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The Last Train from Hiroshima: The Survivors Look Back (John MacRae Books) Hardcover – January 19, 2010

3.5 out of 5 stars 86 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

From Henry Holt and Company and Macmillan Books

It is with deep regret that Henry Holt and Company announces that we will no longer print, correct or ship copies of Charles Pellegrino's The Last Train from Hiroshima due to the discovery of a dishonest sources of information for the book.

It is easy to understand how even the most diligent author could be duped by a source, but we also understand that opens that book to very detailed scrutiny. The author of any work of non-fiction must stand behind its content. We must rely on our authors to answer questions that may arise as to the accuracy of their work and reliability of their sources. Unfortunately, Mr. Pellegrino was not able to answer the additional questions that have arisen about his book to our satisfaction.

Mr. Pellegrino has a long history in the publishing world, and we were very proud and honored to publish his history of such an important historical event. But without the confidence that we can stand behind the work in its entirety, we cannot continue to sell this product to our customers.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Using a combination of firsthand accounts of Japanese A-bomb survivors, American aviators, and classified documents of government officials, Pellegrino (The Jesus Family Tomb) reconstructs two horrifying days and their aftermath when the age of atomic warfare was introduced over Japan. He is fascinated with the strange alchemy of these cruel weapons (One ten-millionth of a second later, a sphere of gamma rays escap[ed] the core at light speed) as the bomb fell on Mrs. Aoyam tending her garden at Point Zero, literally before she could see it coming. Pellegrino is equally interested in the grotesque effects the blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki inflicted on the human body with its gamma rays, neutron spray and poisonous black rain. The stories of the few Japanese survivors includes a group of 30 civilians fleeing from Hiroshima to Nagasaki where they arrived to endure the second bomb, are heart-stopping. Pellegrino dissects the complex political and military strategies that went into the atomic detonations and the untold suffering heaped on countless Japanese civilians, weaving all of the book's many elements into a wise, informed protest against any further use of these terrible weapons. 16 pages of b&w photos, maps. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Series: John MacRae Books
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; 1 edition (January 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805087966
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805087963
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #779,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Coster-Mullen on June 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"I will say again, no person and no facts in this book were fabricated by me." -Charles Pellegrino

Oh really? Let's examine some specifics.

Criticism of Mr. Pellegrino's book came immediately after publication not only from members of the 509th, but from nuclear scientists and some very well-respected historians all of whom questioned many of the claims made in his book.

When writing about history, one of the first things an author should do is perform simple, basic checking of easily verifiable facts. Inexplicably, Mr. Pellegrino seemed so willing and eager to push this aside in his effort to rewrite history in a most sensationalistic manner. His so-called "knowledge" of the non-existent radiation accident on Tinian involving the Little Boy apparently began when he was back at Brookhaven, long before Joseph Fuoco dovetailed his equally fictitious accounts into that of Mr. Pellegrino's. If it wasn't so serious, his description of how Little Boy functioned is almost laughable along with his account of Luis Alvarez installing extra initiators in that weapon or for that matter Alvarez having anything whatsoever to do with the Little Boy assembly. While on Tinian, Alvarez was in charge of the team that measured bomb yield. While Mr. Pellegrino offers no historical evidence whatsoever in the form of footnotes to back these extraordinary claims, there is overwhelming documentary evidence available to refute them, including a 2010 Los Alamos Press Release.

With regard to bomb yields, once again Mr. Pellegrino hasn't done his homework. He claims that Little Boy had a "mysteriously low, 10 - 12.5 kiloton yield.
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17 Comments 78 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
This book makes for very compelling reading. One, but certainly not the only, reason I found it so compelling was the precise technical detail about the bombs and what happened in the fractions of a second after they exploded. However, the first technical detail I checked was wrong. On page 4 it suggests that the Hiroshima bomb contained 1.2 lbs of U-235 and that this represents a volume of about two teaspoons. The Hiroshima bomb contained 141 lbs of 80% pure U-235 (~112 lbs of U-235 with the balance U-238 and other isotopes). This wide misstatement of fact causes me to question at least the technical details in the rest of the book.
23 Comments 63 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
I just read the New York Times article about the deception Mr. Pelligrino fell for--a Mr. Fuoco claiming to have flown on the bombing run on Hiroshima and also related a story about a pre-flight accident with the bomb that killed a scientist and rendered the bomb a "dud". (Some dud--70,000 people killed when it hit.)

All of this not true.

My problem here is not so much that Mr. Pelligrino wrote a bad book--anyone can do that. Or that the errors in the book amount to historical mal-practice which is deplorable as this book will be held by many libraries for many years, perhaps duping many more readers down the years.

My problem is the fact that this book got positive reviews in the mainstream press (including the NYT). I have to ask--what has gone wrong with the process of reviewing books? And backing up one step--what's gone wrong with the publishing industry that allows error-riddled books to pass muster? Doesn't the publishing industry employ copy editors and fact-checkers any more?

And who gets selected to review books like this--reviewers who obviously aren't qualified to pass judgemnet on the book's quality or accuracy? Where are the experts who could vouch for a book's accuracy--why aren't they being sought out to review books about which they are recognized subject experts? It should be a scandal.

The same thing happened last summer with the publication of Craig Nelson's book Rocket Men. It got glowing reviews in the mainstream press and he even appeared as part of a panel discussion at a NASA History Office conference celebrating the fourtieth anniversary of Apollo 11. Yet his book is full of errors of fact and, perhaps, worse, very questionable assertions (e.g.
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28 Comments 160 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading this book today after being on a wait list at the library for some time. I was aware of some of the controversy regarding the author's sources but I didn't realize the extent of his inaccuracies and seeming fraud until I went to write a somewhat positive review here. The most glaring thing I learned from reading reviews here and checking the NYT's article is that the most parts of the book I found most significant are those most in question by the publisher. I was shocked to learn Joseph Fuoco, who is mentioned and quoted repeatedly, never was a part of the Hiroshima bombing. On top of that, the shocking revelation that the Hiroshima bomb was considered a "dud" by scientists due to an accidental reaction on Tinian that supposedly killed a scientist, is simply not true. It never happened. I had never read anywhere of such an incident and believed it to be a stunning, unknown fact that the author had uncovered through research. It surprised me so much I shared the information with friends and my wife. My wife was smart enough to question the story. I did not and that alone causes me to feel I wasted my time reading this book and very glad I didn't purchase it. But as someone commented, the shame of this is that the book will sit on library shelves and be read by people who never heard of this controversy. In fact, it's not a controversy at all because it is clear that the incident never took place and everything Fuoco told the author was untrue. These are significant sections of the book. Now I know also that another powerful part of the book, the suicide of a Jesuit priest, never happened and the priest never even existed. These are not minor errors. They are parts of the book that have a tremendous impact on the reader.Read more ›
7 Comments 34 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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