Fact vs Fiction: The Battle Over Hiroshima
(OR: How I Became the Only Scientist in History to be Accused of Espionage for Spying on Saturn’s Moons)
There is more than one way to burn a book. And there are plenty of people running around with lit matches.
– Ray Bradbury
“You cannot get The Last Train from Hiroshima at a bookstore,” lamented George Zebrowski, in the October 2010 issue of Free Inquiry. “One cannot but wonder at the denying motives of those who have frightened the publishers of this book on the basis of its single admitted mistake [the Joe Fuoco controversy], thus encouraging the non sequitur of denying its major point… All of Pellegrino’s other evidence from eyewitnesses has held up. A revision of this book has been completed. Historians and scientists correct their mistakes. But it is [by now] quite clear that the attackers of this work will not be satisfied… more remarkable is how the publisher has withdrawn this book and is unable to accept the overwhelming evidence in favor of the author, ignoring the dozen other publishers around the world readying to print the revised edition.
“Without even attempting to answer the many questions about whether The Bomb should have been used on Japan or not, this book makes the case against without the need for justification. It does so vividly, as if the tortures of Abu Ghraib had been televised in 3-D… Pellegrino’s book takes the reader there as no book has ever done and does not need to make any other case against what happened – indeed, against all warfare.
“The author’s honest, Doctor Who-like personal style throws stuffed shirts [at least, those with agendas] into paroxysms of invention and false accusations (not to mention the fallacy of ad hominem) that sooner or later collapse into apologies that seem like fresh accusations. Few if any corrections are later offered, even in major newsprint.”
CLAIMS vs FACTS
Since no corrections are likely to be offered by the people who initiated a series of internet accusations that went virally to my publisher and to the mainstream press (primarily over a forty-eight hour period, targeting a book that was more than thirty years in the making), and since the accusations were many, I shall attempt here to shine the cold light of documented facts on the most prominent and most often repeated claims. – C.R.P.
THE CLAIM: A man described as a last-minute substitute flight engineer aboard the Hiroshima mission’s photographic escort plane Necessary Evil had inflated his military record and thus every fact and assertion provided by him must be called into doubt and rejected (as reiterated by Motoko Rich, New York Times, March 2, 2010).
THE FACTS: This claim is true. The evidence establishing James Corliss as the man who really was in the flight engineer’s seat aboard Necessary Evil was brought to New York Times reporter Bill Broad, a thorough and trusted researcher with whom I had once sailed on an oceanographic expedition. Bill Broad contacted me with the evidence on February 18, 2010. The evidence was beyond serious dispute (including original documents brought forward from private storage by the widow of Mr. Corliss, and personal testimony from the navigator of Necessary Evil). I immediately informed my publisher that cumulatively about five pages of the book needed to be corrected for future printings, and that we also had to send out a notice that all foreign editions needed to be corrected prior to publication. That very night, I broke the story on the John Batchelor show. I have, from the start, considered this error more my fault than the veteran aviator who seated himself in Mr. Corliss’ place in history.
THE CLAIM: The Hiroshima bomb was not (as described in “Last Train”) significantly weaker than the Nagasaki Bomb. This claim, posted in Emails sent to my publisher by people representing themselves as Los Alamos scientists and veterans of the 509th Composite Group, charged that descriptions of a weaker Hiroshima bomb were a shameful myth and that its yield was actually in the range of the Nagasaki bomb’s estimated 24 – 30 kilotons. There appeared to be heavy reliance on President Truman’s original filmed announcement, in which he told the world that the Hiroshima bomb was more powerful than a 2,000 B-29 raid (equal to or greater than 20 kilotons).
THE FACTS: The Truman announcement was based on initial pilot observations that the Hiroshima bomb had been a success, which was accepted as consistent with an expected design yield comparable to the July 16, 1945 test of a plutonium device in New Mexico. Subsequent to the Truman announcement, scientific teams went into Hiroshima and discovered that the actual yield had been between 10 and 13 kilotons. Much as the Great Artiste was wrongly named in newspapers and newsreels as the plane that dropped the Nagasaki bomb, the Truman number went into encyclopedias and history books as a long-lived, self-perpetuating textbook dogma.
The 509th Composite Group’s own Chronology for the events of August 6, 1945 lists the Hiroshima bomb’s yield at 12.5 kilotons (Timeline #2, Hiroshima Mission, page 3). The New Mexico Nuclear Museum (an affiliate of the Smithsonian) lists the yield at 13kt.
