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The man who survived two atomic bombs

Actualizado: 7 jun

After three months in Horishima for work reasons, Mitsubishi employee Tsutomu Yamaguchi was finally returning to his family in Nagasaki.

It was August 6, 1945 and the 29-year-old had separated from his companions when he remembered that he did not have his identity card and had to return to find it. While he was walking, he saw in the sky how an American B-29 plane dropped an object hanging from a parachute. In the distance it didn't seem very big, however I didn't know what had happened, 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.

When he regained consciousness he had severe burns on his arms and face. Also, he could only hear a beep. His eardrums had burst.

That was the first of two atomic bombs that the US military dropped on Japan. However, Tsutomu Yamaguchi could not know this and with great difficulty he was able to reach an air shelter where he spent the night. Even though the city had been razed to the ground and corpses were piling up in the streets, the train kept running and he was miraculously able to return to his house. The return trip, among injured passengers, was a nightmare. An estimated 80,000 people died initially, but subsequent radiation caused many more victims.

However, Japan did not surrender. The then president of the United States, Harry S. Truman, threatened a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.

On August 9, in a gesture that is difficult for us to understand, Tsutomu Yamaguchi got out of bed (despite his burns) and went to work. In what seems like a cruel irony, the second bomb fell at the same moment that he was telling his boss about the experience of the first bomb. I thought the mushroom cloud had followed me from Hiroshima, he declared.

Again, he had survived an atomic bomb, and not only that, he would also survive many more years of radiation that caused so many problems for his family and himself. Tsutomu Yamaguchi died in 2010 at the age of 93.

It is extraordinary for us today but it took Tsutomu Yamaguchi 50 years to talk about the horror that he suffered. Japanese society is quite peculiar in this regard and proof of that is that there were about 170 people in a similar situation but Yamagochi is the only one that the Japanese government has officially recognized as "niju hibakusha" or "twice survived".

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