The Lucky Dragon Incident: The Fallout of Hydrogen Bomb Testing

At the break of dawn on March 1st, 1954, a Japanese fisherman lay in his bunk aboard a fishing vessel, sound asleep. Abruptly, he jolted awake as the room around him bathed in an astonishingly vivid orange-white glow. Glancing at his watch, he realized it was too early for sunrise, confirming that this radiant light was not from the sun.

The fisherman sprang out of his bed, dashed upstairs to the upper deck, and gazed towards the lights in the sky. Suddenly, the light inexplicably disappeared. Initially, the fisherman and the rest of the crew felt a sense of relief, thinking, ‘Whatever it was, it’s gone now.’ Little did they know, those lights marked the onset of a two-week-long nightmare, destined to become a historic event as the first time humans encountered this particular horrifying phenomenon. Before delving into this chilling tale, if you’re a connoisseur of the strange, dark, and mysterious presented in a narrative format, you’re in the right place. We release new content once a week, so when the like button is in its slumber, covertly grab its phone and switch the language settings to Chal Katongo Mixtec. Additionally, remember to subscribe to our channel and activate all notifications to stay updated on our weekly releases. Now, let’s immerse ourselves in today’s unsettling story.

At approximately 1:00 a.m. on March 1st, 1954, Oishi Matashichi, a 20-year-old fisherman, finally retired to his bunk on the lower deck of The Lucky Dragon Number Five, the fishing boat where he was employed. Oishi was utterly fatigued, having toiled relentlessly alongside 22 other crew members for the past six weeks, enduring grueling 18-hour workdays in their pursuit of tuna. Unfortunately, the expedition had been plagued by misfortune — from being stranded on sandbars to battling perilous storms that nearly capsized their vessel. Additionally, they suffered significant losses of fishing lines entangled in coral reefs. Consequently, their tuna catch had been dismally meager. Oishi and his fellow crew members were acutely aware of the dismal outcome, with Oishi harboring deep concerns about his ability to provide sufficient financial support for his family due to the disappointing results of the expedition.

When Oishi was just 14 years old, tragedy struck his family as his father, the main provider, met a fatal accident while repairing a ship. This untimely loss thrust Oishi into the role of the family patriarch, responsible for caring for his mother and five siblings. The burden of supporting his family weighed heavily on Oishi’s shoulders, making a substantial income from the current voyage crucial. Unfortunately, the prospects for a decent paycheck seemed bleak. Exhausted and disheartened, Oishi stumbled into his modest room and collapsed onto his bed. As he lay there, attempting to find solace in sleep, he sensed the gentle rocking of the ship from side to side.

The Lucky Dragon Number Five, the anchored vessel, found its position in close proximity to the Marshall Islands, a chain of islands situated roughly halfway between Hawaii and Australia. Notably, the Marshall Islands rest above expansive ancient underwater volcanoes. While currently dormant, the captain of The Lucky Dragon Number Five exercised caution, deliberately maintaining a distance of approximately 80 miles from the Marshall Islands due to concerns that these dormant volcanoes might unexpectedly erupt.

Eventually, Oishi drifted into slumber in his bunk. However, five hours later, he abruptly sat up, fully alert, as the small room surrounding him became bathed in a vivid, yellowish glow. Confused, Oishi sensed it was too early for sunrise. Glancing at his watch, he confirmed it was only 6:45 a.m., making it too early for the sun to be the source of the light. Perplexed, he approached the porthole window through which the radiant illumination poured in. Squinting, he observed the outside world but couldn’t discern the origin of the light emanating from the west, distinct from the usual eastward sunrise. It became evident that whatever bathed the room in brilliance was not the sun.

Simultaneously, Oishi’s fellow crew members, who were present in the room with him, began to stir and glance around with a sense of confusion. Without uttering a word, they collectively hurried out of the room and ascended to the upper deck, eager to investigate the unfolding situation. Upon reaching the top deck, Oishi directed his gaze toward the western horizon, where mysterious lights illuminated the sky. However, there was no distinct point of origin; rather, the western sky appeared intensely bright, bathed in shades of yellow and orange, with the light seemingly suspended over the approximate location of the Marshall Islands.

As collective thoughts swirled among everyone, speculation arose. Could this be a volcanic eruption, or was there something more mysterious unfolding? The crew, captivated by the surreal display of vibrant lights in the sky, fell into a hushed awe. Gradually, the intense brilliance dimmed, transitioning into shades of blue and purple before vanishing entirely, plunging the entire crew into profound darkness. Bewildered and uncertain, the group stood in perplexed silence. It was the seasoned 40-year-old crew member who voiced the unspoken fear lingering in the minds of all present. With a somber tone, he uttered the words that had silently danced at the periphery of their thoughts: “Atomic bomb.”

