Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Last Train from Hiroshima: The Survivors Look Back by Charles Pellegrino

I am fascinated by the science of atomic bombs (read American Prometheus), yet a devout pacifist. I would like to believe that if The Last Train from Hiroshima by Charles Pellegrino was required reading in high school history classes, we’d never have to worry about atomic war again. But I know that’s not true. War isn’t about what makes sense, it’s about power, or if you’re so inclined, standing up against tyranny, but whatever the motivation, it will never go away.

Aside from the following facts, I loved this book: (1) The author has, under huge criticism, admitted that he was duped by one of his information sources. The books were supposedly recalled and edits made (about 5 pages). (2) The stories are horrifying, graphic and soul crushing. FYI, James Cameron has optioned this book for a movie....

How could I love a book like this? Because I loved the way that Charles Pelligrino clinically broke down the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to nano seconds, dissecting the mechanics of the bombs in a way I’ve never heard before, i.e., “One ten-millionth of a second later, a sphere of gamma rays escaped the core at light speed.” Click on Read More.

Call me ghoulish, but hearing the minute descriptions of what happens, upon the detonation of an atomic bomb, to the human skin if you are at ground zero, as opposed to what happens to your skin if you're three block from ground zero, broken down by tenths of seconds, was absolutely fascinating to me. This is the type of book that you’re either going to be interested in or not. If you made it this far, here’s some more nuggets of information:
  1. If you’re in an area under threat of nuclear attack, wear white clothing as white very effectively reflects the gamma rays that otherwise torch you to ash.
  2. Get behind or under anything. Duck and cover really does count.
  3. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, other than being a horrific act and a blight on humanity, was a military clusterfuck that was barely even pulled off, and obviously shouldn’t have been.
  4. You want to be: (a) At ground zero (you’ll never know what hit you), (b) In the “shock cocoon” (a funky little area about 3 blocks from ground zero where your hair will barely get ruffled, but you’ll die pretty quickly, or (c) On another planet.
For those of you who say how many American lives the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved, well, we shouldn’t have been fighting to begin with. That’s simplistic, but that’s my position and I’m sticking to it.

Whether The Last Train from Hiroshima is 100% accurate or not, it’s a cautionary tale, well told, and which, unfortunately, we probably won’t heed.


  1. I will definitely read this one - thanks. A story - a long time ago my sister and I were in Odessa and she suggested we go to a movie before going home. "No, thanks, I am into such a fascinating book I can't put it down," I said. "What is it?" My reply, "The Making of the Atomic Bomb," I said, and she wrecked the car she laughed so hard. Not her kind of book! But totally fascinating and you will understand, especially if you liked "Prometheus Unbound." Charlena

  2. Uh-oh! I meant "American Prometheus," of course! Charlena

  3. Laughing and laughing! I knew when I recommended this book that few would bite. I'm glad to hear you love learning about such things too!

    Very funny story.


  4. First of all I can't believe that we were reading the same book--I really liked this book although it also made me sick to hear all the details so many innocents in war--I do take the opposite view from you as to the dropping of the bomb. I think of all the American lives it saved--my Dad and a cousin were fixing to go over and I think that so many American lives were saved on the one hand and so many civilians were killed on the other hand. You said that we shouldn't have been fighting, but what choice did we have after Pearl Harbor? I think this could be a long discussion and we may just need to visit and fuss it out! By the way I got to hold and kiss your sweet baby girl yesterday!! Linda Sue

  5. I agree that those of us who wish there were peaceful solutions are naive at best, and having always been insulated from the trauma of war myself (no one I know died or was called into battle), so my perspective is distorted as well. I’m sure that I would feel differently under different circumstances. As far as Pearl Harbor, Japan shouldn’t have and wouldn’t have if we hadn’t been in the war to begin with. I just don’t think that violence is ever a solution.

    Love you and am extremely jealous that you got to hug Khloe! I swear I haven’t held the child when she was really good and awake yet! I’m going to be out there Saturday thought, and plan on latching onto her and not letting go – except to love on my little Quenten of course!

    Love Ya,