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To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,438 ratings  ·  310 reviews
Drawing on the voices of atomic bomb survivors and the new science of forensic archaeology, Charles Pellegrino describes the events and the aftermath of two days in August when nuclear devices, detonated over Japan, changed life on Earth forever. To Hell and Back offers readers a stunning, "you are there" time capsule, wrapped in elegant prose. Charles Pellegrino's scienti ...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published August 6th 2015 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (first published 2010)
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Charles Pellegrino No, it is not by any stretch of the imagination in the category of historic novel. In the first edition, a single aviator exaggerated part of his war …moreNo, it is not by any stretch of the imagination in the category of historic novel. In the first edition, a single aviator exaggerated part of his war record, even though he was actually on the island from which the Hiroshima mission was launched and actually was in the air that day (aboard the plane Bad Penny, and not the much nearer to Hiroshima photographic plane, Necessary Evil). That person, Joe Fuoco, and his testimony (total about 5 pages) has been removed from all subsequent editions. In 2010, the NY Times entertainment reporter and the 1st edition publisher's Vice President both lost their jobs for allowing themselves to be spoofed by impersonators of everyone from James Cameron and famed Hiroshima artist Nakazawa, to a Vice Chancellor at my university (with a gross quote claiming I had "flunked out" of my Ph.D. program) - which collectively gave the impression that survivors were made up and my scientific credentials were fake. Amid claims from a Los Alamos nuclear physicist who turned out never to have existed (insisting that atomic bombs could not create shadow images or disintegrate people), all of the spoofings were traced back to no more than a half dozen internet trolls, most of them belonging to a small neo-Nazi group - upset that I had written two archaeology books describing the Jewishness of the original Jesus movement. (Presently, two people are writing books about this and its related "Jurassic Zoo" flap; one book, based on a whole Ph.D. thesis, written by a woman who began following one of the hoaxes against my work). Not one survivor was removed from the second edition - published under Mark Selden's Cornell University imprint at Rowman and Littlefield, with a forward from the director of the Hiroshima Memorial Museum. James Cameron renewed his film option. In the aftermath of the denials that Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened this way, many, many Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors who had intended to take their stories to the grave, came forth through the two museums in Japan, telling their stories for the first time. The publisher will soon be releasing my second book on this subject (new material), written for a wider audience that will include Young Adult. "Journalists" would not have been demoted and fired for publishing troll-mail as news without fact-checking - and the prestigious R&L would not be publishing me and I would not be respected by survivors - if even one of the people in this book had been fictionalized. If you are reading dialogue in "Last Train," you can be sure that it was reconstructed on the basis of a survivor saying, "and then I said ['this'] and he then said to me..."
Omoiyari and Nyokodo, - Charles Pellegrino(less)
Charles Pellegrino It is a new edition of "The Last Train from Hiroshima" - with much new material added. After false reports in the American press that people and event…moreIt is a new edition of "The Last Train from Hiroshima" - with much new material added. After false reports in the American press that people and events were made up (based on claims by spoofers - over which a Holt Vice President and a NYT reporter lost their jobs) - many, many survivors came forth telling their stories for the first time. For example, double atomic bomb survivor, who had been hiding from the public with his family since 1957, came forth through the Nagasaki Museum, and finally told us the rest of the story - and it turns out to be among history's most heartbreaking stories of doomed love.

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Diane S ☔
Jul 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Seventy years ago the United States dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, causing unfathomable devastation and loss lo lives. Any book that uses the testimony from actual people who survived or witnessed this destruction and does not focus on the political always proves to have more of an impact. At least for me. There are pictures now in my head that will never leaves, passages I have read that I will not forget.

