Of the roughly 283,000 Japanese survivors of the atomic blasts that obliterated the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, Tsutomu Yamaguchi was in rare company. Only about 10 unlucky souls were witnesses to both bombings, but Yamaguchi's was the unluckiest case on record [source: Atomic Bomb Museum].
In 1945, 29-year-old Yamaguchi worked as an engineer for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and was in Hiroshima on August 6 for a business trip. Stepping off a tram, he was enveloped by a blinding white light. "Little Boy," the first atomic weapon ever used in war, had detonated just 2 miles (3 kilometers) away. Yamaguchi survived, but suffered serious burns across his torso and two ruptured eardrums. More than 80,000 men, women and children were killed by the blast.
Eager to get home, Yamaguchi braved the peak radiation zone of downtown Hiroshima to catch a train the very next day to Nagasaki. On August 9, while in his office telling his boss about the horrors he witnessed in Hiroshima, the U.S. forces dropped "Fat Man" on Nagasaki. As the room filled with the same blinding white light, "I thought the mushroom cloud had followed me from Hiroshima," Yamaguchi told the British publication the Independent, in 2009.
Yamaguchi kept quiet about his double-bombing status until his 80s, when he wrote a memoir called "Twice Bombed, Twice Survived" and became an advocate for denuclearization. "It was my destiny that I experienced this twice and I am still alive to convey what happened," he said in an interview when he was 93 and in the final stages of cancer, probably caused by exposure to so much radiation from the two atomic bombs [source: McNeill].