Survivor of 2 Atomic Bombs Dies at 93
HONG KONG — Tsutomu Yamaguchi , the only official survivor of both atomic blasts to hit Japan in World War II , died Monday in Nagasaki, Japan.
The cause was stomach cancer, his daughter said on Wednesday. He was 93.
Mr. Yamaguchi, as a 29-year-old engineer for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, was on a business trip in Hiroshima when the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945. He was getting off a streetcar when the “Little Boy” device detonated above Hiroshima.
Mr. Yamaguchi said he was less than 2 miles away from ground zero. His eardrums were ruptured and his upper torso was burned by the blast, which destroyed most of the city’s buildings and killed 80,000 people.
Mr. Yamaguchi spent the night in a Hiroshima bomb shelter and returned to his hometown of Nagasaki the following day, according to interviews he gave over the years. The second bomb, known as “Fat Man,” was dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, killing 70,000 people there.
Mr. Yamaguchi was in his Nagasaki office, telling his boss about the Hiroshima blast, when “suddenly the same white light filled the room,” he said in an interview last March with The Independent newspaper.
“I thought the mushroom cloud had followed me from Hiroshima,” he said.
“I could have died on either of those days,” Mr. Yamaguchi said in an August interview with the Mainichi Daily News. “Everything that follows is a bonus.”
Japan surrendered six days after the Nagasaki attack.
Mr. Yamaguchi recovered from his wounds, went to work for the American occupation forces, became a teacher and eventually returned to work at Mitsubishi Heavy. He was in good health for most of his life, said his daughter, Toshiko Yamasaki, which is why he avoided joining in anti-nuclear protests.
“He was so healthy, he thought it would have been unfair to people who were really sick,” Ms. Yamasaki told The Independent.
“Afterwards he was fine,” she said. “We hardly noticed he was a survivor.”
It is believed there were about 165 twice-bombed persons in Japan, known as “nijyuu hibakusha,” although municipal officials in both cities have said Mr. Yamaguchi was the only person to be officially acknowledged as such.
Ms. Yamasaki, who was born in 1948, said her mother also had been “soaked in black rain and was poisoned” by the fallout from the Nagasaki blast. Her mother died in 2008 from kidney and liver cancers. She was 88.
“We think she passed the poison on to us,” Ms. Yamaski said, noting that her brother died of cancer at age 59 and her sister has been chronically ill throughout her life.
In his later years, Mr. Yamaguchi began to speak out about the scourge of atomic weapons. He rarely gave interviews, but he wrote a memoir and was part of a 2006 documentary film about the double-bombing victims. He called for the abolition of nuclear weapons at a showing of the film at the United Nations that year.
At a lecture he gave in Nagasaki last June, Mr. Yamaguchi said he had written to President Obama about banning nuclear arms. And Ms. Yamasaki said he had recently been visited by the American film director James Cameron to discuss a film project on atomic bombs.
Among his benefits as an atomic bomb victim, Mr. Yamaguchi’s funeral costs will be paid by the government.