploded over Nagasaki.

Hiroshima was completely destroyed in the blast.
Glasshouse Images / Alamy Stock Photo

It was the re-enforced concrete walls around him that saved him that time, and Yamaguchi quickly ran to find his wife and son. Ground temperatures in the city reached 4,000°C and radioactive rain poured down, ICAN reports.

The family's home was destroyed, but Yamaguchi's wife and son had thankfully been out shopping - looking for burn ointment for Yamaguchi - when the bomb fell, and they'd survived.

The intense radiation Yamaguchi had experienced took its toll and made him extremely sick, but over time he kept fighting and gradually recovered.

He went on to have a career in teaching before returning to Mitsubishi, but it wasn't until the early 2000s when he publicly spoke out about his ordeal in a memoir about surviving the two bombs.

Just a few years later, in 2010, Yamaguchi died at the age of 93 after being officially recognised by the Japanese government as a 'nijyuu hibakusha', or 'twice-bombed person'.

Featured Image Credit: Justin Mccurry / Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: World News, Health