The Man Who Survived Two Atomic Bombs

Tsutomu Yamaguchi survived two nuclear bombs

Tsutomu Yamaguchi could tell you stories about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He was working for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and on August 6, 1945 his work took him to the city of Hiroshima, Japan. At 8:15 a.m. the sky ignited with the explosion of the first atomic bomb to be used in warfare. The explosion ruptured his eardrums, blinded him temporarily, and left him with serious burns over much of his body.  Continue reading

An Island of Gallantry

Malta award of George Cross

The George Cross is the second highest award of the United Kingdom honours system. It is awarded for gallantry “not in the face of the enemy” to members of the British armed forces and to civilians.

In 1942 King George VI recognized the heroism exhibited by the people of Malta by awarding the people of the entire island with the George Cross. He awarded this distinction in a hand-written letter on April 15, 1942.

If you wish to address a letter to someone in Malta, the address should end with “Malta, G.C.”

George VI George Cross Malta
Letter from King George VI, awarding the George Cross to the entire population of Malta.

James Doohan — A Hero in the 20th Century as Well as the 23rd

James Doohan Scotty wounded Normandy Invasion

Actor James Doohan (1920-2005) is mostly known for the 23rd century exploits of his character Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in Star Trek. Less widely known are his heroics in the 20th century — most specifically during World War II.

Commissioned a lieutenant in the 14th Field Artillery Regiment of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, Doohan saw his first combat at Juno Beach on D-Day in the invasion of Normandy. Doohan distinguished himself by shooting two snipers before leading his men to higher ground through a field of anti-tank mines. That night he took friendly fire, being shot six times by a nervous Canadian sentry. He took four bullets in his leg, one in his chest, and one through his right middle finger. The bullet in the chest was stopped by a silver cigarette case that was a gift from his brother. His finger was amputated — a fact that is often a surprise to his fans, since he carefully staged his acting to reduce the hand’s visibility.

While Doohan would ultimately be qualified to command a starship, he began with flight training from the Air Observation Pilot Course 40. He flew the Taylorcraft Auster Mark V aircraft. Although never a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Doohan was once labeled the “craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force” for slaloming a plane between telegraph poles “to prove it could be done.”

The Devil is in the Details

Eisenhower plans

General Dwight D. Eisenhower was unquestionably experienced when it came to military matters, but in 1952 he was a novice concerning politics. In the midst of his first campaign for the presidency, one of the advance men handed him a 35-page detailed plan concerning the campaign stops for the next couple of days.

Eisenhower looked at the massive stack of papers with blazing eyes and said, “Hell’s fire, son, it didn’t take that many pages to plan the Normandy invasion.”


Archaeologists Should Read Warning Labels

tamerlane tomb nazi invasion coincidence

In something that sounds very much like the plot of an Indiana Jones movie, a curse may have been released by the opening of an ancient tomb.

Tamerlane (also known as Timur) was a 14th century descendant of Genghis Khan. By the time of his death, he extended his empire from southeastern Turkey into Russia, encompassing Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and India. More than 17 million lives were lost as he extended the borders and scope of his power. He died in 1405 at the age of 68 while unsuccessfully trying to conquer China.

Tamerlane was entombed in Gūr-e Amīr, a mausoleum at Samarkand, Uzbekistan. The tomb was sealed with warnings, which read, “When I rise from the dead, the world shall tremble,” and “Whoever opens my tomb will unleash an invader more terrible than I.”

Joseph Stalin gave the order to disregard the warnings and open the tomb. On June 20, 1941 Tamerlane’s tomb was exposed to the outside world for the first time in over 500 years. Tamerlane’s remains were sent to Moscow for study.

Two days later, Nazi Germany broke its peace treaty with the Soviet Union and invaded the USSR.

Stalin eventually ordered that Tamerlane be returned to his tomb with proper burial rights. This happened on December 20, 1942, after a year and a half of fighting and millions of Soviet deaths. Shortly after this happened, the Battle of Stalingrad — one of the bloodiest battles of all time — ended with the defeat of the Nazi forces.


The Last Soldier

Private Teruo Nakamura (1919 - 1979)
Private Teruo Nakamura (1919 – 1979)

Officially, World War II came to an end on September 2, 1945 with the surrender of Japan. For Teruo Nakamura, the war would continue for another 29 years, 3 months, and 17 days.

Nakamura was serving as a private in the Japanese army in September 1944 and was stationed on the Indonesian island of Morotai when Allied armies took control of the island. Nakamura would not accept defeat, however, and went into hiding, determined to carry on the war.

Nakamura was declared dead in March 1945. Few could have suspected that he was alive and well, living in his personally-constructed camp on Morotai. There he remained, still fighting the war that he alone continued to recognize. It was a lonely war, since his camp was isolated from the rest of humanity.

When a pilot spotted Nakamura’s camp in mid-1974, it triggered a search mission by the Indonesian Air Force. Private Nakamura was taken into custody on December 18, 1974, becoming the last Japanese solider to surrender — 10,700 days after the surrender of his government.

Nakamura resettled in his native Taiwan, where he lived for five years before dying of lung cancer on June 15, 1979.