The American Bombing Survey maps reveal that the zone of near total destruction for Hiroshima by heat, blast, and firestorm, if superimposed over central Manhattan, would reach roughly two miles from the East River to the Hudson. A superimposed zone of similar destructive force from Nagasaki would reach from the tip of lower Manhattan into the Bronx, and eastward into Brooklyn and Queens (Strategic Bombing Survey maps, Chairman’s Office, Washington D.C., June 30, 1946). This damage was consistent with the results of Tests Able (22kt, Bikini Atoll, 1946), Dog (22kt, Nevada, 1951), Easy (31kt, Nevada, 1951), and Zucchini (28kt, Nevada, 1955).
Charles Sweeney (personal communication, 1999) recalled being advised by physicist Luis Alvarez that he did not expect the Hiroshima bomb to reach its design yield of 22kt. Motoko Rich (in the N.Y. Times, March 9, 2010) quoted Holt editor Jack Macrae, who recalled conversations he had with friends who were scientists at Los Alamos, who told him, “back in the 1960s that the first bomb was compromised.”
THE CLAIM: An accident on Tinian Island described in the first three pages of Chapter 4 could not account for the Hiroshima bomb’s low yield because the accident did not occur.
THE FACTS: This claim is correct. The explanation of the low yield arising as the result of a Tinian Island accident that compromised the bomb’s uranium, though consistent with such testimony as pilot Charles Sweeney’s recollection about an eleventh hour insertion of extra initiators into the bomb (possibly confused by Sweeney with last minute arming practice procedures conducted by Parsons [RE Parsons, in Hiroshima, BBC, 2005]), relied primarily on interviews with a Tinian veteran who expanded his war-time resume` to include the Hiroshima flight of Necessary Evil. Hence, if the primary source’s Necessary Evil story was proved untrue, the story of the accident and every other assertion or opinion from this source needed to be removed, in five pages, from all foreign editions and any future American edition. The responsibility for this error rests with me.
THE CLAIM: Two Catholic priests in my book, one a survivor of Hiroshima who had blamed himself for what he considered to be the abandonment of three children and who eventually ended by suicide – another who participated in his burial on consecrated ground – were claimed on or about February 26, 2010, by anonymous Email alerts to my publisher, to be fabricated characters because their names were changed. During the week of February 26, 2010, Catholic League president Bill Donahue demanded that I publically release the name of the priest who buried a suicide in a Catholic cemetery, so that he and the burial “could be dealt with.” On March 8, 2010, Donahue announced on his C.L. website that I had “conceded that there is no such person as Father John MacQuitty.”
THE FACTS: I have never made a statement even remotely echoing the words that the Catholic League president has put into my mouth. To this day, two priests remain intact all subsequent editions because neither they nor any other people in this book were fabricated. I met “Father Mattias” in 1974. He can be cross-referenced in the Afterward of my book, Dust (pages 370-371, Avon-Morrow, 1998), in which I refer to reconstruction of the after-effects of a low-yield nuclear weapon, “through numerous conversations with Hiroshima survivors. Among these… a priest who spent the rest of his life wondering what became of the children he had seen standing atop a demolished building in Hiroshima.” After “Father MacQuitty” participated in his burial, I agreed to keep both of their names confidential, because for Catholic priests to bury suicides on hallowed ground is a punishable violation. (Father MacQuitty can be cross-referenced in other works, including Return to Sodom and Gomorrah, Bible Stories from Archaeologists, Random House, 1994, in which I noted that the name had been changed.)
When Steve Rubin and Marjorie Braman at Holt asked for proof of my source (specifically the priest who was still living), I was willing to abide so long as the source was revealed to Rubin, only, if Rubin agreed to a contract amendment stating that the priest’s identity would be kept in strict confidence between us, and was to be viewed only with the intention of verifying that my source actually existed (proof included a written and signed contract in which I promised always to quote him accurately but to identify him only by his pen name; additional proof included video of a statement made by him in the book). Against publishing standards going back at least as far as the Watergate investigation – and more recently through the infamous “outing” of CIA operative Valerie Plame – Mr. Rubin insisted that the name of a confidential source had to be made public so he could “out” the priest to the Associated Press by Monday March 1, 2010 – and to “get Bill Donahue on our side.” Even if I had been willing to abide by the Rubin/Braman deviation from publishing ethics and the law (and neither my agent nor I were willing to abide), I would have been forever and rightly vilified as the author who betrays a confidential source.
