Tsutomu 'Lucky' Yamaguchi: The Man Who Survived Both Atomic Bombs

Hiroshima - the aftermath of the atomic bomb blast
The Devastation Following the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima

Tsutomu ‘Lucky’ Yamaguchi was the man who survived both atomic bombs, first at Hiroshima and then at Nagasaki. He remains the only human being to have survived the detonation of two nuclear weapons.

Yamaguchi lived in Nagasaki and worked as a naval engineer for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, but he was on assignment in Hiroshima when the city was bombed at 8:15 am, on August 6th, 1945.

When the Enola Gay, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, dropped the bomb first A-Bomb, ‘Little Boy’, Yamaguchi was less than two miles away from ground zero, close enough to be knocked off his feet and receive burns, temporary blindness and damage to his hearing. 

Hiroshima Railway Station - The Aftermath

At Hiroshima station, two associates were waiting to make the trip back to Nagasaki with Yamaguchi. They both survived the explosion as well.

Yamaguchi’s injuries were not so severe as to prevent him from making his way back to Nagasaki and reporting to his office three days later. His supervisor insisted Yamaguchi was crazy when he described the atomic bomb blast. He refused to believe such a weapon could exist. During this discussion, the second bomb detonated over Nagasaki. The city was later described as being “like a graveyard with not a tombstone standing”.

Nagasaki in the aftermath of the atomic bomb
Nagasaki - “Like a Graveyard With Not a Tombstone Standing”

In 2009, the Japanese government acknowledged officially that Yamaguchi was present in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the time of the explosions.

Yamaguchi’s wife and children also survived the Nagasaki bombing. Yet, ultimately,  Yamaguchi and his wife both succumbed to cancer and a case could be made that radiation played a role. They were both 93 when they passed away.

Yamaguchi’s tale has been recounted in television programs and in feature articles in magazines and newspapers. At times he was referred to as “the luckiest man alive” and on other occasions as “the unluckiest man alive”.

He was bombed twice and survived twice. It seems clear that Yamaguchi’s bad luck was obviated by his good luck.

The one thing you can take anything away from his story is that you can’t plan for everything, even if you are an engineer.

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