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The Disaster of Living through a Nuclear Blast

Miyoko Matsubara is 12 years old. She is working with 350 other students from the Girls Commercial School in Hiroshima, Japan clearing a lot for construction when the pika (the flash) occurs. 300 students turn toward the flash, signing their own death warrants. Miyoko does something different. She hides her face and ducks. When she awakes, everything is gone including the dark dress she had been wearing. This may be one of the reasons she is still alive, since dark colors absorb light. And where is she? Where is everything? All she sees is rubble. She is on fire, and as she bats away the flames, pieces of her flesh fall off. For the next three days she is near death, but she will recover... after a fashion. She will be disfigured, and frankly, shunned by her fellows. They fear that they might "catch" the radiation sickness too. She will find some comfort amongst the Christians... and she will live... at least until 2007 which is the date for the article on the story she wrote about her experience of surviving a nuclear blast. [1] [2]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Those who died in the Hiroshima bombing died fairly quickly. Those who survived provide a lesson for us today. Exposure to radiation is not necessarily a death sentence. Most who manage to survive the initial exposure will live quite a long time. Months? Very likely. Years? Almost certainly. 90 years old? No guarantees, but you must be prepared to survive. Today we think that if an atomic bomb hits, we'll all be dead so it won't matter, but very likely we WON'T be dead so it WILL matter. I don't want to frighten anyone. On the list of things to worry about, unless I'm living down the street from a nuclear power plant, it is not a priority. It might make my wife feel better that I have meds available to help with radiation exposure, but that is as close to the full value of such meds for me that I'm going to get. That is... my wife feels better. NOT that it might do me any good. There are more immediate issues that I must take care of before I address a nuclear disaster.

The Flight into the Mushroom Cloud

Smoke obscures the ground as the B-29, Bock's Car, flies over it's primary target, Kokura, Japan. Fuel is low so Bock's Car abandons its primary objective, and heads toward its secondary: Nagasaki. Nagasaki is primarily a Christian city of 200,000 which has traditionally been the point of contact between Japan and the outside world. Now it is in the cross-hairs of a B-29 carrying the second of two atomic bombs: "Fat Man". Bombardier Kermit Beahan shouts, "I've got it! I see the city!" At 11:01 AM the plane suddenly lurches upward. "Fat Man" is on its way.

There is a blue light and then... nothing.

Kazuko lifts herself up from the ground. She is standing beside a crumbling wall, all that is left of Urakami prison. She turns toward her home, but it is gone too. She finds her mother buried under some tiles, and together they find her father. His skin peels off his hands as if he is removing gloves.

High above, the B-29 watches the huge fireball lift into the sky. A mushroom cloud forms as death rains down on the city. Low on fuel, the plane heads for Okinawa.

A Japanese seaplane has caught a radio report of the bombing of Nagasaki. Cadet Nobukazu Komatsu banks his plane toward the city to take a look. In the back of the plane are his two comrades-in-arms, Chief Petty Officer Umeda and Cadet Tomikura. As Komatsu breaks through the clouds he sees the ominous mushroom cloud, but for him it is a thing of beauty. Flashing in multicolors as the sunlight filters through, he has an inspiration....

"Let's cut into the cloud!"

As he banks into the mushroom cloud he opens his window, and sticks a gloved hand out. He quickly draws it back in. It is like an oven out there. There is a sticky coating of dust on his glove. Then he hears a scream from the back of the plane. The Chief Petty Officer is vomiting. The heat is so intense that Cadet Tomikura opens his window. He is hit full in the face with radioactive dust. He shoves the window closed as Komatsu finishes his turn. They emerge from the mushroom cloud. He lands his seaplane in the harbor and he walks toward the city with his companions.

The sun is setting on Japan.

Little Kazuko Tokai is still alive. She was 275 yards from ground zero and she is still alive! Her father died earlier today, and she can hear her mother's rasping breath. Kazuko calls out to her mother, "Don't die!" but there is no response... and there never will be.