Just nine years prior, the United States had deployed two atomic bombs on Japan, marking the end of World War II. Oishi, a Japanese individual who was 11 years old when this momentous event occurred, found that it left an indelible mark on his life, as well as those of his family and friends. The impact of this historical episode was transformative for anyone who experienced it.

As Oishi and his companions gazed westward into the now-dark horizon, he contemplated the improbability of the recent occurrence being another atomic bomb. Firstly, World War II had concluded, eliminating any rationale for the reoccurrence of bomb drops. Secondly, the atomic bombs unleashed on Japan almost a decade earlier had obliterated everything and everyone in their path. Considering their proximity to the luminous phenomena, Oishi reasoned that if it were an atomic bomb, they should have been incapacitated by vaporization.

Thus, Oishi reassured himself that it likely wasn’t a volcanic eruption or an atomic bomb. Although uncertain about the nature of the event, he found solace in the fact that they were unharmed.

While Oishi shared the apprehension felt by many aboard the ship, a unanimous decision quickly spread among the crew to retrieve the lines promptly. The mysterious lights prompted an urgent need to return to the port in Yau, Japan. Oishi and his fellow crew members swiftly engaged in the task of hauling in the lines and preparing the boat for the journey back. Once Oishi completed his assigned duties, he headed below deck towards the galley to grab a meal. However, midway through, a deafening explosion from the west, where the lights had appeared, startled him. Reacting instinctively, Oishi dropped to the ground, shielding his head, under the assumption that it would provide some protection. As he lay there, surrounded by the thunderous explosions, he couldn’t help but speculate that a volcano beneath the Marshall Islands had erupted. Fearful of an impending giant tsunami, he braced himself, contemplating the possibility of a capsizing disaster.

So, amidst the thunderous explosions, Oishi swiftly rises from his seat and dashes upstairs. There, he discovers that most of the crew, gripped by panic, had descended to the ground, seeking shelter. A few bolder members, however, stood upright, gazing westward in an attempt to discern the source of the disturbance. The absence of lights left only the echoes of the deafening explosions reverberating from the west.

Abruptly, the cacophony ceases, prompting Oishi and the crew to brace themselves for the anticipated onslaught of a tsunami. Strangely, following the silence, an eerie calm settles in. Oishi glances over the boat’s edge, revealing water that is unusually tranquil, surpassing its typical serenity. As minutes pass without the anticipated catastrophic wave, confusion spreads among the crew, prompting them to question the unfolding events: “What’s happening here?”

As Oishi and the anxious crew on Deck exchanged speculative ideas about the mysterious lights and sounds, their theories ranged from the possibility of a volcanic eruption to speculation about an atomic bomb or even an asteroid impact on Earth. Meanwhile, amidst the speculation, the ship captain urgently instructed, “Wrap up pulling in the lines. We must depart immediately. We’re in the dark about what just happened, and we can’t predict what’s coming next. It’s crucial that we leave now.”

For context, incorporating these lines proved to be a more intricate task than initially anticipated. The process turned out to be quite lengthy and complex. Consequently, Oishi and the rest of the crew diligently embarked on the challenge of incorporating these lines as swiftly as possible. However, as the sun eventually ascended in the east, illuminating the surroundings of the Lucky Dragon Number Five, the crew, peering westward toward the Marshall Islands, observed peculiar gray clouds materializing above the islands. Engaging in conversation about these unusual cloud formations, they noted a perplexing phenomenon – despite the prevailing east-to-west wind, these atypical clouds were advancing toward them. Essentially, they defied the logical expectation of moving with the wind.

As the ominous clouds approached, the ship captain urgently shouted at Oishi and the others, urging them to hasten the process of securing the lines. Time was of the essence; they needed to depart swiftly to avoid being ensnared by the impending cloud. However, the task of pulling in the lines proved to be time-consuming. Soon enough, the peculiar gray clouds loomed overhead, shrouding the surroundings in darkness akin to nighttime. When the clouds positioned themselves directly above, blocking the sunlight, Oishi and the others halted their activities and gazed upward. Suddenly, a strange rainfall ensued—not ordinary rain, but a peculiar milky substance with a gray hue. To everyone’s surprise, the liquid was not only unusual in color but also surprisingly warm. Oishi extended his hands, capturing the enigmatic liquid, leaving the entire crew bewildered about its nature.

