Saturday, February 10, 2024

THE STORY OF THE 第五福龍丸, Daigo Fukuryū Maru #5, LUCKY DRAGON #5

THE STORY OF THE 第五福龍丸, Daigo Fukuryū Maru, LUCKY DRAGON #5

After the opening credits are completed for Toho Studio’s, 1954, “ゴジラ, Gojira”, that premiered in Nagoya, on October 27, 1954. The life preserver on the first ship the audience sees clearly indicates that it is ship “No. 5”. During that entire sequence with the crew, director Ishiro Honda, keeps the life preserver centered as much as possible. 


Those unfamiliar with the significance of the number “Five” may not understand what Ishiro Honda and producer Tomoyuki Tanaka were telling their Japanese audiences.Those who are familiar may not know the complete story and that is the purpose of this article.

Below is one of the few pictures of the “Daigo Fukuryū Maru #5” in port with its crew, before leaving for the fishing grounds toward “Bikini Atoll”.

“Hooray for Hollywood, that phoney super-Coney Hollywood”. 

Those words are part of the 1937 lyrics of a song by Richard Whiting, but are appropriate here.

On March 7, 1947, “Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer” released the “Hollywood” version of the events known to history as “The Manhattan Project” and "The Trinity Atomic Bomb". 

That motion picture was entitled:

“The Beginning or the End”. 

Brian Donlevy portrayed “General Leslie R. Groves”, and sixth-billed Hume Cronyn portrayed “J. Robert Oppenheimer”, in "MGM's" piece of flag waving fiction

On November 21, 1952, “Metro-Goldwyn Mayer”, now released the “Hollywood” version of the story of the “Enola Gay”. The "Boeing B-29 Superfortress", and its crew, that dropped the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb under the command of Army Air Corps Lieutenant Colonel Paul W. Tibbets”, portrayed by Robert Taylor

In this second flag waver, Eleanor Parker portrayed his wife Lucy Tibbets.


These two motion pictures reflected how the average 1950 American viewed the end of the Second World War and the “Rightful” bombing of two cities in Japan to finally “Bring Our Boys Home”. 

While across the Pacific Ocean in Japan. The Japanese people, their doctors and scientists were dealing with the obliteration of two major cities in seconds by two "Atomic Bombs" code named "Little Boy" and "Fat Man", with a death toll, on the lower estimates, of 129,000 people, and its horrific aftermath. 

Below, on the left is the Hiroshima Bomb, and on the right, the Nagasaki Bomb. 

Depending upon your point of view, such devastation should have ended any thought of developing higher yield nuclear weapons. 

However, what history revealed was that even the Japanese military, using a hidden base in Korea, had been working on the development of a nuclear weapon. It was always known, and targeted during the Second World War, that Germany was attempting to create a nuclear bomb. 

After the defeat of Nazi Germany and before the official end of the Second World War. The Soviet Union, under Joseph Stalin, envisioned its own nuclear development program. They possessed documents, provided by their spies within the United States, on "The Manhattan Project", but no one to bring this vision into fruition at the time. 

With the end of the Second World War, the Soviet Union acquired German scientists fearing allied war crime trials, and Stalin's nuclear vision became credible.

After relocating all the natives from "Bikini Atoll", nuclear bomb tests started with "Operation Crossroads". The first nuclear bomb was code named "Abel", detonated on June 30, 1946,  and it was followed by "Baker", July 24, 1946. "Crossroads" was scheduled to end with "Charlie", on August 1, 1946, but that test was cancelled. The next test on the atoll would be "Castle Bravo", eight-years later.

Between the date of the cancelled "Charlie" and August 29, 1949, the United States conducted only six more nuclear tests. However, on that August date, the Soviet Union detonated its first nuclear weapon.


"Enewetak Atoll", on November 2, 1952, saw the first ever "Hydrogen Bomb" test, code named "Ivy Mike". The bomb VAPORIZED the islet of "Elugelab".

Above, "Elugelab" before "Ivy Mike", below, after "Ivy Mike".

Next, the "United States Atomic Energy Commission" and the "United States Department of Defense" came together and decided to design an aircraft deliverable weapon. 

On March 17, 1953, at the "Nevada Test Site", located only 65-miles northwest of Las Vegas, "Annie", the first of the eleven hydrogen bomb tests, of "Operation Upshot - Knothole", was detonated. This test group would end with "Climax", June 4, 1953, and had been designed to test the different components that would be used in the first "Castle Bravo" device.


Above, the "Shrimp Device", or the core of the "Castle Bravo H-Bomb". 

According to the website "",

"The Shrimp Device":

was the first "dry"or solid fuel (lithium deuteride fueled) H-Bomb tested by the U.S., and the first solid fuel Teller-Ulam device ever tested. It was the largest bomb ever tested by the U.S. although THIS WAS BY ACCIDENT.


