Sunday, January 17, 2010

Back in Nagasaki

Last week brought us news of the death, at the very ripe and distinguished age of 93, of Tsutomu Yamaguchi. I had been following his career, if only from a distance, for some time. On Aug. 6, 1945, while visiting the city of Hiroshima on behalf of his employer, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Yamaguchi sustained serious upper-body burns when a U.S. Air Force B-29 bomber rather jauntily named the Enola Gay dropped the world's first atomic weapon. At least 80,000 people were immediately immolated by the blast and the heat, with perhaps another 60,000 dying of their injuries in the aftermath. Yamaguchi managed to pass the first night in a shelter and then, evidently hoping for a safer and more hospitable environment, to make his painful way back to his hometown. Covering the intervening distance of 180 miles involved him in a journey of about two days, which gave him nice time to adopt an unusual vantage point for the next delivery of an atomic weapon on Nagasaki.


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