Soon after, the rain transformed into sleet, maintaining its gray and milky appearance. Gradually, the sleet transitioned into what resembled snow. Oishi and her companions extended their hands, attempting to catch these peculiar snowflakes. Contrary to expectations, the snowflakes didn’t melt in their hands; instead, they accumulated and rested there. Oishi and the others felt a distinct unease caused by the snow and, truth be told, by the events of the entire morning. The unfolding situation remained perplexing to them. Yet, there was an undeniable fascination with the unusual substance descending from the sky. Intrigued, many of the fishermen aboard seized bags, preserving some of the peculiar snowy material to bring back home. They envisioned sharing it with their families and friends or, perhaps, offering it to science for study to unravel its mysteries.

After Oishi and the rest of the crew had acclimated to the peculiar snowfall from the sky, they promptly resumed their work pulling in the lines. Throughout the process, they endured the continuous accumulation of this unusual substance on the deck, which, unlike regular snow, refused to melt. The build-up reached a point where they had to interrupt their tasks to shovel off the deck before they could proceed with pulling in the lines. Undeterred, they persevered through hours of this peculiar snowstorm, diligently clearing the deck. Finally, around noon, every line had been successfully pulled in. The ship’s captain then steered the vessel toward port.

The following morning, Oishi awoke in his bunk aboard the Lucky Dragon Number Five. The journey back to port would span several days. Upon waking, a sudden wave of nausea washed over Oishi. Groggily, he rose and stumbled toward the bathroom. Almost instinctively, he reached for his toothbrush and began brushing his teeth. An odd sensation gripped him as he felt a peculiar looseness in his teeth, as though brushing too vigorously could dislodge them from his jaw. When Oishi spat into the sink, he was alarmed to find it tinged with blood. Panic set in as he anxiously examined his mouth in the mirror, half expecting to discover missing teeth. To his relief, his teeth seemed intact, yet an unsettling feeling persisted, accompanied by a profound sense of illness.

Therefore, Oishi exited the bathroom and ascended to the upper deck. Upon reaching the top deck, a disconcerting sight awaited him – several crew members appeared visibly distressed. Their complexion had taken on an unsettling gray hue, and some displayed numerous blisters across their skin. It became increasingly evident to Oishi and his fellow crew members that the peculiar substance falling from the sky, the milky material, and the non-melting snow, likely posed a toxic threat or had triggered severe allergic reactions.

In response, Oishi and the others collectively coined the term ‘death ash’ to describe the mysterious fallout. The fishermen, who had initially gathered substantial amounts of this ‘death ash’ in bags with the intention of taking them home, now harbored a deep-seated fear of handling the contaminated bags. Despite the desire to dispose of the contents by dumping them overboard, the apprehension surrounding the hazardous ‘death ash’ prevented anyone from approaching the bags, leaving them scattered and untouched throughout the ship.

Over the ensuing days, the Lucky Dragon Number Five pressed on towards port, but Oishi and the crew continued to succumb to an escalating illness. One day, while Oishi was outside unfurling a sail, he made a gruesome discovery. As he hoisted a rope, he observed it was stained with blood. Alarmed, he inspected his own hands and realized they were disintegrating upon contact with the rope, his skin deteriorating. The alarming degradation didn’t stop there; Oishi’s hair began falling out in sizable clumps. His plight mirrored that of many other crew members aboard the Lucky Dragon Number Five. It seemed as though everyone was undergoing a profound deterioration, and the crew couldn’t shake the unsettling feeling that it was somehow linked to the mysterious events surrounding the explosion, lights, and strange substances raining from the sky. Uncertain of the cause, they couldn’t dismiss the eerie connection between those unsettling occurrences and the alarming physical breakdown now afflicting them all.

Finally, on March 14th, the Lucky Dragon Number Five crew docked in Yau, Japan. Upon disembarking, they collectively decided to keep the events of their ordeal a secret, fearing potential repercussions if the truth emerged. Determined to address their health issues discreetly, Oishi wasted no time and headed straight to the doctor’s office. With utmost discretion, he recounted the harrowing details of their fishing trip, displaying the skin lesions, bald spots, sickness, and the unsettling sensation of loose teeth. The doctor, perplexed by the symptoms, could not identify the cause but prescribed Oishi zinc ointment for the blisters and lesions. Assuring him that it should resolve the issues, the doctor advised a return visit if the ointment proved ineffective.