At the time of the Rubin/Braman demand, people like Bill Donahue of the Catholic League were insisting that Rubin and I reveal the priest’s name – evidently so that a man in his eighties could be punished (for what I had characterized to Rubin as showing an honorable human compassion toward the friends and families of suicides). I make few promises, and I neither break them nor expose an innocent soul to harm, no matter what the consequences to me.
The ultimate use of Father “MacQuitty” as a Trojan Horse, in which could be wheeled a gross claim that MacQuitty was a fabricated person and therefore everyone and anyone in my book must be suspected of having been made up, is simply beyond ridiculous. For a start (and just for a start), the name “MacQuitty” appears in only one sentence in the entire book. Surely no reasonable thinker could believe that, having made three visits to Japan, interviewing survivors and conducting an archaeological survey, I invented a fictional priest for one sentence, and risked inflicting such injustice as casting into doubt the existence and the messages to futurity of all the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors throughout the entire book.
The basis for Bill Donahue’s claim that I had conceded that there was no such person as Fr. MacQuitty was either an entirely invented quote (essentially, Donahue or someone else was impersonating me), or a deliberate distortion of Steve Rubin’s March 1 announcement to A.P., stating that I would not answer the questions about the priest. All I refused Rubin and Braman was the name and location of the priest (who happened to be in hospital, was horrified at what was being demanded of me and him, and said he only wanted to go peacefully to his Jesus without being drawn into “this vortex”). I was unwilling to reveal the name unless my agent and I received a thoroughly binding agreement precluding public disclosure. Rubin had threatened (on Feb. 26, 2010), that I had to give up the priest to Donahue and A.P. and make the questions about him go away, or Rubin would “make the Hiroshima problem go away quickly,” by killing the book. An unwillingness to bend to Mr. Rubin’s threats is a far cry from Donahue’s leap to an admission by me that Fr. MacQuitty did not exist.
THE CLAIM: Among the Emails received by Holt, by February 26, 2010, were multiple complaints about the way I had bridged the story of the two cities with the “too dramatic” and “too incredible” tales of people said to have survived both atomic bombings (half of whom traveled aboard the train in the title). The E-mailers called me a liar because only one double survivor existed – Tsutomu Yamaguchi – and therefore people so major as to be represented in the book’s title were either lying or had been fabricated by me.
THE FACTS: There is a huge difference between Tsutomu Yamaguchi being the first person to be granted official government recognition as a double Hibakusha and him being the only double Hibakusha. Due to bureaucratic procedures dating back several decades, to the point when medical coverage and small stipends were first released to survivors, they were permitted to check only one box: Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
While writing his 1957 book, Nine who Survived Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Dutton, N.Y.), R. Trumbull accessed Mitsubishi archives dating back to 1945 and 1946, and recorded up to fifteen who survived both atomic bombs. He first reported the story in his New York newspaper. More than 300 people made the trip from Hiroshima to Nagasaki. Approximately 90% died in the second atomic bombing. Film-makers Inazuka and Nakamura have documented approximately thirty double survivors (as in the film Twice Bombed, Twice Survived, Part 2, 2010). Oddly, Trumbull was a New York Times writer. One of the accusers, who insisted that there was only one double atomic bomb survivor, was Motoko Rich of the New York Times – evidently unaware of prior Hiroshima-Nagasaki reporting in her own newspaper.
THE CLAIM: A passage in “Last Train” referring to the direction and velocity of neutrinos through the home of double survivor Kenshi Hirata and through the Earth is a fabrication because I allegedly do not even know the speed of light.
THE FACTS: An attorney doubling as a publicity person for Holt said this claim had to be taken seriously because it came (on or about February 25, 2010) from a Los Alamos scientist – having been sent on “the right” official letterhead. The letterhead arrived via Email, as an attachment with other examples of official-looking letterhead from the 509th Composite Group (the bomber group that flew the two atomic weapons). A key criticism of the Hirata passage was based on the letter-writer’s belief that the speed of light was almost a million miles per second. I explained that the speed of light is actually 186,000 miles per second and advised Holt management that the Email letterhead should be considered fake because (A) it’s not Los Alamos letterhead and (B) real nuclear physicists do not normally have problems with the speed of light. (Misstatements about the velocity and direction of neutrinos have been resurfacing in various guises ever since, including Wikipedia and Amazon reviews.)
