luck, atomic bombs, the work ethic and the wrong kind of snow

Tsutomo Yamaguchi, who died last week aged 93.

As the snow starts to melt in London, one final weather-related post. Just because something about this story is grimly interesting.

There has been some coverage in the news recently of the death of Tsutomo Yamaguchi, who was either incredibly lucky or incredibly unlucky, depending on how you look at it. He experienced and survived both of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in WW2.

The article in the Times says:

'In the summer of 1945 he was 29 and working as a draughtsman designing oil
tankers for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. His three-month secondment to a
shipyard in Hiroshima was due to end on the morning of August 6, when the
American B29 bomber Enola Gay dropped a 13-kilotonne uranium atomic bomb,
nicknamed Little Boy. It exploded above Hiroshima at 8.15am.

“I didn’t know what had happened,” Mr Yamaguchi said. “I think I fainted. When
I opened my eyes everything was dark and I couldn’t see much. It was like
the start of a film at the cinema, before the picture has begun when the
blank frames are just flashing up. I thought I might have died but
eventually the darkness cleared and I realised I was alive.”

He and two colleagues staggered through the ruins where the dead and dying lay
all around. At one collapsed bridge the three had to wade through a river,
parting before them a floating carpet of corpses. They reached the station
and boarded the train for Nagasaki. Reporting to work at the shipyard on
August 9, his story of a single bomb destroying an entire city was met with

“The director was angry. He said ‘you’ve obviously been badly injured, and I
think you’ve gone a little mad’. At that moment, outside the window, I saw
another flash and the whole office, everything in it, was blown over.” The
next thing he remembered was waking to hear crying and cheering at the
broadcast by Emperor Hirohito announcing Japan’s surrender.'

One thing that immediately strikes me about this report is Mr Yamaguchi's impressive work ethic. Some people might have considered witnessing the appalling carnage, the apocalyptic destruction and the psychic horror of possibly the single most devastating act of war ever committed, not to mention being severely injured, reason enough to pull a day's sickie. Not Mr Yamaguchi. Despite having an atomic bomb dropped on him, he wades through a river
of corpses to report for work – only to be bollocked by his somewhat unsympathetic boss. That's dedication.

The other interesting thing about this story, as remarked upon by one of the commentators on the Times website is that 'The trains were still running – in spite of an atomic bomb – (un)lucky
for Mr Yamaguchi there were no 'adverse weather conditions'.

Half an inch of the 'wrong kind' of snow brings London to a standstill in 2010. But despite an atomic bomb, the trains out of 1945 Hiroshima were still running. Interesting.

NB: No disrespect intended whatsoever to the memory of the redoubtable Mr Yamagutchi, or others who suffered similarly in this or other wars.

4 thoughts on “luck, atomic bombs, the work ethic and the wrong kind of snow”

  1. hello neil, interesting one this and I had to go away after yesterday and have a read myself. made me feel a tinge of guilt for whinging and whining in frustration at this snow.
    my kids loved every minute of the dumping, they loved skidding around in the truck, they loved the hand brake turns and doughnuts that I have since mastered, they loved laughing at Mum falling over and Grandma sliding down our drive….maybe I’m getting old and grumpy…

    But the message of this gent is pretty clear to me ‘get on with it’.

    What worries me at times about this country is there are too many people spending too much time thinking and bleating about how they ‘can’t’ do something, instead of just ‘getting on with it’.

    Great article, one of the best reads in ages….well since that Townsend chap and the pie that the missus is now knocking up for tea….

  2. It worries me that if one day Malaysia starts to snow, or face a terrible natural disaster. Not wanting to sell my country short, but seriously I can tell you, WE HAVE NO BACKUP PLAN.

    The government doesn’t. The people do. Which is to migrate.


  3. I was in Hiroshima in the summer with a survivor and he recounted that the trains in Hiroshima started running 4 hours after the bomb went off – they had already rebuilt tracks in that time.


    Anyways, back to struggling through my competitive audit.

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