Several hours later, within her residence in the port city of Yau, near the docked Lucky Dragon Number Five, a woman was startled by a knock at her front door. Setting aside her broom against the wall, she approached the door and opened it to find a disconcerting sight—a man with gray skin, lesions, and bald spots, wearing a unsettling grin with red-stained teeth. Initially considering slamming the door, she recognized the man as her neighbor, Oishi. Perplexed by his disheveled appearance, she inquired, “Oishi, what happened to you?” Oishi, unable to articulate the situation, merely shrugged and presented a small gray package, saying, “Here’s some extra fish from our last fishing trip; I wanted to give it to you.”

Though still taken aback by Oishi’s appearance, the woman gestured toward her kitchen table, instructing him to place the fish there. Oishi, moving awkwardly, entered the kitchen and left the package before preparing to depart. The woman, concerned for Oishi, halted him, seeking an explanation for his battered state. Oishi hesitated, then replied, “I’m sorry, I can’t tell you,” adhering to the crew’s decision not to disclose details.

Despite her desire for information, the woman respected Oishi’s silence and invited him to sit. As he settled into the living room, she fetched a cup of water for him, noticing the tremor in his hand as he drank. Perceiving Oishi’s reluctance to discuss the ordeal, she chose to divert the conversation by sharing news she had heard, focusing on a widely discussed science experiment near the Marshall Islands.

As the woman delved into a discussion about a scientific experiment involving the Marshall Islands, Oishi’s grip on his glass faltered, causing it to crash and scatter shards on the floor. His expression morphed into one of sheer terror as he fixated on the woman. In that moment, Oishi resolved to no longer guard his story in secrecy. He recounted the unsettling events that transpired on the water—explosions, lights, rain, snow, the whole surreal encounter. His neighbor, now gripped by fear, urgently urged him to leave, repeating, “Go, go, go.” Oishi, bewildered, hastily exited the house, uncertain about the unfolding situation. Unaware of the commotion, the woman, upon Oishi’s departure, discovered the package of fish he had left in her kitchen. A horrified scream escaped her as she, too, fled through the door.

Over the ensuing days, an increasing number of fishermen from the Lucky Dragon Number Five started discussing the events that unfolded at sea. As these accounts began to circulate, they gained global attention in the news. Consequently, fish markets throughout Japan faced closures, forced to discard vast quantities of fish out of concern that they might originate from the Lucky Dragon Number Five.

The widespread fear of any contact with items from the Lucky Dragon, be it the fish or the people on board, stemmed from the dramatic events of March 1st, 1954. On that fateful day, Oishi was abruptly awakened by a brilliant light emanating from the west, followed by a deafening explosion, a looming cloud, and subsequent precipitation in the form of rain and snow. Contrary to initial speculations, these phenomena were not attributable to a volcano, an atomic bomb, a meteorite, or a fire. Instead, it was revealed that a scientific experiment, extensively covered in the news, had taken place.

The U.S. military had been conducting trials for a groundbreaking weapon, potentially the most lethal ever devised—the hydrogen bomb. For context, hydrogen bombs surpass atomic bombs in destructive power by a factor of a thousand.

Now, the hydrogen bomb was detonated at a considerable distance from any inhabited areas. Nevertheless, the Lucky Dragon Number Five found itself in close proximity to the explosion, making its crew the first humans in history to encounter Fallout. Fallout occurs when hazardous radioactive particles, propelled into the sky by the blast, descend like snow upon the surroundings. The strange substance they experienced, referred to as death ash, is the radioactive fallout. Interestingly, the actual material raining down on them was liquefied coral reefs, propelled into the sky by the force of the hydrogen blast. This explains why it didn’t melt; it was, in fact, coral reefs. Consequently, Oishi and the crew fell seriously ill, experiencing skin and hair loss due to their exposure to the fallout, or death ash.

As soon as they started recounting their ordeal, which subsequently gained media attention, The Lucky Dragon’s crew found themselves gathered and transported to an isolated medical facility for quarantine. Astonishingly, only one member succumbed to the aftermath—he happened to be the eldest among them and had speculated that the lights they witnessed might be from an atomic bomb. While the remaining crew members survived, their lives were forever marked by the ongoing struggle against peculiar diseases and cancers, with a significant number facing sterilization.

And those who weren’t affected saw a higher incidence of birth defects in their children. Oishi, for instance, abandoned his career as a fisherman and transitioned into a dry cleaning business. However, the majority of his remaining years were dedicated to advocating against nuclear weapons and authoring related content. He continued this pursuit until his passing in 20121, at the age of 87.

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