The author goes int depth of what the actual waves of the bomb did to a perso
Montzalee Wittmann
The Last Train from Hiroshima: The Survivors Look Back by Charles Pellegrino, Arthur Morey (Narrator) is a book that needs to be read by everyone. I have read several books about Hiroshima but I think this one is one of the best. It flows so well and covers so much- the science of the bomb (without going deep, just the basics), follows survivors, and pilots. It reads like a novel and I feel like I was living through it with them. This is a book that people need to read esp. now with this Govern ...more
Timothy Miyahara
“The worst way is to call ourselves victims. To say ‘victim’requires a victimizer, and the victimizer is led to blame; and that starts the cycle of blame. For example, if we say ‘victim of Hiroshima,’ the next sentence that comes up will involve Pearl Harbor and the blaming chain gets stuck all the way in the past. Then we are completely derailed from the lesson that war itself is humanity’s Pandora, and that nuclear weapons are something that came out of Pandora’s Box.”
- Masahiro Sasaki qu
Books Ring Mah Bell
*stars revoked due to questions of the ass-hat author, Pellegrino making shit up as he wrote this.

I should have known. My initial bullpoop alarm went off when one family recalls after the blast in Hiroshima, hearing a man tap dancing. Only he wasn't. He was running/stumbling along in a state of shock, sans feet. The tap dancing was the bones of his fibula and tibia hitting the ground as he went along. (now, I work in rehab, okay. I see people lose half of a foot and need therapy and a walker to
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: history, japan, nonfiction
Bury them and Keep Quiet, Francisco Goya

The etching bearing this title is part of a series, Disasters of War. Yet, not even Goya could have anticipated the devastation and random horrors of the atomic bomb. For most of the dead there would be no burial. They were vaporized. They were disintegrating statues of compressed ash. Fragments of them were entombed in fossilized rubble. They were embedded in the mud of choked waterways. They were devoured by radiation poisoning. Even while alive they wer
May 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Last Train from Hiroshima by Charles Pellegrino

In 1945, I heard my parents discuss the death of their families in Hiroshima. A child, I didn’t know the significance of that day, a day that my ancestors were all destroyed.

I later wrote:


We cut the chrysanthemum
Off its stalk
And left it naked in the sun.

(From Kapoho:Memoir of a Modern Pompeii)

In 1989, Noriyo, a third grader from Hiroshima entered my classroom. Her grandmother, who was child during the bombing, was now dying from cancer. Her
Sep 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A terrifying, macabre, heartbreaking book which should be essential reading for every head of state, military leader, peace activist and physicist and medical worker.. It places you on the ground in areas where the atomic bombs hit in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki , into horrific, gruesome scenes which are surreal and beyond our imagination.
Imagine standing in a building which collapses all around you, and you have no visible injury but people near you either are instantly vaporized and vanish o
Mr. Titanic
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Pellegrino captures the tragedy of this disaster, the loss, the moral repercussions and heart-rending stories of the victims and survivors that stand to teach us eternal lessons. But beyond meeting high standards of research, of piecing together accounts, and of engrossing and elaborate writing, Pellegrino's greatest talent remains that one mark of an extraordinary author - his uncanny ability to create a world. This author spares no detail, no emotion, no setting or thought in establishing ...more
Jenn Ravey
Jul 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
*I requested this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Today marks the type of anniversary some will celebrate and others will denigrate. Exactly 70 years ago today, the United States, in what some say was an effort to end the war and others claim was a way to justify the expense of scientific research, dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in Japan.

My Pacific War reading inevitably led me here, but I knew I should not read anything regarding the bombings of Hiros
Mike S
May 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I found this book difficult to read because it contains so many heart-rending accounts of people who witnessed the bomb blasts, and the horrors they caused to them or people around them. I had to stop reading it a few times to take a break for a day or two because it had such a strong emotional impact, but I was glad I finished it, because there are some deeply moving accounts of how victims reacted to it with great humanity. After some consideration, I don't think it will accomplish its objecti ...more
Feb 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: to everyone
Recommended to Richard by: I read a review because of the title.
I learned that most of what I thought I knew about the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was wrong. This book follows survivors from Hiroshima who then fled to Nagasaki just in time to be bombed again.

