131) Tsutomu Yamaguchi
Born: 16 March 1916, Japan
Died: 4 January 2010, Nagasaki, Japan
And surprisingly, he wasn’t the only one.
It’s believed around 260,000 people survived the blasts, and a small number, including Tsutomu, survived both.
At the time of the attack on Hiroshima, Tsutomu was finishing up a three-month long business trip to the city. He was a naval engineer working for Mitsubishi.
On the morning of the attack, Tsutomu was less than two miles from ground zero. When he awoke, his eardrums were ruptured, and his face and arms were burned. He quickly located two coworkers, and after a night in an air raid shelter, the three of them made their way to the train station, determined to go home.
And where was home, you may be asking? Oh, a little town, you’ve probably never heard of it. It’s called Nagasaki.
Once Tsutomu made it home, he went to the hospital to get bandaged up. His own family didn’t recognize him, and reportedly his mother accused him of being a ghost. However, the next morning, August 9th, Tsutomu dragged himself out of bed to go to work.
At around eleven AM, Tsutomu found himself in a meeting, his boss accusing him of being mad, that a single bomb couldn’t destroy an entire city. As his boss yelled, the sky suddenly turned bright white again, and the second bomb struck.
Tsutomu hit the ground right before the office windows blew out. Yet again, Tsutomu was within two miles of ground zero. His bandages were blown off and he was exposed to another round of radiation, but he survived.
His wife and son also survived.
The radiation quickly took effect, and Tsutomu lost all his hair, his wounds turned gangrenous, and he couldn’t stop throwing up. But again, he survived, and made a practically full recovery.
Tsutomu went on to act as a translator during the American occupation, a teacher, and even returned to be an engineer in later life. He and his wife would have two more children as well, both girls.
He didn’t talk about his experiences with the bombings until the 2000’s, where he began to work as an anti-nuclear weapons activist, even speaking before the UN about it.
It is believed around 165 people survived both atomic blasts, however, only Tsutomu achieved recognition from the Japanese government. He was given the title Nijyuu Hibakusha—or Twice Bombed Person.
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