"I'm the only one left alive."

The Chief Petty Officer will die of leukemia, 2 years later. Cadet Tomikura who got radioactive dust full in the face will also die... 19 years later. The pilot was still alive as of the publication date for his story in 1970. What happened to little Kazuko is unclear, but she lived long enough to write down her experiences so that it could appear in a book. [3] [4] [5]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
This is a condensed version of a story I read in John Toland's excellent book, Rising Sun. I took some liberties, but the essential story remains. I had written it three years ago for the TSP forums in response to worries about the effect of radioactivity from the Fukushima reactor disaster in Japan. While damage from radioactivity is always worrisome to contemplate, the real problem is not that you might die from radiation poisoning, but that YOU MIGHT LIVE. As you can see from the story above, even direct contact with radioactive dust is not an immediate death sentence. If your fate is to die two years later, you must find a way to survive until then. Thus the problem of survival remains. [6]

Notable Births

  • Chris Matthews (Living): Host of Hardball and former fill-in-host for Rush Limbaugh. (WHAT!!!???). [7]
  • George Pataki (Living): Republican and 53rd governor of New York. (Yes. It happens every 100 years or so.) [7]
  • Vince Foster (d. 1993): Yet Another Dead Friend of Bill and Hillary. [7]
  • And in Entertainment...
  • -- In Music (All Living): Rod Stewart, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Bob Seger, Don McClean and on and on. [7]
  • -- Steve Martin (Living): Comedian, actor and excellent banjo player. [8]
  • -- John Lithgow (Living): The voice of Lord Farquaad in Shrek, and I loved him in The Manhattan Project and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. [7]
  • -- Goldie Shawn (Living): Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, Overboard and Foul Play. [7]
  • -- And more and more and more. [7]

**Note: (Living) means they were alive when I checked.

This Year in Film

  • The Bells of St. Mary's: Starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman. [9]
  • The Lost Weekend: Starring Ray Ray Milland as an alcoholic writer. [9]
  • Spellbound: An Alfred Hitchcock thriller. [9]

This Year in Music

  • Sentimental Journey: Doris Day. [10]
  • Till the End of Time: Perry Como. [10]
  • There! I've Said It Again: Vaughn Monroe. [10]

In Other News

  • Arthur C. Clark suggests that geosynchronous satellites be developed for communication: Those wacky Sci-fi guys are at it again. [11]
  • George Orwell publishes Animal Farm: "All Animals Are Equal, But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others," mocking Stalin. [11]
  • Oral penicillin is developed: 'Nuf said. [11]
  • Norbert Weiner suggests that one day we will develop a collective memory machine that will exist as a box on our desk.: Where do these guys get these crazy ideas! [12] [13]

World War 2 in Review

  • Note 1: The Nazi SS campaign to erase all evidence of their misdeeds has begun, and by "erase" I mean "murder". [14] [11]
  • Note 2: Some Allied units are shooting SS POWs as the Battle of the Bulge progresses. The SS have been shooting RAF and USA POWs in recent months. [11]
  • Note 3: Some Jews have been protected by individuals, by families, by a German Nazi businessman, by a Chinese diplomat, and a Swedish diplomat. The future DR. RUTH was smuggled into Switzerland for God's sake! Thank you. It's not enough, but thank you. [11]
  • Note 4: I have not mentioned the Monuments Men (and Women), but they have been at work throughout Europe, finding and preserving the great works of art. The movie and book cover only a small part of their efforts.


