Early one August morning, Tsutomu Yamaguchi was preparing to return home from the town where he had spent the last three months on business. Employed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan as a draftsman, he had been working over the summer on a shipbuilding project. He was heading out on a bus to the station with two of his colleagues when he realized he had left something behind. His friends continued on while he returned to the company dormitory to retrieve it. Once he did, he began walking back toward the shipyard.
Mr. Yamaguchi remembered the day well:
“It was a flat, open spot with potato fields on either side. It was very clear, a really fine day, nothing unusual about it at all. I was in good spirits.”
But that would change in an instant for him and the approximately 245,000 others in Hiroshima that day—Aug. 6, 1945. The Americans had dropped 720,000 leaflets two days earlier warning that the city would be obliterated—but no one paid any heed. Now the reality had come.
“As I was walking along I heard the sound of a plane, just one. I looked up into the sky and saw the B-29, and it dropped two parachutes. I was looking up into the sky at them, and suddenly … it was like a flash of magnesium, a great flash in the sky, and I was blown over,” he explained ( quoted by Richard Lloyd Parry, “The Luckiest or Unluckiest Man in the World?” The Times [London] website, March 29, 2009 ).
The plane he saw was the Enola Gay. It just completed its mission of dropping the first atomic bomb ever used in a military operation.
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