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Stranger Than Fiction: Twice Bombed
Experiencing the detonation of an atom bomb has been compared to walking through the gates of Hell. In the history of the world only one nation has ever been subjected to a nuclear attack. Japan was hit twice in three days with atomic bombs. To experience one nuclear attack and witness the horrors is to experience Hell on Earth. The odds of surviving an attack, the searing heat, and subsequent firestorm, are greatly stacked against someone. To experience and survive two nuclear attacks is almost unheard of. Tsutomu Yamaguchi was the only person recognized by Japan to have experienced and survived both atomic bombs, though others have claimed to have been present at both.
In the waning days of World War II, the empire of Japan was facing the allies alone as Axis powers Italy and Germany capitulated. Numerous bombing raids on the Japanese mainland had virtually wiped out the Japanese Air Force, but the Japanese Army was still a highly trained crack unit of soldiers who were prepared to fight to the end.
Throughout Japan was a force consisting of more than 10 million men and women who were prepared to fend off an allied invasion by fighting to the death. Such a force would have likely inflicted hundreds of thousands of casualties on an invading allied military force.
Military advisors explained to President Harry S. Truman that a land invasion could cost as many as 100,000 American lives. It was a price the president had no desire to pay. There was another solution. It was a top secret weapon that had been in the process for months-an atom bomb.
The Japanese and Germans had been working for months to create the bomb with no success. But, it was American scientists who created the first nuclear bomb, a weapon that would soon change modern warfare and the usher in the dawning of the nuclear age.
On August 6, 1945, at 2:45 a.m. the Enola Gay, a B-29 super fortress taxied down a runway on Tinian Island destined for Hiroshima, Japan and history. Onboard the craft was a crew of 12 men piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets and navigator Captain Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk. In the bomb bay was the Little Boy, a 10-foot long, 4 ton bomb with the destructive power of 16 kilotons of TNT.
Weeks earlier, the American Air Force had dropped thousands of leaflets over the city encouraging the citizens to evacuate the city and warning of an impending attack. The nature of the attack nor the precise time was ever disclosed. But, the citizens had been given fair warning that doom was impending should they not heed the warning.
At approximately 8:45 a.m. the citizens of Hiroshima were now moving around the city as men went to work, women went to market and ran errands and children left for school.
The engines of the Enola Gay hummed as the plane climbed to an elevation above Japanese radar. The beautiful serene, peaceful blue skies and the gorgeous landscape surrounding the city were about to be transformed into a scene of Hellish proportions.
At approximately 9:15 the bomb doors slowly opened and the Little Boy fell toward its intended target. Forty three seconds later, the crew saw a blinding flash from an Earth shattering explosion sending enormous shock waves through the air rocking the aircraft.
Beneath the Enola Gay, all Hell broke loose as the tranquil serene countryside was decimated and a wave of fire swept through the city. Moments later a massive mushroom cloud ascended more than 60,000 feet above the city.
Tsutomu Yamaguchi was on a business trip to Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped on the city. He was stepping down from a tram about two miles from the epicenter when the blast reached him. The tram was destroyed. Many passengers he stood near were killed or seriously injured. Yamaguchi suffered severe burns over most of his body and lost the hearing in one ear. He was temporarily blinded.
Within hours, the magnitude of the destruction began to unfold. On the ground more than 80,000 were dead. More than 70 percent of the city’s buildings were destroyed.
The crew of the Enola Gay landed in Tinian where they were debriefed and decorated. They were certain the war was over. But they had underestimated the Japanese whose leaders refused to surrender.
Yamaguchi decided to return home. He wanted to escape the desolation of war torn Hiroshima and return to Nagasaki where he could recover both physically and emotionally. He arrived three days later on August 9, 1945.
That morning, he was speaking with his supervisor at the engineering company he worked for recounting the horrors of the bombing at Hiroshima. He was in discomfort from his injuries and still wore the bandages that covered his burns. At that moment, history repeated itself when a second atomic bomb, “Fat Man” fell on Nagasaki and destroyed the city killing more than 40,000 and injuring more than 74,000 while destroying most of the city’s buildings.
Yamaguchi suffered radiation poisoning and later went bald as a result of the second bombing.
Finally, Japanese Emperor Hirohito asked the United States for peace thus ending the war. Yamaguchi eventually regained his sight but spent many years suffering from radiation sickness. Six decades later, in 2005, Yamaguchi began speaking publicly about nuclear warfare after his second son died of cancer earlier that year. He was an infant when the second bomb was dropped.
In 2006, Yamaguchi was interviewed for a documentary titled “Niju Hibaku,” (Twice Bombed), telling the stories of the very few people who had survived both attacks. Yamaguchi died in 2010 of stomach cancer.
Michael Williams has written a book entitled "Stranger than Fiction: The Lincoln Curse." The book is a collection of 50 strange and unusual but true stories. The stories will leave the reader convinced that perhaps Mark Twain was right when he said "truth is stranger than fiction."
He has written for more than 30 newspapers and magazines including the Civil War Times Illustrated, The Civil War Courier, the Associated Press and the Knoxville Journal.
The book is 187 pages in a softbound edition with numerous photos. The book can be purchased from amazon.com for $19.95 plus shipping and handling or you can save shipping cost and save $2 on the purchase price by ordering a signed copy directly from the author. Send $17.95 to P.O. Box 6421 Sevierville, TN. 37864.
The book is available in Kindle on Amazon.com for $3.99. For more information visit the website www.strangerthanfictionnews.com.