  • Adolf Hitler heads for the bunker. These are the last days. [11]
  • Raoul Wallenberg is arrested by the Soviets. He is never seen again. The Swedish diplomat was granting Swedish passports to Jews. [15] [11]
  • The SS evacuates Auschwitz. The prisoners are on a death march. This pattern is repeated at other Nazi death camps. [11]
  • Over a million German civilians and soldiers flee the Red Army. East Prussia and the Polish Corridor are emptied. [11]
  • The Soviet Red Army liberates Auschwitz. (President Obama's grand uncle liberated Buchenwald... not Auschwitz.) [16] [17] [11]
  • Eddie Slovik is executed for desertion. They give him several opportunities to return to his duty, but he believed that if he persisted, they would give him jail time. Nope. [11]


  • The "Big Three" meet at Yalta FDR and Stalin discuss what happens after the war. Churchill is sidelined. [11]
  • The RAF and US Army Air Force bomb Dresden causing a firestorm. The fire is so intense that it creates it's own weather system. This is repeated across Germany. [18] [11]
  • US and Filipino forces recapture the Bataan Peninsula. [11]
  • Battle of Iwo Jima: About 30,000 US Marines land on Iwo Jima. They are photographed planting the flag, but they are premature. This fight is going to take a while. [11]


  • Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth the 2nd) serves as a truck driver/mechanic in the British Army. Her previous persona was as a fairy-tale princess. She is hot, hot, hot... I am told. [11]
  • American troops take the Ludendorff Bridge and cross the Rhine. The sign says, "CROSS THE RHINE WITH DRY FEET COURTESY OF 9TH ARM'D DIV". [19] [11]
  • The Bombing of Tokyo: From air bases established on nearby islands, B-29s firebomb Tokyo. With the majority of housing made of wood, there is no escape... and no surrender. The silhouette of the B-29 becomes the Japanese symbol for the "Angel of Death". [11]


  • The Battle of Okinawa is on. Dear God! Why doesn't Japan surrender? But they won't. Not yet. [11]
  • Allied forces find the Nazi gold reserves in a salt mine. [11]
  • The Japanese Battleship Yamato is sunk on its way to the Battle of Okinawa. It was on a suicide mission. It's orders were to beach itself and act as a gun platform in a last ditch effort to slow down US forces. [20] [11]
  • Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer is dead. Executed for his part in Operation Valkarie. [11]
  • FDR dies suddenly. Harry S. Truman is President. Truman learns of the Manhattan Project. [11]
  • American war correspondent Ernie Pyle is killed by Japanese machine gun fire. In these closing months no one wants to die from the last bullet in the last hour of this God-forsaken war. [11]
  • Hitler concedes defeat... privately. Why not PUBLICLY you worthless piece of... uh... it's over, Alex. This is just history. Settle down. [11]
  • Benito Mussolini and his mistress are executed. Their bodies are hung upside down for public display in Milan. [11]
  • The Dachau death camp is liberated by U.S. forces. The SS guards die of sudden lead poisoning. [11]
  • Hitler marries his mistress, Eva Braun, in a civil ceremony. He signs his last will and testament. They have a little party and then commit suicide. (Say nothing, Alex. Say nothing.) [11]


  • Hamburg Radio announces Hitler's death in battle. (WHAT?) He was "fighting up to his last breath against Bolshevism." It never ends. Does it? [11]
  • Joseph Goebbels and his wife, Magda, murder their 6 children and commit suicide. Mass suicides are trending. [11]
  • Wernher von Braun and his team of rocket scientists surrender to U.S. forces. They will become the core of the US space program. [11]
  • German forces surrender unconditionally. It's V-E Day! That is, "Victory in Europe". Is it over yet? Not quite. [11]
  • Heinrich Himmler, head of the Nazi SS, commits suicide while in custody. Uh... yeah. Whatever you say. [11]
  • Oskar Schindler is now penniless, but he has saved the 1,200 Jewish workers on his list. As retributions against the Nazis progress, Schindler's Jews will protect him in turn. Well deserved. Good man. Good man. [21] [11]


  • The Battle of Okinawa is over. The US will occupy the island for another 25 years or so. [11]


