Lucky Dragon 5

24 08 2011

For many years after the Japanese surrender in World War 2 the United States of America Tested Nuclear Weapons in the pacific in an area known as the Marshall Islands. In total the Americans tested 67 Nuclear Weapons. On March 1 1954 the Americans set off the Largest Nuclear Explosion to date – code named Castle Bravo (the Hydrogen Bomb). The explosion would be the first in a chain reaction of events that would change the world.

When the explosion occurred there was a Fishing Vessel called the Daigo Fukuryū Maru or Lucky Dragon 5 which was outside the exclusion zone. The crew saw a bright light and then a few hours later a snow storm fell on them. A few hours later some of the crew became sick and then a few days later some of their faces turned strangely dark. The ship’s captain did not understand what was going on so returned the ship to port in Yaizu. When the ship arrived in Yaizu many of the crew members were suffering from symptoms related to Radiation Poisoning. On September 23 1954 (six months later) Aikichi Kuboyama died of Leukemia. According to newspaper reports his last words were “Please make sure that I am the last victim of the Nuclear Bomb”. Five other crew members later died from diseases that were believed to be bomb related. The incident gripped Japan when it was discovered that the cargo (tuna) the ship was carrying was also infected and was on the market.

At first the Americans tried to cover up the incident, they later admitted that the ash (snow) was from the Bomb but claimed that the boat was on a spying mission. The Americans then sent the widow a check for 2.5 million yen ($2500) as a “token of sympathy” in an attempt to put the matter to rest. Many years later the USA admitted that the operation was the most powerful Nuclear bomb ever detonated and caused the single worst fallout incident in the H-Bomb atmospheric testing program. The incident caused many citizens of Japan and Thousands of scientists around the world to call for a halt to Nuclear Weapons testing. The Nuclear powers of the world agreed to the limitations of Nuclear testing with the common goal of “an end to the contamination of man’s environment by radioactive substances”.

Even though the incident brought an end to Nuclear Testing the incident did something else as well. In Japan the incident caused great fear for the Japanese people, it was still a time when nobody knew much about Nuclear Power and was a topic of great concern. Film director Tomoyuki Tanaka used the incident as inspiration for a film. The film was about a giant monster that was woken up by Nuclear Testing and would go on to trample Tokyo. The film was called Godzilla and it became a huge hit in Japan.

The fishing vessel is now on display in Tokyo at the Tokyo Metropolitan Daigo Fukuryū Maru Exhibition Hall.



The Lucky Dragon Incident by Lauren White

Godzilla: King of the Monsters – BBC Documentary


Japan’s Favourite Mon-Star The Unauthorized Biography of “The Big G” by Steve Ryfle




2 responses

24 06 2012
The Railway Company – A History of TOHO (200th Post) « Numb3r5s's Blog

[…] fast. During this period in Japan there was a tragedy at sea involving a Fishing Boat called the Lucky Dragon 5. The ship was in an area where the H-Bomb was tested and even though it was many miles away the […]

3 03 2014
The Dark Knight and the ACME Bomb: Batman and realism part I : The Cultural Gutter

[…] I think of Godzilla movies as a way of talking about the experience of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the Lucky Dragon #5 (a boat that was irradiated during the US hydrogen bomb tests) because the experience itself was […]

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