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"The Last Train from Hiroshima" Controversy

Updated on January 19, 2013

"The Last Train from Hiroshima" by Charles Pellegrino

Charles Pellegrino's book about the aftermath of the atomic bombs dropped by the United States on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, three days later, describes the experiences of some of the survivors of the attacks and the horrific deaths of the majority who did not survive.  One of the survivors, Tsutomu Yamaguchi, died two weeks ago at 93. He lived through the first atomic blast at Hiroshima and the second as well after fleeing to Nagasaki. Yamaguchi was one of 165 people who survived Hiroshima only to end up in Nagasaki just in time for the attack there. Pellegrino's book calls to mind Bob Dylan's powerful images in his epic poetic anti-war songs-- "It's a Hard Rain's a Gonna Fall" and "Master's of War."

According to Pellegrino's account, the survivors survived by good luck, sheltered from the "gamma and infrared death rays," and then from the the after shock blasts. The lesson learned by the survivors was that if you see the flash, then you have a brief few seconds to take shelter from the blast. Wearing white clothing apparently helped some as well. A doctor reported "numerous instances of women and children wearing patterned clothing, sometimes displaying flowers on white cloth. The dark flowers were now branded onto their skin." Skin under wrist watches was branded as well where the metal met the skin. The bombs heated metal until it glowed. Some reported that the smell of burning flesh was "quite similar to the scent of squid when it was grilled over hot coals, with a few pieces of sweet pork thrown along side." Pellegrino also describes the lingering effects of what the Japanese called "atomic bomb disease."

Pellegrino's book vividly catalogs the horrors suffered by the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He follows his survivors who trudge through the nightmare wasteland where they saw what they called the "ant-walking alligators," eyeless and faceless men and women with "their heads transformed into blackened alligator hides displaying red holes, indicating mouths...The alligator people did not scream. Their mouths could not form the sounds. The noise they made was worse than screaming. They uttered a continuous murmur--like locusts on a midsummer night. One man, staggering on stumps of legs, was carrying a dead baby upside down."

Pellegrino doesn't offer an explicit answer to questions about the the morality of Truman's decision to drop the Bomb on Japan. Rather, he allows his detailed descriptions of the accounts of the survivors as well as those of American and Japanese pilots speak for themselves. He relates Yamaguchi's plan to end nuclear war: "The only people who should be allowed to govern countries with nuclear weapons are mothers, those who are still breast-feeding their babies."

[I'm indebted to Dwight Garner's review of the book in the NY Times of January 20, 2010.]

Dylan's "A Hard Rain's a Gonna Fall is on this album.

"A Hard Rain's a Gonna' Fall" Bob Dylan


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    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I think that pulling the publishing on this book is a disgrace..

      That's like trying to say that the Holocaust never happened

    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      9 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Thanks for your kind comment. I lived through this period and remember it well. Dr. Strangelove is one of the truly great American movies. Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger captured the era in song.

    • daryl2007 profile image


      9 years ago

      A superb historical article... i like your keep it up

    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      9 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Wow! Many thanks MFBIII. (Anyone who hasn't been following MFBIII's prolific poetry is missing one of the best things on HubPages!)

    • MFB III profile image

      Matthew Frederick Blowers III 

      9 years ago from United States

      Dark Shadows Linger.

      We are still there,

      even though they may have

      torn down the bricks,

      and leveled the ruins

      where we were

      burned into obscurity,

      in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

      Women and babies,

      tiny children evaporated

      in a nuclear flash,

      leaving only an imprint

      on the buildings where

      we cowered in fear.

      dark shadows linger in

      the souls of men

      haunting all,

      whose fingers set

      near the buttons

      of any new destruction.

      Our shadows loom,

      we are human shapes burned

      into concrete walls,

      study the still life

      that reveals the art of death...

      and paint no more.

      ~~~~~~great but sad hub~~~MFB III

    • electricsky profile image


      9 years ago from North Georgia

      Your pictures are very sad or thought provoking.

      Maybe we should have dropped the bombs on Germany and Hitler's race, instead of the Japanese, even though Japan threw the first stone in bombing Pearl Harbor. I suppose war is war. It did stifle Hitler's aggression, though, at a great cost of human lives.

    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      9 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      I don't disagree. Truman's decision was unfortunate but not surprising under the circumstances. The fire bombing of German cities was also unfortunate. Thanks for your comment.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      9 years ago from South Africa

      A great Hub, Ralph. I'm not sure what the "fraudulent" sources could be but I'm still convinced that the decision to drop the bombs was completely wrong. But then hindsight is always 20:20, isn't it?

      Love and peace


    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      9 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      ?? 70 million?

    • profile image

      PG 2010 

      9 years ago

      ---LOL --Hollywood which, for decades has been shamelessly

      enmeshing with history's most awesomely genocidal regime

      across the Pacific ---pumping out WWII moral fables which

      are as self-serving as they are anachronistic. FACT

      70 million exterminated in 'peacetime' in the name of

      'people's social progress' -completely unotted and unanswered for ---even as Hollywood grovels for that

      cheap financing and, most of all, that VAST market

      access. FACT

      70 million you won't be hearing a single quality peep

      about in ANY Cameron or, indeed, Hollywood film ---EVER!


      70 million and ---STILL counting.



    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      9 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      The publisher of a book about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima whose author relied on a fraudulent source has said it will stop printing and shipping copies because of further questions about the writer’s sources.

    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      9 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      That's a good question. I don't know the answer.

    • Petra Vlah profile image

      Petra Vlah 

      9 years ago from Los Angeles

      Bob Dylan also said:

      “How many times must a man look up

      Before he can see the shy?

      How many ears must one man have

      Before he can hear people cry?

