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Mr Yamaguchi and his friends are freaks of history, victims of a fate so callous and improbable that it almost raises a smile. In 1945, they were working in Hiroshima where the world’s first atomic bomb exploded 60 years ago this morning, on 6 August 1945. 140,000 people died as a result of the explosion; by pure chance, Mr Yamaguchi, Mr Sato and Mr Iwanaga, were spared. Stunned and injured, reeling from the horrors around them, they left the city for the only place they could have gone – their home town, Nagasaki, 180 miles to the west. There, on 9th August, the second atomic bomb exploded over their heads.
In a century of mass killing, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki marked the beginning of a new age. The end of the world was transformed from an imaginative notion, the fancy of poets and prophets, into a real and living possibility. Three men survived the beginning of the end of the world, not once, but twice. Sixty years later, all three of them are alive.