THE CLAIM: In letters arriving via Email through February 26, 2010 on 509th “official” letterhead (some of these were sent directly to the Associated Press, and parroted as news), assertions were made that according to Los Alamos scientists and members of the 509th bomber wing, the atomic bombs were designed to dissipate their radiation above ground and therefore descriptions of radiation effects on people in Hiroshima were “generally not factual,” were “of no merit,” and might even be called “bad science fiction.”
THE FACTS: Asked by Holt management to provide a scientific answer to what appeared to be radiation denial, I noted that I needed to know from the “509th” letter-writers more specifically what tissue-destroying radiation effects were being described as “fictional.” (Flash effects? Neutron spray? Gamma rays? Microwaves? Or secondary radiation from fallout?) On or about February 26 (having received no further specifics), I answered Holt with the example of gamma ray data (R.C. Milton and T. Shohagi, 1968, Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission [ABCC]) – which summarized the results of Luis Alvarez’s monitoring canisters dropped at each site – which also addressed the repeated claim (as in a 509th letter) that the Hiroshima “U-235 bomb went off with an anticipated force equivalent to the Alamagordo test of a plutonium bomb” and therefore was not in any way compromised. I wrote:
“A 600r dose (exposure) is normally lethal to humans… Nagasaki: at 400 meters (Dr. Susumu’s distance at the Urakami Medical College), outdoor exposure was 10,400r. In Hiroshima at this same distance, the dose was less than half as much: 4,220r. At 800 meters (0.5 mile) in Hiroshima, though the gamma dose alone was lethal (685r) for persons standing unshielded outdoors… in Nagasaki at this same distance the gamma dose was almost three times as lethal (at 2,040r), more than making up for the plutonium device’s relatively lower neutron spray. At 1.600 meters (1 mile), the gamma dose in Hiroshima was down to a relatively harmless 13.2r, just short of the radius of Sadako’s house; but it was up to a sickening 80r at this same radius in Nagasaki… Additional effects: flash desiccation of leaves on hills facing Hiroshima occurred within less than 12 km in Hiroshima; yet out to a radius of 80km at Nagasaki (Dr. Masao Shiotsuki, Omura Naval Hospital).”
Holt’s attorney/publicity person responded (Friday, Feb. 26) that my answers to these scientific questions were “too scientific.” I pointed out that Holt was located in New York City, where experts could easily be contacted at Columbia University and Brookhaven National Laboratory. I gave names and phone numbers of two experts who were willing to enlighten, with facts. I passed this same information along to Motoko Rich at the New York Times. Neither was called. Instead, I was asked why (if the claim could so easily be disproved) anyone would lie about radiation in Hiroshima. “What could they possibly gain?”
I could think of two motives: (1) Radiation casualties were more horrifying than even the scientists who designed the bomb anticipated (a former mentor of mine, Harold Urey, suffered a nervous breakdown over this) and it was clear that the 509th letter-writers believed radiation effects made America look bad. (2) In one 509th-veteran letter received by Holt (with R.W. Krauss’ byline) and posted to the internet and A.P., the penultimate sentences did indeed imply a hope for personal gain: “It has been reported that the famed director, James Cameron, from such movies as Avatar, Titanic, and Terminator… has optioned Charles Pellegrino’s book, [The] Last Train from Hiroshima.” Krauss and one of his fellow 509th E-mailers then offered that because my book must now be considered fiction and “would cause great damage to true history,” they would “welcome the opportunity to help Mr. Cameron,” make the film, in my place.
THE CLAIM: E-mails to Holt (509th letterhead quoting Los Alamos scientists) asserted that I do not know very much about the effects of ionizing radiation on human health (including symptoms of radiation sickness and death arising from bone marrow destruction), and thus biomedical descriptions in “Last Train” are full of errors and falsifications.
THE FACTS: I am all too familiar with the effects – and not just from the diaries and recollections of Hiroshima and Nagasaki families, doctors, or ABCC documents. My own mother was among the early medical attempts to treat leukemia with what turned out to be an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant – which involved the killing of her bone marrow with full-body radiation. (The effects described in Hiroshima, including frighteningly huge pieces of tongue falling out, were replicated and experienced in my own home.) When I was a child, my cousin and best friend died of cancer, during attempts to treat the ravaged bones of his face with combined surgery and radiation. Additionally, a relative of mine had survived Hiroshima – sort of: years later, he died badly. I knew all so sadly too well, precisely what I was writing about.
