Did you know an Irishman watched the atomic bomb as it dropped on Nagasaki? Or that the same man had already survived Dunkirk, survived all World War II, spent four years as a prisoner of war in Japan and finally returned to Ireland with a Samurai sword after his Nagasaki survival.
Today is the anniversary of that fateful day the atomic bomb destroyed Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, and the anniversary of the incredible survival of Dr. Aidan MacCarthy whose life is truly one of the greatest Irish survival stories. A documentary “The Doctor’s Sword” examines the life of the Cork doctor and his brushed with death at Dunkirk, Java, and Nagasaki.
Aidan MacCarthy was a University College Cork-trained media from West Cork whose tale of one of the many stories of amazing survival from World War II. He was the first non-Japanese doctor to assist in the relief efforts after the bombing of Nagasaki and was given a Samurai sword by a Japanese officer.
The movie follows MacCarthy’s family’s search to uncover the origin of the sword, which now resides in the famous MacCarthy’s Bar in Castletownbere, Co Cork, and therefore, looking at the great man’s achievements.
At 28, MacCarthy joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) in London as the Second World War began. Soon after, he found himself evacuated from Dunkirk. In May 1941, he received the George’s Cross for rescuing the crew of a burning RAF plane which had crashed into a bomb dump on landing. He volunteered for service in Asia as Singapore fell to the Japanese and was captured in Java. He survived almost four years of brutal captivity enduring starvation, malnutrition, forced labor, beatings, and torture as a prisoner of war.
He volunteered for service in Asia as Singapore fell to the Japanese and was captured in Java. He survived almost four years of brutal captivity enduring starvation, malnutrition, forced labor, beatings, and torture as a prisoner of war.
MacCarthy was a prisoner of war at the camp attached to the Mitsubishi steel and iron works in Nagasaki when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city at 11:02 am on August 9, 1945. This was the beginning of the end of his captivity and he later returned home with a Samurai sword which was given to him as a gift by the prisoner of war camp commander at the end of the war.
The documentary tells Dr. Aidan MacCarthy’s incredible story of resilience and bravery, and his daughter Nicola’s journey to find the family of the Japanese officer who gave their ancestral sword to her father.
The film premiered at the Cork Film Festival in November 2015 to a sold-out crowd, prompting a second screening.
* This article was originally published in 2015.