Tsutomu Yamaguchi

Tsutomu Yamaguchi who died on Monday was the only officially recognized survivor of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  He was 93.  There were an estimated 165 nijyuu hibakusha twice bombed persons but none of the others were recognized.

According to his obituary in the New York Times,

Mr. Yamaguchi, as a 29-year-old engineer for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, was on a business trip in Hiroshima when the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945. He was getting off a streetcar when the “Little Boy” device detonated above Hiroshima.

Mr. Yamaguchi said he was less than 2 miles away from ground zero. His eardrums were ruptured and his upper torso was burned by the blast, which destroyed most of the city’s buildings and killed 80,000 people.

Mr. Yamaguchi spent the night in a Hiroshima bomb shelter and returned to his hometown of Nagasaki the following day, according to interviews he gave over the years. The second bomb, known as “Fat Man,” was dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, killing 70,000 people there.

Mr. Yamaguchi was in his Nagasaki office, telling his boss about the Hiroshima blast, when “suddenly the same white light filled the room,” he said in an interview last March with The Independent newspaper.

“I could have died on either of those days,” Mr. Yamaguchi said in an August interview with the Mainichi Daily News. “Everything that follows is a bonus.”

This picture is from NPR.

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In his later years, Mr. Yamaguchi began to speak out about the scourge of atomic weapons. He rarely gave interviews, but he wrote a memoir and was part of a 2006 documentary film about the double-bombing victims. He called for the abolition of nuclear weapons at a showing of the film at the United Nations that year.

At a lecture he gave in Nagasaki last June, Mr. Yamaguchi said he had written to President Obama about banning nuclear arms.

If Mr. Yamaguchi view his life after the bombings as a bonus, he spent his bonus well.

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