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Mr Yamaguchi

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Tsutomu Yamaguchi had a cushty job. He worked for Mitsubishi, in Japan, where he was an engineer in the shipbuilding division, designing oil tankers.

It was World War Two.

He was away on business when it happened, stepping off a tram, before heading to a shipyard that nestled among flat potato fields on either side. It was the final day of a three month work trip, the day before he was due to go back home, back to his wife and new born kid.

Some punk in a plane dropped a ruddy Atom bomb on his head.

Mr Yamaguchi had taken a work trip to Hiroshima, and that is where, at 8.15am, on August 6th 1945, the US B-29 Bomber dropped an Atomic Bomb. The bomb had a name – “Little Boy” – what kind of person calls a bomb little boy? It was the first nuclear weapon to ever be used in warfare, killing somewhere between 45,000 and 83,000 people on the first day, with those numbers doubling over time.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi was stoic by nature. He was knocked out by the blast. When he regained consciousness, he was met by total devastation, total carnage. People burned, bodies in the river, skin dripping off the walking dead.

He got on the train and went back home the following day, after spending the night in an air raid shelter. Back to his wife and new born kid. When he returned, he even took a couple of days off to let his wounds heal, which seems reasonable.

“Home,” he maybe thought, “home at last.”

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On August 9th, he went back to work at Mitsubishi, this time back to his regular office and now swathed in bandages. “No more business trips for a while, after that!” he might’ve muttered, as he arrived at work.

At 11am, Tsutomo was discussing the bombing with his supervisor, when another little punk, from high above again, dropped another ruddy Atom bomb on his head. Because Mr Yamaguchi lived in, worked in, had a family in, and had just returned back to, Nagasaki.

The bomb hit. A 25-kiloton plutonium bomb, called “Fat Man.” It was the second time, in history, that a nuclear weapon had ever been used in warfare. One has never been used since. It killed somewhere between 19,000 and 40,000 people in the first day, and again, as in Hiroshima, that number doubled over time.

Mr Yamaguchi was Atomic Bombed in one place, put on some bandages, went home, and then got Atomic Bombed there too.

Damn.

Is that good luck or bad luck?

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He lost hearing in one ear, had a fever for a week afterwards, and his bandages were ruined. His wife battled illness from then on, because of the radiation posioning. Most other members of his family too. He also developed radiation side-effects throughout his life and lived much of it, whilst it was long, in agony.

Later in his life, Yamaguchi become an avid proponent of nuclear disarmament, wanting a complete abolition and arguing his case at the UN. “The reason that I hate the atomic bomb,” he said in one interview, “is because of what it does to the dignity of human beings.” When looking back on the two blasts that he’d been part of, he sat on stage in his wheelchair, and said, “I sincerely hope that there will not be a third.”

If in doubt, when it sucks, and when life gives us lemons or atomic bombs – Maybe we shouldn’t make lemonade, maybe we should take a purpose from it and be more like Mr Yamaguchi.

Images courtesy: commons.wikimedia.org



Vague Direction: A 12,000 mile bicycle ride, and the meaning of life.
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