      How many deaths will it take till he knows

      That too many people have died?”

      Killing in combat is one thing, but killing innocent people and calling them “casualty of war” or “collateral damage” is a crime.

      Hiroshima and Nagasaki will never be justified, just as Laos and Cambodia could not be justified.

      “How many times it will take”….how many lives?

    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      9 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Thanks for your comment. I enjoyed doing this hub. It brought back many memories of events, music and movies of the 1960s and 70s. Also, I think the book and the rest of the material is timely since we are involved in two wars and worried about nuclear proliferation in Iran and Korea as well as the need to safeguard nuclear materials in other countries from terrorists.

      My comment about "raking in the dough" was tongue in cheek. That's not what motivates my participation in HubPages. Some of my hubs are cut and paste mashups, with the sources always identified, and others are my own original writing and photos.

    • Obscurely Diverse profile image

      Obscurely Diverse 

      9 years ago from Tennessee, U.S., Earth, Milky Way via Cosmos

      It's pretty obvious why you have so many hubs published. Wow, that is too much 'paste work' for me. At any rate, keep up the good "work" and good luck with your dough-raking. ;)

    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      10 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Thanks. I'm hoping soon to "rake in the dough!"

    • barranca profile image


      10 years ago

      Fine are getting better and better at this game.

    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      10 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Thanks, everyone for the comments.

      William Torpey, my experience was almost identical to yours. On balance Truman is one of my favorite presidents. In some ways I admire him more than FDR. He certainly was less devious. My Mother was born in Independence, and her parents knew Bess Truman's family. They went to Washington for his inauguration.

    • Army Infantry Mom profile image

      Army Infantry Mom 

      10 years ago

      This was a very good account of the truths behind these bombings. My Grandfather who adopted and raised me took part in that mission and I know his heart weighed heavy all the way untill he died because of it. This was a man who'd refuse to kill a spider in the house instead he'd use the catch and release method. All though i must say also, he was plaqued by nightmares his whole life from seeing his fellow brothers eaten by sharks when they blew our ships up. War just sucks !!! but is nessary sometimes.

      I enjoyed the videos Ralph, thanks for including them.

    • SweetiePie profile image


      10 years ago from Southern California, USA

      I will have to read this book Ralph. A very sad event in world history, but one we must continue to read and learn about.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 

      10 years ago from Camden, South Carolina

      Hi, Ralph--thanks for another great hub.

      As horrific as the effects of the bombings were, it's possible that a land invasion of Japan would have been even worse. Japanese military planners--as I recently happened to hear in an National Public Radio interview--were expecting as many as 20 million Japanese casualties (and considering that acceptable!) Japanese society and infrastructure would have been pulverized, and America would have been bled severely--perhaps into another bout of isolationism.

      It's hard to imagine what would have followed from such a catastrophe, but clearly the Soviet Union would have been a prime beneficiary--and the whole of post-war history would have been radically different. For instance, could Europe have been rebuilt, as it was in reality? Perhaps we'd have seen a very long period of struggles to rebuild a world shattered by war, a dark period dominated by Stalin and his successors.

      Anyway, here's a story about "the invasion that never was":,0,5...

      All that said, it's very important to remember, and honor, the suffering that did take place. You've certainly helped us to do that.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Definitely be back to watch the videos. Great hub. Thanks.

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      In 1936, Ralph, President Roosevelt famously stated, "I hate war." And I agree. I was only 10 years old when President Truman's order to drop the Atomic Bomb of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but I clearly remember my glee when WW II ended only days later. My friends and I went to the roof of our apartment house in Yonkers, N.Y., and tossed cut up newspapers, like confetti, into the air. I still remember the nightmares I had back then in which Japanese Zeros flew down the middle of the Hudson River toward the George Washington Bridge. Truman, whom I believe to be the best president we ever had, made the right decision despite its horrific results. Millions died in WW II, including my Uncle Bill Hogan. As General William Tecumseh Sherman said, "War is Hell."

    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      10 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Thanks coolmon and bpop for your comments. Hearing Joan Baez again after many years brings tears to my eyes. I first heard her in person in the Mt. Auburn coffee shop in Cambridge in 1959 or thereabouts.

    • breakfastpop profile image


      10 years ago

      Excellent hub, Ralph,

      Any war whether by design or necessity is brutal and should be avoided at all costs. Sadly,this is not always possible.

    • Coolmon2009 profile image


      10 years ago from Texas, USA

      You made it a lot more personal than the "neat clean way the US Government" describes the attacks on those Japanese cities. Thanks for sharing this information and pictures

    • Ralph Deeds profile imageAUTHOR

      Ralph Deeds 

      10 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Tnx, all for the kind comments.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Dropping these bombs was a horrible thing to do and a mind-boggling decision to have to make. If I had been the President, I would have made the same decision that Truman did. I would have regretted this the rest of my life, but,I would have still thought that I made the right decision.

    • jiberish profile image


      10 years ago from florida

      There have been wars and conflicts for generations, each with it's own purpose and catastrophes. It doesn't matter who starts it, lives of some on either side are effected. This was a great review, Ralph, I especially like the videos.

    • cajunrooster profile image

      John David LeCoq 

      10 years ago from San Antonio, Texas

      The use of nuclear force on Japan was horrible. The Japanese had to endure years and years, and are still suffering, from the dropping of these bombs. Was it moral to do so? That is such a hard question to answer. Many American lives were saved at the expense of the Japanese. Is it moral to make one side suffer more than the other? Who can answer a question like that? The Japanese did throw the first punch in the fight, but did that give us the right to drop horrific bombs on them? I know I don't have the answer to that question. Maybe no one does. It did stop the war though. It dealt horrible pain and suffering on the Japanese people though.


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