  • Germany is divided between the Allied occupation forces. This is how you get East and West Germany. Berlin is divided separately. [11]
  • The Manhattan Project: The New Mexico night sky brightens considerably. The test of the atomic bomb is successful. [11]
  • President Harry S. Truman signs off on using the atomic bomb on Japan. In case anyone was wondering. Harry is a Democrat. I think a Republican would have signed the order too, but it helps to know who is who. [11]
  • Winston Churchill resigns as Prime Minister of the UK after his Conservative Party is defeated in the elections. The political reward for success in solving a problem is often retirement... whether you like it or not. [11]
  • The USS Indianapolis sinks in the Philippine Sea. 900 men go into the water. Only 317 are left after 4 days. With her secret mission of delivering parts for the atomic bomb complete, she was resuming normal service when she was hit by Japanese torpedoes. (In the movie "Jaws" the captain of the shark boat claimed to have been a sailor on the Indianapolis.) [11]
  • "I can still hear the screams of the injured and dying." -- Cozell Smith, a sailor from the Indianapolis. [11]


  • The Bombing of Hiroshima: The B-29, Enola Gay, drops "Little Boy" on Hiroshima, Japan. 129,000 to 246,000 Japanese are dead. [11]
  • The Soviet Union declares war on Japan. This is a thinly veiled attempt to grab territory from a failing Japan. [11]
  • The Bombing of Nagasaki: The B-29, Bockscar (BOX-car), aborts from its primary target due to cloud cover and hits its secondary target, the Christian city of Nagasaki. They drop "Fat Man". [11]
  • Japan surrenders. Emperor Hirohito is subject to the authority of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces. (That is, Douglas MacArthur. Good choice.) [11]
  • Emperor Hirohito announces the surrender of Japan. His use of literary Japanese over the radio is not easily understood by his subjects, but once they get the idea, a number of people faint. [11]
  • It's V-J Day! That is, "Victory in Japan". We all recall that iconic photo of an American sailor kissing a nurse. He was drunk and his future wife can be seen peering over his shoulder, but they were not engaged yet, so... no harm, no foul. [22] [11]


  • The surrender document is signed by representatives on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. It's over. It's finally over. Isn't it? Mostly. [11]
  • "Tokyo Rose" is arrested in Yokohama. The Tokyo Rose radio program was propaganda aimed at discouraging the US military. It was run by several women, but the Japanese-American who was arrested and convicted of being Tokyo Rose actually worked to help her fellow Americans. But try telling that to an angry American public. Nuance is not appreciated at this time. (Glenn Beck bought her microphone to preserve it as an historic relic.) [11]
  • Hideki Tojo, former Prime Minister of Japan, attempts suicide by shooting himself in the heart... and misses. It will be few years before his trial, conviction and execution are complete. In that time, he will be transformed in mind and spirit. Probably no one cares, but redemption, even at the last, is possible. His trial was an obvious farce... worse than the Nuremberg Trials. It was a coverup, but most of the guilty got theirs in the end, regardless. Although the Emperor was not entirely to blame for the war, he was not a helpless boob. He should have stopped it. [11]
  • Life goes on... but not for some. [11]


  • Pierre Laval, former Premier of Vichy France, is shot by a firing squad. The charge was treason, but even if the charge was jaywalking, his life was forfeit. [11]
  • Vidkun Quisling is shot by a firing squad. Treason against Norway. His life was also forfeit. [11]


  • Nuremberg Trials: 22 Nazi war criminals come before a military tribunal. It's a show trial with the convictions and acquittals a foregone conclusion. [11]
  • Nuremberg Trials: The defense mentions the US case of Carrie Buck and the eugenics movement, but Hitler and the Nazis are going to be blamed for it all. [11]
  • Nuremberg Trials: As the criminals are led out, one of them shouts "Purimfest! Purimfest!" (POOR-im-fest) This is a Jewish reference from the Book of Esther when the sons of Haman are hung TWICE for plotting the death of the Jews. The first time was in ancient Persia and the second time is today. Say, "Bye-bye." [11]


