How did Tsutomu Yamaguchi Survive the Two Atomic Bombs During WW2?

Tsutomu Yamaguchi was a 29-year-old engineer working with Mitsubishi heavy industries when the dual atomic bomb happened in Japan. The engineer had traveled for a three-month business trip on behalf of his employer, where together with his colleagues was working on an oil tanker design in Hiroshima. The trip was supposed to conclude on 6th August 1945 (Andrews). Yamaguchi was quite excited to return home to his child Katsutoshi and wife Hisako, when the first misfortune happened, hence delaying his departure.

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At about 8.15 in the morning, Yamaguchi decided to walk to Mitsubishi’s shipyard when he noticed an aircraft drone overhead. The bomber threw a tiny material that was attached to a parachute, causing intense light in the sky, which looked like lightning. He dived into a ditch and heard a loud sound. A shock wave appeared, which pulled him up and spun him like a tornado, which threw him into a potato patch. Yamaguchi narrated that he thought he had fainted and when he woke up everywhere was dark, since the atomic blast thrust debris and dust that blotted out the sun (Andrews). From the blast, he suffered burns on the forearms, and face, and had ruptured eardrums.

Through the bombing turmoil, Yamaguchi strived to survive at least for the sake of his family. During the Hiroshima moments, he desired to get back to his family to the point that when he was told trains were departing from the city, he gathered his strength and went to find one. He crossed the river to find a train since bridges had fallen and some had been burnt. Therefore, he chose to cross the bridges of corpses “apocalyptic,” which was blocking the river, and crawled to reach the train. However, Yamaguchi was not successful since there was a gap in the bridge, and hence he had to turn back, where he found a railroad trestle with only one intact beam, which he chose to use (“Them’s the DNA Breaks”). He was able to reach the train amidst a mob at the station and finally left for Nagasaki, which was his home.

On the morning of August 9, 194, Yamaguchi reported to work at the Mitsubishi Nagasaki office and attended a meeting at 11 a.m. When he recounted his experience in Hiroshima, the superiors labeled him as mad, since they could not believe such happenings. The Nagasaki bomb was stronger than the one that had hit Hiroshima. For a second time he experienced radiation, but it did not hurt him (Andrews). Therefore, Yamaguchi experienced two nuclear explosions within three days.

Notably, exposure to radiation by Yamaguchi affected him immensely. For example, he experienced hair loss, and his injuries became worse, while at the same time vomiting constantly. However, during his stay in the bomb shelter, Hirohito, the Emperor broadcasted that the state had surrendered (Andrews). This news was not very exciting to Yamaguchi.

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The B-29 American bomber referred to as “Enola Gay” slumped the original bomb for warfare in Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. This bomb was brought down by a parachute, which exploded 1,900 ft. from the ground and killed between 60,000 to 80,000 people. The heat produced was so intense and could melt and vaporize any element, including people. Other people died after the impacts of the radiation, totaling 135,000 deaths. The victims of this bomb were mainly Hiroshima residents, Koreans, and Americans who were prisoners of war. Besides, the fire continued to burn for three days (“Atomic bombing”). Hence, more deaths were recorded, especially for those who had survived the initial impact.

The U.S. chose Hiroshima as a better place to test the atomic bomb effects since the area had not been targeted initially during the Air Force’s conventional bombing of Japan. More so, the bomb was viewed as a means to end the war against Japan, as well as a way to demonstrate the superiority of the American military over the Soviet Union. On August 9, the same year as the Hiroshima bomb, the U. S. released another larger atomic bomb in Nagasaki. The original target of this bomb was Kokura, but plans were altered since a cloud had covered the area. The bomb killed 40,000 people instantly, while the final count stood at 50,000 deaths. Following the two atomic bombs, Japan surrendered on 14 August (“WW2 People’s war”). Hiroshima city was renovated and designated as a city of peace memorial.

The Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bomb is said to have released x-rays that were supercharged, known as gamma rays. The rays damage DNA and water bodies selectively by singling them out and dissolving the electrons. The electrons’ loss created radicals that were reactive atoms, which consume chemical bonds. The action then leads to a chain reaction that cut DNA and chromosomes into small pieces. In the 1940s, scientists based in New York gave compelling evidence that DNA created genes, hence contradicting the former belief that genes were made by protein inheritance. Another research revealed that proteins and DNA had a close relationship since DNA is made up of proteins, where each DNA bore formula for each protein (“Them’s the DNA Breaks”). Hence, genes made proteins, which created characteristics in the body

Fracturing DNA through radioactivity disrupts genes that produced protein, which in response killed cells. Herman Muller, who received the 1946 Nobel Prize pointed out that if survivors of the atomic bomb could see the outcome 1000 years from then, they could know that they were fortunate to die from the bomb (“Them’s the DNA Breaks”). The atomic bomb’s detonation led to horrific devastation and casualties. For instance, the long-term impacts of radiation exposure in Japan raised cancer cases among survivors. However, studies by molecular biologists found that there was a great gap between the actual and the perceived health effects of the atomic bombs, especially in terms of increased cancer rates and genetic effects on children. The studies showed that the lifespan of survivors was lowered by a few months only. The cancer rates differed depending on the proximity of the survivor during the detonation, the age (younger people were affected most), and also sex where the women were affected more than the men (“Long Term Health”). Hence, those who received only tiny doses of radiation had no risk at all.

It is worth noting that Yamaguchi was the only person recognized officially as a double survivor of Japan bombings. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2009, which was not related to any of the bombings, and died in 2010 in Nagasaki at 93 years. Although other individuals lived to see the two disasters, Yamaguchi was the only individual who was privileged to receive recognition from the Japanese government.


Works Cited

“Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima” U.S Department of Energy. Accessed on 24 Apr. 2019.

“Long Term Health Effects of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic Bombs Not as Dire as Perceived.” Genetics Society of America (2018). 24 Apr. 2019.

 “Them’s the DNA Breaks: How Does Nature Read and Misread DNA?” Accessed 23 April 2019.

 “WWW2 People’s War.” BBC homepage, 15  October 2014. Accessed 24 Apr. 2019.

Andrews, Evan. “The Man Who Survived Two Atomic Bombs.”History. 2018. Accessed 23 Apr. 2019.

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