|Born||16 March 1916
|Died||4 January 2010 (aged 93)
|Children||Toshiko Yamaguchi, Katsutoshi Yamaguchi, Naoko Yamaguchi|
Tsutomu Yamaguchi (山口 彊 Yamaguchi Tsutomu ) (16 March 1916 – 4 January 2010), was a Japanese national who survived both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings during World War II. Although more than one hundred people are known to have been affected by both bombings, he is the only person to have been officially recognised by the government of Japan as surviving both explosions.
A resident of Nagasaki, Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on business for his employer Mitsubishi when the city was bombed on 6 August 1945. The following day he returned to Nagasaki and, despite his wounds, returned to work on 9 August, the day of the second atomic bombing. In 1957 he was recognized as a hibakusha (explosion-affected person) of the Nagasaki bombing, but it was not until 24 March 2009 that the government of Japan officially recognised his presence in Hiroshima three days earlier. He died of stomach cancer in January 2010.
Yamaguchi "never thought Japan should start a war". He continued his work with Mitsubishi, but soon Japanese industry began to suffer heavily as resources became scarce and tankers were sunk. As the war ground on, so despondent was he over the state of the country that he considered killing his family with an overdose of sleeping pills in the event that Japan lost.
Yamaguchi lived and worked in Nagasaki, but in the summer of 1945 he went to Hiroshima for a three month business trip. On 6 August he was preparing to leave the city with two colleagues, Akira Iwanaga and Kuniyoshi Sato, and was on his way to the station when he realised he had forgotton his hanko, and returned to his workplace to get it. At 8:15 he was walking back towards the docks when the American bomber Enola Gay dropped the Little Boy atomic bomb near the centre of the city, only 3 km away. Yamaguchi recalls seeing the bomber and two small parachutes, before there was "a great flash in the sky, and I was blown over" The explosion ruptured his eardrums, blinded him temporarily, and left him with serious burns over the left side of the top half of his body. After recovering he crawled to a shelter, and having rested he set out to find his colleagues. They had also survived and together they spent the night in an air-raid shelter before returning to Nagasaki the following day. In Nagasaki he received treatment for his wounds and, despite being heavily bandaged, he reported for work on 9 August.
At 11 am on August 9, Yamaguchi was describing the blast in Hiroshima to his supervisor, when the American bomber Bocks Car dropped the Fat Man atomic bomb onto Nagasaki. His workplace again put him 3 km from ground zero, but this time he was unhurt by the explosion. However, he was unable to seek treatment for his now ruined bandages, and suffered from a high fever for over a week.
After the war Yamaguchi worked as a translator for the occupying American forces and then became a schoolmaster before he later returned to work for Mitsubishi. When the Japanese government officially recognized atomic bombing survivors as hibakusha in 1957, Yamaguchi's identification stated only that he had been present at Nagasaki. Yamaguchi was content with this, satisfied that he was relatively healthy, and put the experiences behind him.
As he aged, his opinions about the use of atomic weapons began to change. In his eighties, he wrote a book about his experiences and was invited to take part in a 2006 documentary about 165 double A-bomb survivors (known as nijū hibakusha in Japan) called Twice Survived: The Doubly Atomic Bombed of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which was screened at the United Nations. At the screening he pleaded for the abolition of atomic weapons.
Yamaguchi became a vocal proponent of nuclear disarmament. In an interview he said "The reason that I hate the atomic bomb is because of what it does to the dignity of human beings." Speaking through his daughter during a telephone interview he said, "I can't understand why the world cannot understand the agony of the nuclear bombs. How can they keep developing these weapons?"
On 22 December 2009, Canadian movie director James Cameron and author Charles Pellegrino met Yamaguchi while he was in hospital in Nagasaki, and discussed the idea of making a film about nuclear weapons. "I think it's Cameron's and Pellegrino's destiny to make a film about nuclear weapons," Yamaguchi said.
At first Yamaguchi did not feel the need to draw attention to his double survivor status. However as he aged he felt that his survival was destiny and so in January 2009 he applied for double recognition. This was accepted by the Japanese government in March 2009, making Yamaguchi the only person officially recognised as a survivor of both bombings. Speaking about the recognition Yamaguchi said, "My double radiation exposure is now an official government record. It can tell the younger generation the horrifying history of the atomic bombings even after I die."
Yamaguchi lost hearing in his left ear as a result of the Hiroshima explosion. He also went bald temporarily and his daughter recalls that he was constantly swathed in bandages until she reached the age of 12.[Note 1] Despite this Yamaguchi went on to lead a healthy life. However, late in his life he began to suffer from radiation-related ailments including cataracts and acute leukemia.
His wife also suffered radiation poisoning from black rain after the Nagasaki explosion and died in 2008 (at 93) of kidney and liver cancer after a lifetime of illness. All three of his children reported that they suffered from health problems that they thought were inherited from their parents' exposure.