Below, is the final form of the "Castle Bravo H-Bomb" with the installed "Shrimp Device".

In October, 1953, the scientists worked their math, studied the historical weather reports for the area, looked at their projected yield for the bomb, and with other factors, determined how much area around "Bikini Atoll" would be safe from the blast. The calculations would be updated as the scheduled date for the test was pushed out. However, the United States Navy issued a "Danger Zone Notice", on October 10, 1953

The fishing boat was built in March 1947, and named the "第七事代丸 (Kotoshiro Maru)" and was the seventh boat of that name. The boat was commonly translated as the "Dianana Kotoshiro #7", and was originally a bonito fishing boat out of the Misaki fishing harbor. In 1953, after being remodeled as a tuna fishing boat, it was moved to Yaizu Port, in Shizuoka Prefecture, and operated out of there. The "Tuna Boat" was renamed the "第五福龍丸 Daigo Fukuryu Maru", the fifth boat of that name, and either translated as "Fifth Lucky Dragon", or the more familiar "Lucky Dragon #5".

On January 22, 1954, the "Daigo Fukuryu Maru #5" left port for a planned normal long ocean voyage to the fishing grounds off of "Midway Island", 2,267 miles from Japan. 


According to the website, "The Wayback Machine", it appears "Fate", if you believe in it, intervened with the "Daigo Fukuryu Maru #5":

The crew were fishing in the Midway Sea when they lost most of their trawl nets to the sea. They altered their course southward near the Marshall Islands, and encountered a Bikini hydrogen bomb test on March 1.

According to Martha Smith-Norris in her 1997, "Only as Dust in the Face of the Wind": An Analysis of the BRAVO Nuclear Incident in the Pacific". Which was published in "The Journal of American-East Asian Relations Vol. 6, No. 1".

The "Daigo Fukuryu Maru #5" was operating, at least, 14-miles outside the United States Navy's posted "57,000 square mile Danger Zone". Additionally, possibly because of the tuna boat's size, it was not detected on either radar, or by Navy spotter planes.

At 6:45 AM, March 1, 1954, the crew saw the sky light up from the "Castle Bravo H-Bomb", below, and two factors brought the white ash of the fallout, they would call, "Shi no hai (死の灰, death ash)to them.

The first factor against the crew of the "Lucky Dragon #5", was that the "Castle Bravo H-Bomb" was calculated, by the scientific minds of the program, to have a maximum yield of Six Megatonnes of TNT .


The actual yield was 2.5-times-greater than Six Megatonnes of TNT, it was FIFTEEN! 

Making the "Danger Zone", needing to be, at least, two and a half times larger than posted.

The second. factor against the crew of the "Lucky Dragon #5" was the wind. It changed from its predicted direction and blew towards the tuna boat and away from it.

Each member of the crew of the "Daigo Fukuryu #5" received a radiation dose of 300 RADS as the "SHI NO HAI" passed over them. 

Getting a little scientific here to explain 300 RADS to my reader:

The following is from Page 17, out of 22, from the website "".

The following graph indicates where the "Daigo Fukuryu Maru" was located in relation to "ground-zero" for the "Castle Bravo" detonation and the estimated amount of "RAD's (radiation Absorbed Dose)" each member of the crew was exposed too, indicating 300

Castle BRAVO test

Castle BRAVO Fallout

The following comes from the website for the "United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission".

The purpose of these sections, that I have combined from three different articles, is to (1). Explain what a "RAD" is, (2). What a "Millirem" is, and (3). How many "RAD's" a normal person gets in a year as compared to the crew of the "Daigo Fukuryu Maru" from direct expose to the "Castle Bravo H-Bomb":

A "RAD" is:

One of the two units used to measure the amount of radiation absorbed by an object or person, known as the "absorbed dose” which reflects the amount of energy that radioactive sources deposit in materials through which they pass. The radiation-absorbed dose (rad) is the amount of energy (from any type of ionizing ratiation) deposited in any medium (e.g., water, tissue, air). An absorbed dose of 1 rad means that 1 gram of material absorbed 100 ergs of energy (a small but measurable amount) as a result of exposure to radiation. The related international system unit is the gray (Gy), where 1 Gy is equivalent to 100 rad.