THE CLAIM: The temperatures on the ground in central Hiroshima were never hot enough to make human tissue flash to vapor or to carbonize people to the bone; therefore, vaporized bodies leaving shadows on the steps of the Sumitomo Bank and elsewhere near the hypocenter are a hoax.
THE FACTS: This “hoax” charge was yet another forwarded to Holt via Email on 509th letterhead on or about February 26, 2010 – along with a threat that veterans of the 509th would soon burn the book on U-Tube, if it remained in print. (This echoed a statement forwarded to a branch of James Cameron’s military research team on Feb. 25: that “veterans want all copies of the book to be recalled and burnt.”) At Holt, Steve Rubin’s stand was that he wanted these threats to “go away – quickly,” and he stated to me and my agent – repeatedly – that if we wanted the book to stay in print, we must do whatever was necessary to “get the 509th on our side,” because publication could not continue with the threat of protest by hundreds or thousands of Air Force and Army veterans (and “active service”).
As for the assertion that vaporizing heat, impacting central Hiroshima, is a hoax: The Hiroshima Museum has on display inch-thick ceramic tiles that fused together, essentially instantly, near the hypocenter and which were preserved in this geometry of twisted agony during the first three seconds by being blasted into the river (much in the manner of molten lead, “frozen in form” by being poured into water). Human bodies vaporize at much lower temperatures than are required to fuse roof tiles: nearer to “only” five times the boiling point of water (G. Mastrolorenzo, et al, “Herculaneum Victims of Vesuvius, AD 79,” Nature, April 12, 2001). The Hiroshima Museum preserves many such tiles with various degrees of fusion proportional to radius from the hypocenter (most excavated from the river). The museum also displays granite steps from the a bank near the hypocenter, where the outlines of someone sitting on the steps at 8:15 that morning of August 6, 1945 were traced on the stone surface lying outside of the person’s shadow – by steam-catapulted flakes of granite that erupted like kernels of popcorn, down to a depth of two and three millimeters. The effect on the granite revealed much about what happened to the person who left the shadow.
In June 2010 came a surprising revelation from James Cameron’s research team, regarding two of the key people who had been bombarding Holt and the internet with radiation- denial, disintegration-denial, and on behalf of their fellow 509th veterans, threats of public book-burnings: “Of course, throughout all of this, the people you mention were not in the 509th.”
This major revelation drove two key antagonists to more frenzied anger, and thus began the exposure of some additional truths, including the existence of a falsely represented official 509th veterans website and (worse) an anti-Japanese conspiracy theory agenda (Examples: Under The Last Train from Hiroshima, Amazon.com, June 5, 2010, J. Coster-Mullen, “Extraordinary Claims and Fabrications,” Comments section, J. C-M.; R. Krauss, dated June 3, 2010, starting with page 3 of 6; and the “Nuke Lies” movement’s website). During this revelatory period, J. C-Mullen reiterated his shadow people denial (page 1 of 6), lashed out at the book as “anti-war” (page 2 of 6, bottom of parag. 4), claimed that a survivor of the atomic bomb had actually expressed gratitude to him for America’s “nuclear umbrella” (bottom paragraph, page 5 of 7), and ended with advice that the next time I visit Japan, I should ask the people there about their secret, modern-day atomic bomb program. As evidence, J. C-M. claimed secret second and third-hand knowledge that, “They already have it” – in order to assert that, “this also makes a mockery of the annual August 6 Peace Ceremony at Hiroshima.”
THE CLAIM: World News blog announced March 1, 2010 that James Cameron’s plan for a film about Hiroshima and Nagasaki “has had to be canned” because it is “based on a book the author can’t prove is true.” Associated Press quickly echoed this: “James Cameron’s ‘Last Train from Hiroshima’ movie falls apart… Cameron has already put in quite a bit of work, but it now looks like the movie won’t be happening.”
