Tsutomu Yamaguchi was the only officially recognized survivor of both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb blasts at the end of the Second World War.
But it wasn’t until March 2009 that both the Nagasaki and Hiroshima authorities formally acknowledged him as a double bomb sufferer (Eniijuu hibakusha).
Yamaguchi Recalls The Hiroshima Bomb
On August 6 1945, Yamaguchi, a young engineer with the shipbuilder Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, was in Hiroshima at the end of a short-term secondment with two colleagues.
He recalled hearing engine noise in the skies above, but thought nothing of it as this was commonplace, owing to Hiroshima’s importance as an industrial city and military base.
In fact, what he heard were the engines of the US B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, which was about to drop the first atomic bomb on the city.
Seconds after getting off a tram, he saw a flash of light and was knocked to the ground by the force of the bomb.
And just after 8.15am he passed out as it detonated 600m above Hiroshima.
He later recalled seeing a huge mushroom-shaped pillar of fire rising up high into the sky.
Almost 140,000 People Died Instantly
The "Little Boy" bomb, a reference to former President Roosevelt, was a 13 kiloton uranium atomic bomb which devastated an area of five square miles.
Around 140,000 of Hiroshima’s 350,000 population perished instantly and in the aftermath thousands more suffered serious burns including Yamaguchi.
Yamaguchi And His Two Colleagues Survived The Blast
Miraculously, even though they were less than two miles from Ground Zero, Yamaguchi and his two colleagues survived the blast.
Yamaguchi, who had suffered serious burns to his upper body and a perforated eardrum spent the night in the city in an air-raid shelter with people dying and screaming out with pain all around him.
Two Days Later Yamaguchi Returned To Work
The following day, Yamaguchi and his two colleagues made their way through the piles of burnt and dying bodies in order to catch a train the 180 miles back to their hometown Nagasaki, which, like Hiroshima, was an important industrial and military base.
Upon his return and with his burns swathed in bandages, Yamaguchi reported for work on August 9,.
His boss and co-workers listened with incredulity as he described how a single bomb had destroyed the city.
Yamaguchi And His Family Survive The Fat Man
In Nagasaki at 11.02am, and once again less than two miles from the center, Yamaguchi saw a now familiar flash of light.
The US Airforce had dropped another nuclear device, this time called "Fat Man", named after Winston Churchill.
This time a 25-kiloton plutonium bomb exploded above Nagasaki, throwing Yamaguchi to the ground.
Nagasaki is surrounded by mountains meaning that the level of destruction was more confined, but even so, nearly 74,000 were killed and a similar number injured.
Yamaguchi, his wife and baby son survived and spent the following week in a shelter near what was left of their home.
And on August 14, 1945 Emperor Hirohito Announces Japan’s Surrender
Yamaguchi’s two horrendous experiences and their effect upon his family were considerable.
In addition to almost total deafness in one ear, his skin wounds were bandaged for twelve years, and his wife was poisoned from the radioactive fall-out.
She died in 2008, aged 88, of kidney and liver cancer.
Their son, who was exposed to the Nagasaki radiation when six months old, died in 2005, aged 59.
A Passionate Anti-Weapons Campaigner
Although Yamaguchi later became a passionate anti-nuclear weapons campaigner he never expressed any anti-Americanism.
He gave talks about his experiences and often expressed the hope that such weapons would be abolished:
"I can’t understand why the world cannot understand the agony of the nuclear bombs. How can they keep developing these weapons?".
He wrote books and appeared in a documentary entitled Nijuuhibaku, meaning Twice Bombed, Twice Survived, which was screened at the United Nations in New York in 2006, after which he addressed the UN, urging them to abolish nuclear weapons.
Finally Recognized By The Japanese Government
In 1957, Yamaguchi was recognized as a registered survivor of the Nagasaki bombing, and he received a pale violet copy of the Atomic Bomb Victim Health Handbook which entitled him to monthly allowances, free medical check-ups and funeral costs.
And in March 2009, he was finally certified by the Japanese government, and acknowledged as having "double bomb sufferer" status.
"My double radiation exposure is now an official government record",
"It can tell the younger generation the horrifying history of the atomic bombings even after I die".
Yamaguchi, who died of stomach cancer on January 4, 2010 at the age of 93 viewed his ordeals as a cruel twist of fate, a "path planted by God".
"It was my destiny that I experienced this twice and I am still alive to convey what happened",