Measuring Radiactivity: 

There are four different but interrelated units for measuring radioactivity, exposure, absorbed dose, and dose equivalent. These can be remembered by the mnemonic R-E-A-D, as follows, with both common (British, e.g., Ci) and international (metric, e.g., Bq) units in use:

  • Radioactivity refers to the amount of ionizing radiation released by a material. Whether it emits alpha or beta particles, gamma rays, x-rays, or neutrons, a quantity of radioactive material is expressed in terms of its radioactivity (or simply its activity), which represents how many atoms in the material decay in a given time period. The units of measure for radioactivity are the curie (Ci) and becquerel (Bq).
  • Exposure describes the amount of radiation traveling through the air. Many radiation monitors measure exposure. The units for exposure are the roentgen (R) and coulomb/kilogram (C/kg).
  • Absorbed dose describes the amount of radiation absorbed by an object or person (that is, the amount of energy that radioactive sources deposit in materials through which they pass). The units for absorbed dose are the radiation absorbed dose (rad) and gray (Gy).
  • Dose equivalent (or effective dose) combines the amount of radiation absorbed and the medical effects of that type of radiation. For beta and gamma radiation, the dose equivalent is the same as the absorbed dose. By contrast, the dose equivalent is larger than the absorbed dose for alpha and neutron radiation, because these types of radiation are more damaging to the human body. Units for does equivalent are the roentgen equivalent man (rem) and sievert (Sv), and biological dose equivalents are commonly measured in 1/1000th of a rem (known as a millirem or mrem).

For practical purposes, 1 R (exposure) = 1 rad (absorbed dose) = 1 rem or 1000 mrem (dose equivalent).

 What's an Average Does Per Year for a Human?

On average, Americans receive a radiation dose of about 0.62 rem (620 millirem) each year. Half of this dose comes from natural background radiation. Most of this background exposure comes from radon in the air, with smaller amounts from cosmic rays and the Earth itself. The other half (0.31 rem or 310 mrem) comes from man-made sources of radiation, including medical, commercial, and industrial sources. In general, a yearly dose of 620 millirem from all radiation sources has not been shown to cause humans any harm.

According to OISHI MATASHICHI (大石又七 Matashichi Oishi)one of the surviving crew members, non-fiction work, published in Japan, January 1,1991, entitled: 

"死の灰を背負って―私の人生を変えた第五福竜丸 (Carrying the ashes of death - Daigo Fukuryumaru that changed my life)"

Matashichi Oishi, had taken a "lick of the dust" that fell on the tuna boat, which he described as like  粉雪 ("powdered snow"), but "gritty without taste". The "powdered snow" stuck to the ship, the crew's bodies, got into their nasal passages, irritated their eyes, entered their ears, and even got into their underwear.

March 1, 1954 ended with the crew starting to experience sickness from their exposure to the "Shi no hai". This included headaches, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, and increasing pain, all signs of radiation sickness.

A member of the crew took a small bag, put some of the ash in it, and hung it on the end of his bed to show investigators. His sample, along with others, would be studied at "Tokyo University" and be determined to have come from a hydrogen bomb. 

According to Matashichi, the United States scientists and military overseeing the "Castle Bravo Test", were both surprised by these results and, at the time, claimed they had nothing to do with it. 


Because the "Castle Bravo Test" was supposed to be secret, and therefore didn't exist!

March 3rd saw the crew experiencing blisters appearing on their skin in the spots the ash had touched and their faces started to turn dark.

By March 8th, members of the crew started to loose their hair.

March 12th saw unexpected rough seas that caused the "Unlucky Dragon #5" to dock late, on the night of March 14th, at the Yaizu Port. The late docking was actually fortunate, as the normal removal of the tuna would have immediately started. As a result, the majority of the contaminated tuna was not removed to be processed, before the radiation was discovered.

Although the following still doesn't seem to reflect panic, there was, once word got out about the tuna brought back to Japan by the "Daigo Fukuryū Maru #5". It took days to calm the populace and major radiation tests with geiger counters were performed.

Initially, on March 14, 1954, the crew were taken to the "Yaizu Public Hospital" and Dr. Oi Toshiaki (Toshiaki Oi), not realizing he was dealing with radiation poisoning, treated their faces with zinc ointment and sent them to their homes.

The following morning, March 15th, the seven crew members considered elderly were sent to "Tokyo University" for treatment. An examination of deck hand Yūichi Masuda (増田祐一), found his bone marrow at half of normal. 

Japanese biophysicist 
Nishiwaki Yasushi, below, was in Osaka, with his American wife, Jane Fischer Nishiwaki, when the "Daigo Fukuryu Maru #5" returned to port.

According to a November 2015, article in the:

Reading about the incident in a newspaper on March 16, Dr. Nishiwaki took a night train from Osaka to Yaizu, Shizuoka Prefecture. The following day, he began collecting substances from the boat and the crew members and measuring their radiation levels.

After examining the tuna boat, he ordered that the "Lucky Dragon #5" be relocated it an isolated area.

Nishiwaki went to see the seven crew members. He discovered high levels of radiation in the men's hair and ordered the hair be cut off. These crew members were ordered by Nishiwaki Yasushi, to be quarantined in "Yazizu North Hospital", and their clothes buried on the hospital property.