  • General George S. Patton dies after his car collides with an Army truck. Was it murder? Well... the guys in the truck were drunk. Today, all records of them are missing. Did they ever exist? I think so, but the incident was hushed up because no one was going to believe that "Old Blood and Guts" was killed in a simple traffic accident, and now we'll never know. [11]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1945, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Ep-1283- Listener Feedback - Into the Mushroom Cloud. thesurvivalpodcast.com (2017). Retrieved on 3 February 2017. “Yes. I recall the story of Miyoko Matsubara. You can find it on page 969 of Toland's book. It is amazing and it was her story that came immediately to mind when I was thinking of direct exposure to radiation. It is also not very pleasant to say the least but if the goal of the Survival Podcast listeners is to survive, then doing nothing is foolish, but doing things out of proportion to the danger is more than foolish. Miyoko Matsubara was 14 years old as I recall. She was working with 350 other students clearing a lot for construction when the pika (the flash) happened. 300 students turned toward the flash signing their own death warrants. Miyoko did something different. She hid her face and ducked. When she awoke everything was gone. Pieces of her flesh were falling off of her. You know the rest. Those who died died fairly quickly. Those who survived are the ones from whom we must take this lesson. Exposure to radiation is not necessarily a death sentence. Most of you who manage to survive the initial exposure will live quite a long time. Months? Very likely. Years? Almost certainly. Will you live to be 90 years old? No guarantees, but how are you going to live that long if you aren't prepared to survive? The worst problem to overcome when addressing what to do about radiation poisoning is the hopeless feeling one has THINKING about it. Most people freeze up and do nothing at all... not even preparing for a normal disaster. They just figure, 'I'll be dead and it won't matter.' But very likely you WON'T be dead and it WILL matter. You won't look too good but most folks will survive for years. If you want those years to be productive and good, you had better be prepared. What we are talking about is a local disaster like a nuclear power plant being blown up by terrorists or an earthquake destroying a containment tank or something like that. It could happen but what is the danger to you? Unless you are living right next door to a nuclear melt down, I don't see it as a priority. It might make your wife feel better that you have meds available but that's close to the full value of having such meds on hand. There are more important things to have before that. I'm just saying...”
  2. A Hiroshima Survivor: Miyoko Matsubara Tells Hubertus Hoffmann Her Story - Conflict Resolutions and World Security Solutions - worldsecuritynetwork.com (October 20, 2007). Retrieved on 3 February 2017. “I realized that my face, hands, and legs had been burned and were swollen, with skin peeling off and hanging down in shreds. For the next three days, I was on the verge of death. I suffered from a lingering high fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and bleeding gums. Half of my hair fell out. Severe Keloid scars started to develop on my face, arms, and legs.”
  3. Trinity (nuclear test) - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  4. Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 8 March 2015. “In August 1945, during the final stage of the Second World War, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The two bombings, which killed at least 129,000 people, remain the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare in history.”
  5. Ep-1283- Listener Feedback - Into the Mushroom Cloud. thesurvivalpodcast.com (2017). Retrieved on 3 February 2017. “The Flight of Nobukazu Komatsu into the Mushroom Cloud. The date is August 9, 1945. It is hazy with smoke obscuring the ground as the B-29, Bock's Car, flies over it's primary target... Kokura, Japan, but the bombardier has orders to make a visual drop and he can't find his target through the haze. Fuel is becoming critical so Bock's Car abandons its primary target, and heads toward its secondary... Nagasaki. Nagasaki, Japan is primarily a Christian city of 200,000 established by the Portuguese in 1571. Now it is in the crosshairs of Bock's Car carrying the second of two atomic bombs. This one is named 'Fat Man' and has been armed since take off. Nagasaki appears on the radar at 11:00 AM, and bombardier Kermit Beahan shouts, 'I've got it! I see the city!' At 11:01 AM the plane suddenly lurches upward. Fat Man is on his way. There is a blue light and then... nothing.”
  6. Toland, John Willard. Rising Sun: Volume 2, the Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945, The. Random House. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 1945 Births - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 30 January 2017.
