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 →
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.”
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.