Next, Nishiwaki Yasushi wrote a detailed letter, to the current head of the "United States Atomic Energy Commission" about the "Daigo Fukuryū Maru #5" incident, stating the seven crew members he examined, suffered from acute radiation sickness. He wanted to know how to treat them and the other members of the crew in Tokyo? Additionally, other Japanese scientists had sent letters asking the same. 

Not one letter writer received notification of the receipt of their letters from the "AEC". However, two American medical students were sent to Japan.

Later, the seven crew members would also be transferred to "Tokyo University". The crew stayed there for a minimum of fourteen months, with some longer, being observed. 

Around August 20th, the condition of radio operator, crewman Kuboyama Aikichi worsened.

By August 29th, he had developed meningitis, he became violent, had to be tied to the floor, and was delirious.

On September 23, 1954, Kuboyama Aikichi, became the first member of the "Daigo Fukuryū Maru #5" to die.

The following year on May 22, 1955, the remaining twenty-two-members of the crew of the "LUCKY DRAGON #5" were released from the hospital, but met with another unexpected problem that affected the rest of their lives.

They were badly treated by the Japanese public in the same way as those survivors of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. To the general public the crew of the "Daigo Fukuryu Maru #5" were now "被爆者 Hibaku-sha (Atom Bomb Survivors)", and shunned. 

BECAUSE everyone knew that radiation was contagious, and you needed to stay away from these carriers. 

However, unlike the public, the Japanese Government didn't look upon them as "Atom Bomb Survivors", and as a result. They were not permitted the same financial compensation as the survivors of the two American Atomic Bombs.

Which brings me back to the opening of my article.

In J. D. Lees and Marc Cerasini's, classic May 1998, "The Official GODZILLA Compendium", write about how Toho Studio producer Tomoyuki Tanaka had set up a co-motion picture production to be filmed in Indonesia. He was in country working out the final details of what was to be called.          "栄光のかげに Eiko no Kanatani (In the Shadow of Glory", but the production was stopped. The Indonesian government refused to grant visas to the Japanese stars. 

So, Tomoyuki Tanaka, according to the story, during his flight back to Japan in the night sky over the Pacific Ocean. Started to think about what he could produce to replace the production? According to the authors and others, the thought of what might be lurking below the water's surface intrigued the producer and he decided upon some sort of giant sea monster. 

Many sources say that Tomoyuki Tanaka was inspired by the Ray Bradbury stop-motion-animated "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" and point to writer Shigeru Kayama's 50-page story treatment entitled "海底二万哩から来た大怪獣 (Kaitei Niman Mairu kara kita Daikaijū)", that is translated, depending upon the source, as "A Large Monster That Came from 20,000 Miles Under the Sea", "The Giant Monster from 20,000 Miles Beneath the Sea", or even, "The Big Monster from 20,000 Miles Underneath the Sea". You get the comparison!

Some reviewers state that Tanaka and Japan had seen the motion picture prior to the making of 1954's, "Gojira". The problem is that according to release records, "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms", didn't open in Japan until December 22, 1954, or a month and a half after "Gojira" premiered in Nagoya. That is not to say that Tomoyuki Tanaka, not the general public, might have had a private screening and next, met with  Shigeru Kayama in, or before, May 1954, when according to the website "IMDb", production started:

According to my friend August Ragone, in his excellent biography "Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters", actual filming of "Gojira" began in August 1954. 

Found in the 2005, Winter edition, of the "University of Virginia's Quarterly Review #81"the multi-book academic writer on the subject of "Gojira", Steve Ryfle,
wrote a short article, "Godzilla's Footprint". The following quotes about the making of the original 1954 motion picture and its relationship to both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic Bombs and the "Daigo Fukuryu Maru #5" incident, come from it:

Tomoyuki Tanaka is quoted as stating:
The theme of the film, from the beginning, was the terror of the bomb. Mankind had created the bomb, and now nature was going to take revenge on mankind.
Ishiro Honda is quoted as stating:
If Godzilla had been a dinosaur or some other animal, he would have been killed by just one cannonball. But if he were equal to an atomic bomb, we wouldn't know what to do. So, I took the characteristics of an atomic bomb and applied them to Godzilla.
According to Ryfle and Ed Godzisezewski concerning the "Daigo Fukuryu Maru #5":

The event led to the emergence of a large and enduring anti-nuclear movement. That gathered 30 million signatures on an anti-nuclear petition by August 1955 and eventually became institutionalized as the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs. The film's opening scene of Godzilla destroying a Japanese vessel is a direct reference to these events and had a strong impact on Japanese viewers, with the recent event still fresh in the mind of the public.

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