THE FACTS: This was another internet story that went viral and spread through mainstream news outlets once it was copied by the Associated Press. Cameron never made any such statements or even implied the like. Much as Catholic League president Bill Donahue’s March 8, 2010 announcement seems to have involved someone impersonating me, this event involved someone impersonating James Cameron. In reality, Cameron’s view was quite contrary to that attributed to him, as demonstrated by a (genuine) August 12, 2010 interview with Entertainment Weekly: “[Avatar 2 is] not the only film on the director’s to-do list. Cameron is also quietly working on a serious, history-based movie that could be his own Schindler’s List. It’s called Last Train from Hiroshima, and it’s about a Japanese man during World War II who miraculously survived the atomic blast at Hiroshima, got on a train to Nagasaki, and then survived the nuclear explosion in that city, as well.
“ ‘I met Yamaguchi, the survivor, just days before he died [earlier this year],’ Cameron says. ‘He was in the hospital. He was sort of turning over the baton of his story to us, so I have to do it. I can’t turn away from that.”
James Cameron subsequently renewed his option on The Last Train from Hiroshima through the year 2023, after the Avatar sequels are out (because, like the Avatar films, this is one he plans to personally Direct).
THE CLAIM: As the weekend of February 26, 2010 approached, during a two-day period in which a seemingly coordinated Email bombardment of Holt reached its peak ferociously, the Pacific News Organization and then Motoko Rich of the N.Y. Times (passing an alleged Nakazawa letter directly to Holt with a note, “How does Pellegrino now explain this Japanese survivor calling him a liar?”), quoted a major figure in my book, Keijii Nakazawa, as having written that The Last Train from Hiroshima was full of lies about him and his family. During a discussion of this claim with Steve Rubin at Holt, I explained that I could not understand or explain the negative statements coming from Mr. Nakazawa. I had been an admirer of “Gen” for nearly thirty years, and mentioned to Mr. Rubin that “Gen’s” first two Manga autobiographies (I Saw It and Barefoot Gen: The Day After) were remarkable works of art. This turned out to be virtually the “last straw” for Mr. Rubin. He did not understand the meaning of Manga and explained with an expletive that he would never have published my book in the first place had he known I was consulting “f*ing comic books” as source material.
THE FACTS: First, to dismiss Nakazawa’s Manga as if it were next of kin to the old Archie comic books was simply wrong. Nakazawa described Hiroshima in pictures and in words as only a child who saw it could. His cover for Barefoot Gen: The Day After is not merely one of the great works of Japanese art, but one of the great works of art – period. As an admirer of Nakazawa’s works, upon my hearing his complaints about my book, I immediately sent him a letter, carefully translated by a mutual friend, offering in my next edition to give him full editorial control over anything I wrote about him or his family – offering that even if a passage were true, if it offended him, I would remove it. (I had never offered such editorial control to a figure in one of my books at any other point in my career. No writer does this.)
When I met Mr. Nakazawa in Hiroshima on August 7, 2010, he emphasized that he had been “perplexed” by my letter. The statements attributed to him (there exists no “Pacific News Organization,” by the way) – appeared to be either grossly misunderstood or made up. (NOTE: The P.N.O. appears to have been merely another book-hater’s blog, made to look like a legitimate, digitalized newspaper. A post-Nakazawa meeting letter dated August 12, 2010 RE a [genuine] Asahi article, and Hiroko Matsumoto’s reporting in the [genuine] Mainichi News, “definitely confirm,” wrote documentary film-maker Hideo Nakamura, “that the misunderstandings between you are completely solved [and] eliminate Japanese readers’ confusions.”) Hiroshima Memorial Museum Director Steve Leeper had characterized Steve Rubin’s denigration of Nakazawa’s works as “comic books,” as a matter not merely of Rubin’s playing a part in perhaps the worst case of publishing cowardice in American history, but as “a threat against humanity” as well.
NOTE: Rubin was referring to Nakazawa when he told the Associated Press on March 1, 2010 that I could not answer questions about a Hiroshima survivor in my book. Nakazawa was the only – and I emphasize, the ONLY survivor about whom, on that day, I could not immediately answer questions. The question put to me by M. Rich and S. Rubin, was: “Why would this Japanese survivor be saying you told lies about him and his family?”
