Hiroshima, Nagasaki survivor dies at 93

NAGASAKI (Kyodo) Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who became famous internationally as a survivor of the U.S. atomic bombings of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, died Monday of stomach cancer, his family said Wednesday. He was 93.

Born in Nagasaki, Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on business on Aug. 6, 1945, when the first atomic bomb was dropped. At home in Nagasaki three days later, he survived a second nuclear attack. Yamaguchi began telling his story in earnest after losing his second son, who survived the bombing as an infant, to cancer in 2005.

He was featured in the 2006 documentary “Niju Hibaku” (“Double Irradiation”) along with other double hibakusha, and took his peace message to the U.N. when the film was screened at U.N. headquarters in New York that year.

“Having experienced atomic bombings twice and survived, it is my destiny to talk about it,” Yamaguchi once said.

He was officially recognized as a double hibakusha last March when the Nagasaki Municipal Government entered his experience in Hiroshima into the official hibakusha registry, which until then had only recognized his radiation exposure in Nagasaki. The entry was made at the request of Yamaguchi, who was a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. shipyard engineer at the time of the bombings.

At least 165 people are known to have survived both nuclear attacks by the United States. But Nagasaki said Yamaguchi is believed to be the only person with official recognition as a double hibakusha.

Yamaguchi’s daughter, Toshiko Yamasaki, 61, said he looked well on New Year’s Day, reading a newspaper and a book, but became fatigued Sunday and died at 5:38 a.m. Monday, asking the family in his last words to take good care of his great-grandchildren.

Yamaguchi said in June he had written a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama because he was touched by Obama’s call for a world free of nuclear arms in a speech in Prague in April. “I wanted to believe deeply in his resolve . . . and to take action together (with him) for the abolition of nuclear weapons,” he said.

In late December he had a visit from director James Cameron and was interested in Cameron’s idea of making a film on A-bombs, his daughter said.