I received a personal email from Mr. Pellegrino of Last Train from Hiroshima. He added more plausible explanations of what happened to the “hoax” of Last Train from Hiroshima. It is my understanding that Mr. Pellegrino may have been a victim of an unfair accusation rather than the perpetrator of a hoax. He has given me permission to post his email. See below: In the meantime, this is my reply to Mr. Pelligrino:
Dear Mr. Pellegrino,
You have a Japanese soul that lives by retaining dignity through silence. On my desk, I have a saying, “You can’t quote silence.” I write this with deep emotion that you are able to live on “interesting” and ” madness” without needing to blast the media and other people involved, who could set the story closer to the truth. I now question if silence is always good.
I’m ecstatic over your responses and wanted to hear that the story of the victims and survivors was authentic because I wanted so much to believe, that the story of my ancestors was real. Thank you, most sincerely, for giving me this legacy through your book.
Now, what can I do to help undo bad media press and let silence be heard?
Dear Frances Kakugawa: A friend just directed me last night to your open letter of nearly a month ago – to which I have just responded on your site.
Please be assured that I have learned more than most people that we must keep a faith with the dead, and this includes never being so arrogant (as one of my archaeologist-teachers once said) to believe that our job makes us “speakers for the dead.”
My job is to get as close as humanly possible to the truth.
When I saw the evidence that one of the aviators had given me an account that turned out to be untrue, I wanted nothing more than to see the book withdrawn and to quickly put out a corrected edition. I argued that technology had the answer and (as Tsutomu Yamaguchi and Masahiro Sasaki would have me do) suggested that my publisher try to build a bridge to its declared enemy, Amazon-Kindle. “We could get a corrected copy out in weeks,” I said cheerily. This went over about half as well as a hand-grenade in a cesspool.
Amid such contention, an anti-evolutionist 9/11 conspiracy theorist named Brennan got to my publisher through the Associated Press with what was essentially a hoax about my having a “phony” Ph.D. I provided the publisher with a (requested) copy of my published Ph.D. Dissertation (having been told that such copy should end the argument).
Meanwhile, the 509th bomber wing (and its descendant family members) started making unreasonable assertions and demands – such as removing or diminishing Charles Sweeney in the next edition (a man who went out of his way to avoid bombing a largely civilian target and who, after Hiroshima, said he needed to go see a priest after being told he was going to have to do this again). By and large, the 509th hate anyone who expressed remorse over the bombings – so (having quickly had a belly full of the 509th) I told my publisher I was now adding Robert Lewis to the new edition (the co-pilot who looked down upon Hiroshima and said, “My God, what have we done?”). I was told that I should not make matters worse because we “need the 509th on our side… we need this dispute to simply go away – quickly” (Steve Rubin, Holt). Very close to the final straw for me had been a claim by the 509th bomber wing that I did not know anything about nuclear physics, that
the bombs were designed to dissipate all radiation at high altitude before it could reach the ground, and that my writings about radiation effects on the ground in Hiroshima were a hoax. The publisher demanded proof of radiation. I presented an extensive list of scientific papers (including our own U.S. Bombing Survey data).
Oddly, the answer to these papers and to the copy of my Ph.D. Dissertation were the same: “This is all too scientific.” I pointed out that we were in New York City and that we had the American Museum of Natural History (where Niles Eldredge was a supporter of my Ph.D Dissertation) and Columbia University, all within a quick subway ride. We also had Jim Powell (of Brookhaven National Laboratory), a polymath who was familiar with my history and who could answer to both issues. (They never bothered to call Powell, or to check with anyone at AMNH or Columbia.)
But… we needed the 509th on our side. And so, my agent pointed out, “You will never get them on our side. This is an anti-war book.”
Madness. Madness. It was like the old Chinese curse that at first glance is meant to look like a blessing: “May you live in interesting times.” This has been a month far too interesting.
- – Charles Pellegrino
Note to Readers: Mr. Pellegrino’s initial response is found under my Open Letter to Mr. Pellegrino under comments.