  8. 1945 Births - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 30 January 2017.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 1945 in film - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 27 January 2017.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 1945 in music - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 30 January 2017.
  11. 11.00 11.01 11.02 11.03 11.04 11.05 11.06 11.07 11.08 11.09 11.10 11.11 11.12 11.13 11.14 11.15 11.16 11.17 11.18 11.19 11.20 11.21 11.22 11.23 11.24 11.25 11.26 11.27 11.28 11.29 11.30 11.31 11.32 11.33 11.34 11.35 11.36 11.37 11.38 11.39 11.40 11.41 11.42 11.43 11.44 11.45 11.46 11.47 11.48 11.49 11.50 11.51 11.52 11.53 11.54 11.55 11.56 11.57 1945 - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 30 January 2017.
  12. As We May Think - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 8 March 2015. “Bush expresses his concern for the direction of scientific efforts toward destruction, rather than understanding, and explicates a desire for a sort of collective memory machine with his concept of the memex that would make knowledge more accessible, believing that it would help fix these problems. Through this machine, Bush hoped to transform an information explosion into a knowledge explosion.”
  13. Andrew Keen. The Internet Is Not the Anwer. Atlantic Monthly Press, 14-21. ISBN 9780802123138. 
  14. Dachau concentration camp - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 2 February 2017. “Being fully aware that Germany was about to be defeated in World War II, the SS invested its time in removing evidence of the crimes they committed in the concentration camps. The SS began destroying incriminating evidence in April 1945 and planned on murdering the prisoners using codenames 'Wolke A I' (Cloud A I) and 'Wolkenbrand' (Cloud fire). However, these plans never ended up being carried out. In mid-April, plans to evacuate the camp started by sending prisoners toward Tyrol. On 26 April, over 10,000 prisoners were forced to leave the Dachau concentration camp on foot, in trains, or in trucks. The largest group of some 7,000 prisoners was driven southward on a foot-march lasting several days. More than 1,000 prisoners did not survive this march. The evacuation transports cost many thousands of prisoners their lives.”
  15. Raoul Wallenberg - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 2 February 2017. “On 26 July 2012, he was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Congress 'in recognition of his achievements and heroic actions during the Holocaust.'”
  16. Buchenwald concentration camp - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 2 February 2017. “On April 4, 1945, the US 89th Infantry Division overran Ohrdruf, a subcamp of Buchenwald. It was the first Nazi camp liberated by US troops.”
  17. Uncle liberated camp, but not Auschwitz - PolitiFact. politifact.com (May 27, 2008). Retrieved on 2 February 2017. “Later that day, the Obama campaign acknowledged getting the location wrong but said Obama's great uncle (his grandmother's brother) was part of liberating a concentration camp in Ohrdruf, a subcamp of Buchenwald in Germany.”
  18. Bombing of Dresden - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 2 February 2017. “In four raids between 13 and 15 February 1945, 722 heavy bombers of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and 527 of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city.[1] The bombing and the resulting firestorm destroyed over 1,600 acres (6.5 km2) of the city centre.”
  19. Remagen Bridge Collapsed - Ludendorff Bridge - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 3 February 2017.
  20. Japanese battleship Yamato - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 3 February 2017. “In a desperate attempt to slow the Allied advance, Yamato was dispatched on a one-way mission to Okinawa in April 1945, with orders to beach herself and fight until destroyed protecting the island.”
  21. Oskar Schindler - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 3 February 2017. “Using names provided by Jewish Ghetto Police officer Marcel Goldberg, Göth's secretary Mietek Pemper compiled and typed the list of 1,200 Jews who travelled to Brünnlitz in October 1944. Schindler continued to bribe SS officials to prevent the execution of his workers until the end of World War II in Europe in May 1945, by which time he had spent his entire fortune on bribes and black-market purchases of supplies for his workers.”
  22. Times Square: Sailor and nurse kissing in iconic WWII photograph are reunited - Daily Mail Online (11 August 2012). Retrieved on 3 February 2017. “While George says he was too drunk to even remember the kiss, Greta recalls being grabbed clearly.”

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