When looking at unlikely and impossible feats of luck both good and bad, one of the hallmark figures is Tsutomu Yamaguchi. The story of Yamaguchi’s survival and subsequent danger is so incredible that many list it as a case of fate intervening even as an entire city is destroyed around him. This story is even more incredible than the cases of plane crashes where there is only one survivor as Mr. Yamaguchi survived not one, but two nuclear attacks on Japan in 1945 before dying just this month of stomach cancer.
Yamaguchi’s incredible story that began in Hiroshima would later end in Nagasaki, but not due to either atomic blast he survived. His journey would see him through ground zero of the most intense war Japan would ever face, and his story would be retold years after the events. The first bomb struck just as Yamaguchi was arriving in Hiroshima to work as an engineer when suddenly a tremendous boom shattered one of his eardrums and a bright flash blinded him temporarily. Though he was burned badly on his upper body he did eventually recover while staying with his family in Nagasaki.
Unfortunately, Nagasaki was the last place on Earth Yamaguchi should have been. Working as an engineer, Yamaguchi realized he would have a considerable task with recovering the lost city of Hiroshima. Luckily those fires were far away. For a moment Yamaguchi felt safer. After that a second blast destroyed his home city of Nagasaki. And somehow he survived that as well. In his life he would make a full recovery and even live to the age of 93. Though the bomb had taken away the will to live for many survivors, Yamaguchi was not among them. In 2005 he would begin speaking publicly about the horrors of nuclear war and attempt to find ways to bring attention to the horrors following a nuclear blast.
Whether it’s a stroke of incredible fortune to survive two unlikely attacks using an experimental weapon more powerful than anything previously seen on Earth or an act of incredible misfortune to witness it entirely, the real question becomes one of human will. How can someone witness something so awe inspiring and terrible and yet find a way to turn around and live life normally? The power of the mind in this case is certainly inspiring, but it’s also an extremely intense matter of intellectual curiosity. Many of those who witnessed even one of the bombs were thrown into intense depression and post traumatic stress, often living in congregations and incapable of undertaking anything more than simple tasks to care for themselves.
So was there something more to Mr. Yamaguchi’s survival than mere luck? In his later years he did provide the world an incredible service by becoming a spokesman for the horrors of nuclear war and why they needed to be avoided in the future. When one looks at it, it seems he was afterward fighting against the end of life on Earth. Does that make this unlikely case of luck into something else? Perhaps only time will tell.