The first half describing the actual bomb runs and the death and destruction which was later played down or covered up by General Douglas MacArthur and his administration of post-war Japan is appalling. To read of the suffering of the people brings home the awful facts of war. Not all at
I did not know about the controversy surrounding this book when I first started reading it. About a quarter of the way through the book, when Pellegrino discusses the bombing mission(s) of the 509th, I grew suspicious because Pellegrino's version of events differs from what I had previously read about the dropping of the bombs. A quick google search revealed that the book had been withdrawn by its publisher because the author relied on a fraudulent source and possibly fabricated others. I had to ...more
Nov 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It isn�t very often that a book leaves me feeling physically winded, but this was one of them. The basic premise is painfully simple; to recount the many different experiences of the nuclear bombardment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Others have tried; notably, John Hersey�s excellent Hiroshima; but Pellegrino has produced something truly in a class of its own. The individuals come from all walks of life, and share mixed fortunes. Some died instantly, others escaped with barely a scratch and ...more
Feb 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely amazing. A very difficult book to read, but I would consider it essential reading. Revealing background on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki/Urakami. I've always felt I didn't learn enough about the Japanese theater in World War II (having focused on Germany) and this book will stay with me.

The writing style is well suited to the subject. Pellegrino isn't in the least sentimental or morbid, but his writing still manages to be shocking and scathing.

(Note: the book is difficu
Allison Fetch
I read some of the other reviews before starting this book, which my dad said was a must read because of the subject matter, so I approached the book with a grain of salt. I read it with the understanding that not all of the sources were impeccable. However, even if I were to discount and dismiss those several sources, the remaining provide a tragic and horrific picture of what it was like on the ground for the survivors of the two atomic bombs. The writing was quite good and the descriptions am ...more
Gilda Felt
Jan 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I remember reading John Hersey’s Hiroshima, when I was in my early 20s and being deeply disturbed by it. Later, I watched The Day After (which was a bit trite, and even hokey in some places,) and the much better done Threads, which was visceral and disturbing.

But nothing could have prepared me for what this book presents. The first hand accounts of those who experienced the horror, who saw what the bomb did to people, and those who had the misfortune to leave Hiroshima for the perceived safety o
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I was a freshman in college at the University of Minnesota, my second semester physics teacher showed us a movie which was raw footage of the aftermath of the Hiroshima atomic bomb explosion, filmed by American military I believe. It showed the utter devastation of the city and the horrific effects the bomb had on survivors, many of them were almost unrecognizable as human. The images made me almost sick to my stomach and I remember sitting in the grass on the mall for a long time after cla ...more
Larry Brunt
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is not an easy read. From the first pages, Pellegrino confronts the reader with the horror of the atomic bomb. The descriptions are at once both technical (Pellegrino is a forensic physicist) and gruesome, though he remains dispassionate--a quiet narrator who allows the facts, and survivors, to speak for themselves.

There were times when I didn't think I could finish--at times, the violence was nearly too much to bear. But then, that is really the point of the book. It is to force those who
You know those moments in films where everything becomes silent and slow motion? It usually occurs when something momentous is about to happen.They are moments that get ingrained in our heads due to the execution style. Well, this entire book is that scene.

This is a new and interesting take on non-fiction. Rather then just go through the facts and organize it in some way, Charles Pellegrino decided to make an almost documentary to the moments before, during, and after the dropping of the Hirosh
Jun 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title is confusing since the story deals with the survivors of the atomic attack on Hiroshima. Several survivors managed to get on a train to safety, or so they thought. The train went to Nagasaki. Train service was quickly restored. The title makes the reader think that the train was the last BEFORE the attack. The author presents the stories of several Japanese who somehow survived both the uranium bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and the plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki. I learned some intere ...more
Anne Van
This book is both horrifying and fascinating in equal measures. I only became aware of the controversy surrounding this book after reading it, and it doesn't change my opinion of the book at all. (The publishers withdrew the book earlier in the year because one of the two dozen or so atom bomb survivors that he mentions very briefly in a paragraph or two apparently could not be verified and the author is referred to as "Dr. Pellegrino" and apparently no PhD. rewarded. Well, I don't know......... ...more
I was wandering through some community books and found this. I could not stop reading it. The focus was on survivors of both atomic bombs. A group had taken a train from Hiroshima to Nagasaki to save themselves but found themselves again under pika-don (flash-blast).