Well, guess what? The only reason I could not answer this question during the weekend of Feb. 28, 2010 was that Nakazawa-san could not yet answer my letter – and this was because he had, for some weeks, been too ill from cancer treatments to answer any letter, or to be writing at all. Keiji Nakazawa, who was in fact a supporter of my work, never wrote the denigrating letter, notwithstanding its presentation by NYT political reporter Motoko Rich as genuine, without her having investigated the source. I learned too late, after the book had been pulled from the press (with that fuse finally being lit by a Nakazawa complaint), that the letter was, 100%, a hoax, fabricated by an Internet troll who stole Nakazawa’s identity. Even I had believed, initially, that the Nakazawa condemnation was real, based on the reasonable expectation that the New York Times writer had done at least the minimally required level of fact-checking, to verify that the letter was indeed from Nakazawa himself, and not from a spoofer impersonating him.
THE CLAIM: Another complaint received at Holt on or about February 25-26, 2010, cited differences between my book and the children’s novella Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, suggesting, therefore, that any differences between the children’s book and my book meant that my chapters about Sadako were “fiction.” In particular, the illustrated novella was cited as nowhere mentioning the Omoiyari principle spoken of so prominently in “Last Train,” in association with Sadako Sasaki. The letter(s) suggested that I had merely plagiarized elements of the classic film, Pay it Forward, and applied those elements to a young girl who died of atomic bomb disease ten years after Hiroshima – because this and other “too dramatic” aspects of the Sadako story did not appear in either Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, or in other people’s books.
THE FACTS: First, while it is an excellent introduction to the Sadako story, as the author of the illustrated children’s book, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes has pointed out, it is a “novella,” meaning it is to be accepted as a work of fiction based on actual events (primarily via the oral traditions passed on by Sadako’s classmates). The Sadako passages in my book were based on actual interviews with Sadako’s family – which, via corroboration at the Hiroshima Museum, led to the discovery of the foundations of Sadako’s house in July 2008. Again, the book against which my non-fiction book was being compared for discrepancies (under Rubin and Braman at Holt), the book that was treated as the prevailing authority (Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes), is a novella, a work of fiction – which is a small but critical distinction.
Secondly, if one visits the Tribute Center on Washington Street, near Ground Zero in New York (a history center run by 9-11 families), one will find a display case bearing a tiny paper crane – its size indicating that it was among the very last folded by Sadako Sasaki in 1955. A plaque above the paper crane highlights Sadako’s emphasis of the Omoiyari principle. The paper crane outreach program from the Sasaki and Ito families (both featured in “Last Train”) and from thousands of Japanese schoolchildren, became a reason why a majority of 9-11 families eventually began calling for honoring the lost by service to others – which is why the Obama administration (in September 2009) called for the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks to be observed as a national day of service.
On March 1, 2010, the day Holt announced that “Last Train” had been pulled from the press, Sadako’s brother Masahiro Sasaki wrote to me, “I remember your visit to my rural town… on July 18, 2008 and your thorough, detailed questions about my sister Sadako, down to the type of kimono she was wearing. I knew your questions did not come out of mere curiosity… You were the only (first) one from overseas who came all the way from the U.S. for an interview [before writing a book].
“I shared a story with you about a boy who asked me a question after I gave a talk in Vienna in Austria in 2004. His question was, ‘Which country dropped the bomb?’ My response to the boy was, ‘The name of the country no longer remains in my memory – it has been 60 years since the bomb was dropped and I believe God helped me to erase all sorts of feelings that [were] harbored and stood between us through all these years.’ The most important thing is to spread the heart of Omoiyari (compassion towards others) among children and for their bright futures.
“I had never told this story to visitors from overseas before I met you. Not only did you listen to this story but you wrote about it. Your sincerity deeply touched me and my family. I’ve come to entrust to you my hope… I am also aware that you paid a visit [December 2009] to comfort Mr. Yamaguchi on his deathbed, an A-bomb survivor who survived the two bomb[s] dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Your visit and caring for a survivor really touched the hearts of many people.
“I would like to express my gratitude to you because I was touched by our meeting in 2008 – and to extend my sincere consolation to you during these trying times. It is my sincere hope that you will be able to resume your writing as soon as possible – – Masahiro Sasaki, Sadako’s brother.”
THE CLAIM: On or about June 12, 2010 (after having previously scrubbed prior public statements against “Last Train”), Holt management posted a new revised statement on Amazon claiming (in the nebulous language of legal-speak) the discovery of multiple dishonest sources of information for the book: “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 a work and the reliability of their sources. Unfortunately, Mr. Pellegrino was unable to answer the additional questions that have arisen about his book to our satisfaction… without the confidence that we can stand behind a work in its entirety, we cannot continue to sell this product to our customers.”
