We’re all familiar with the adage — a cat has nine lives. Well, Tsutomu Yamaguchi definitely had more than one!
Yamaguchi was visiting his employer at Mitsubishi Industries in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. It should have been his last day in town as he and his colleagues completed the oil tank project they were busy with. Early that morning, as the sun was rising, an American B-29 bomber struck the city and dropped a small object. This was the Little Boy, a uranium-type bomb that created a magnesium-like fire the second it touched the ground. What followed was utter destruction. The smoke of the impact damaged the sunlight and the explosion nearly destroyed all human life in Hiroshima.
According to Yamaguchi, when he opened his eyes, everything was black, and he could barely make out any shapes in the dark. About 2 kilometers from the landing site, Yamaguchi received direct radiation exposure and also suffered burns on his body.
After a night’s rest, Yamaguchi began his journey to his hometown of Nagasaki, where his wife and son were waiting. Little did he know that he would face another atomic bomb in Nagasaki.
While explaining his ordeal at the Mitsubishi office in Nagasaki to his superior, on August 9, 1945, an even more powerful plutonium bomb known as the Fat Man was dropped on the city. Strangely, his wife and child also survived the bombing with him. However, double radiation exposure damaged his health and he collapsed just a few days later. Yamaguchi gradually recovered and continued living a normal life.
Yamaguchi wouldn’t talk about what happened most of his life. He only spoke about it in the 2000s where he wrote and talked about the elimination of nuclear weapons before the United Nations. In 2010, before his death, the Japanese government officially recognized him and declared him as “Nijyuu Hibakusha”, or the “twice bombed person”.