It’s a pretty subjective question to be sure, but one person that may surpass that subjectivity with his extraordinary luck is Japan’s Tsutomu Yamaguchi. Mr. Yamaguchi’s luck is a double-edged sword, however. What put him in contention for the world’s luckiest man could also be seen as something incredibly unlucky as well. But what made this nondescript man so lucky?
A Flash In The Sky
It was August 6th, 1945. Mr. Yamaguchi was on a business trip in Hiroshima, Japan. He was just about to head to the train station with 2 coworkers and return to his home in Nagasaki, when he realized he had forgotten a personal item back in the city.
He was walking back to retrieve the item when the American bomber Enola Gay dropped a nuclear bomb near the center of the city, only 2 miles away from where he was.
The blast blew out his eardrums, temporarily blinded him, and left him with major burns on one side of his body. Yamaguchi recalled seeing a bomber and two parachutes, before there was “a great flash in the sky, and I was blown over“. After finding that his two coworkers also survived, they returned to his home in Nagasaki and had their wounds treated and bandaged.
A Repeat Performance
Despite being seriously wounded, he still showed up for work in the morning. Mr. Yamaguchi was recounting the blast in Hiroshima to his supervisor, when an American bomber dropped the Fat Man atomic bomb onto Nagasaki. His workplace again put him roughly 2 miles from ground zero, but this time he suffered no injuries from the bomb. Unfortunately, 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 before he later returned to work for Mitsubishi. Later in life, Yamaguchi became a vocal proponent of nuclear disarmament. In an interview, Mr Yamaguchi said, “The reason that I hate the atomic bomb is because of what it does to the dignity of human beings.” 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?” He also wrote a book about his experiences in the late 1980’s.
In March 2009, Japan officially recognized Yamaguchi as a survivor of both blasts. He is now the only person officially recognized as surviving two nuclear bomb explosions.
Mr. Yamaguchi lived to ripe old age of 93 and died on January 4th, 2010 at his home in Nagasaki.
Luckiest or unluckiest? You be the judge.
BBC “The only person recognized as having survived both atomic bombings in Japan dies at the age of 93.”