The description of tragedy is immense but there is also hope. At the end of the book, Mr. Pellegrino's description of those who tried to teach that war is human fault and that revenge begets revenge is an ancient and universal lesson
Jun 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After hearing a review of this book on NPR over the winter, I wanted to read it. The first few pages are a scientific description of what happens to the human body when an atomic bomb is detonated. The book goes on to describe in great detail the bombings of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki and nine people who survived both blasts, the aftermath of firestorms and "Disease X.". Tales of lucky (?) survivors in both cities are told, as well as how their stories intertwine. The horrible truths of being n ...more
Kim Song
Oct 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book about Hiroshima and Nagasaki based on true accounts of survivors and double survivors. Every page is extraordinarily interesting and the tales are seamlessly interwoven. The content is very disturbing, however the reality was disturbing. Everyone should read this book.
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Based on accounts of survivors and the documentary record. The author writes on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nakasaki from the survivors perspectives. He also accounts stories from survivors years after the bombing still profoundly affected the course of their lives.
Shane Ford
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely haunting. I'm not sure that I can adequately describe my feelings after reading it yet. This should be required reading for any and all politicians that reach power at a national level. Anyone with the power to cast a vote for arms control, anyone in a position to cast a vote for war.

This covers the aspects of the bombings we don't talk about in our history classes, and the stories that have since become statistics in our debates. It's easy to forget the abject suffering of those unf
Mar 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book so impactful that I needed to re-listen to the audio book with my wife who is from Japan. I got much more detail out of it the second time and we both agreed this is one of the best books about the atomic bombings, the impact for people on the ground, the aircrews, the aftermath in Japan and around the world. I am now searching for another book mentioned in this one written by Takashi Nagai, a doctor of radiology who was on the ground during the bombing called The Bells of Naga ...more
Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a riveting and personal account of individuals who experienced first-hand the atomic bombs dropped in Japan.
Mandi Murphy
Apr 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, jocolibrary
I generally reserve the five star rating for books that I read more than one time. This book made my mind work almost from the moment I picked it up and left me feeling deeply touched so I am making an exception. I can hardly organize my thoughts enough to write down what I thought about it, what I learned from it, or how it made me feel.

Firstly,let me say that I am aware of the scandal that surrounded the writing of the first edition of this book. Though my library only had the first edition,
Jason Schneeberger
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Thanks to Rowan & Littlefield Trade and Netgalley for providing me with this advanced reader copy for review. The official release date is August 4th 2015!

Having never read anything about the atrocity of what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, this book was more than an eye opening experience for me. Going minute by minute of what happened, leading up to the atomic bombing and all of the horrendous things the survivors when through afterwards, I found it really hard to wrap
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Charles Pellegrino is a scientist working in paleobiology, astronomy, and various other areas; a designer for projects including rockets and nuclear devices (non-military propulsion systems), composite construction materials, and magnetically levitated transportation systems; and a writer. He has been affiliated with Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand National Observatory, Brookhaven N ...more

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Are you having a difficult time reading these days? If so, you're not alone. Since the pandemic began, I've found it harder to concentrate on...
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“وقد قالت كايانو لمؤرخين:"أتذكر أشياء عندما كنت صغيرة، لكن معظمها سيء. اندلعت الحرب في السنة التي ولدت فيها. في أثناء طفولتي، كانت هناك غارات جوية طوال الوقت. كانت رهيبة، لكن بأي حال، كانت لدي أمي، لهذا كان الوقت لطيفًا، وأشعر بسعادة كبيرة. رأيت القنبلة الذرية، وكنت في الرابعة آنذاك. كانت القنبلة الذرية آخر شيء وقع في أثناء الحرب، ولم تحدث أشياء سيئة أخرى بعدها، لكن ليس لدي أم منذ ذلك الوقت. لهذا، حتى إذا لم يعد الوضع سيئًا، إلا أنني لست سعيدة".” 5 likes
“الوحوش الحقيقة تبدو مثلنا تماماً” 4 likes
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