THE FACTS: First, Holt at this time no longer had permission from me or my agent to further touch (and potentially further harm) this book in any way, shape, or form – that is, Steve Rubin and Marjorie Braman were no longer allowed to own rights, to print, or to sell this “product.” Secondly, after March 1, 2010, no additional questions were even asked by Holt. The June 2010 Holt announcement was not only grossly distorted (at least insofar as the truth is concerned), it came at the end of my agent’s nearly four month battle to receive a reversion of English language and electronic rights – which Mr. Rubin had been refusing to provide (as required by law, from the moment of the March 1, 2010 announcement that they would no longer publish the book). While acknowledging that certain accusations about my scientific credentials and claims against the reliability of people in my book were falling one-by-one, unmasked as internet hoaxes, Mr. Rubin inexplicably insisted on retaining American and electronic publishing rights (as the book continued to climb the best seller lists in the aftermath of the March 1, 2010 announcement and as foreign publishers proceeded with the revised second edition). Finally, on or about June 10, 2010, my agent obtained the legally required reversion. Approximately 48 hours later, Holt posted the above, revised claim on Amazon, suggesting that people in my book were made up – clearly with the retaliatory intention of making any attempt by my agent to resell the book in the United States more difficult.
This scurrilous (and patently false) claim was posted by Holt and kept in place into the autumn of 2010 and beyond, despite letters demanding its removal and despite increasing dismay from survivors of the atomic bombs over suggestions that their lives were fiction. Protests against the intentional destruction of “Last Train” came from such prominent and knowledgeable figures as Steven Leeper, Chairman of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation (which manages the Hiroshima Museum):
“I am writing today [June 29, 2010],” began a letter from Steven Leeper to my agent, and to a new publisher she had in mind, “to encourage you to fight with everything you have to defend Charles Pellegrino and get the new edition of The Last Train from Hiroshima published and read as widely as possible…
“The furor [over a veteran who exaggerated his war record] at first appeared to me to be a terrible tragedy. I am sure Pellegrino experiences it as such. However, that tragedy has forced him to write an even better book, even more complete [with interviews I have helped to arrange, including some survivors who are coming forth for the first time after 65 years]… I can’t prove it, but I doubt anyone alive, Japanese or otherwise, has heard, studied, translated and/or interpreted the testimony of more A-bomb survivors than I have, with the possible exception of my wife. In the process, I have read and/or translated numerous related books, articles, and captions for museum exhibits. I know or knew personally many of the survivors Pellegrino mentions in the book.
“The great ‘crime’ in the original book was to believe a well-documented, convincingly presented story [of an American veteran] that turned out not to be true. When presented with new evidence, Pellegrino was quick to admit his mistake and correct the book. Nevertheless, he and his book are being attacked as if he had deliberately fabricated the whole thing and, therefore, can no longer be trusted. Obviously, the Fuoco story is not the cause of this rage. I suspect Last Train arouses such fury because Pellegrino accurately depicts the cruelty of the weapon and the humanity of its victims.
“Among the criticisms of Last Train, some are probably sincere, objective efforts to set the story strait [for example, the USS Indianapolis was classified as a ‘heavy cruiser,’ not a ‘battle cruiser’]. However, most of the comments on related blogs appear to be ferocious efforts to destroy the bearer of the bad news that the atomic bombings were horrific beyond our understanding…
“Last Train is a great book, a potential game-changer in the struggle to eliminate nuclear weapons. The real tragedy would be to let a few rage-filled warriors keep this book from living up to its potential. If you get the revised edition published, I assure you that I will do everything in my power to sell it, including recommending it [through] the thousands of friends and allies I have in my data base.
“All we need now is a publisher with the guts to absorb the venom of the nuclear holocaust deniers… and even that challenge has been made easier by the controversy…
“Please do not wilt in the face of irrational, narrow-minded opposition, however threatening… If Last Train is squelched, those who launched this attack will be encouraged to move against other books they dislike, killing them one by one. Fear of a few loudmouthed literary terrorists should not prevent the public from reading all sides of an issue, especially one as important to all of us as the atomic bombings. – S.L.”
THE CLAIM: Titanic, and other fakeries. “Pellegrino himself [is] the latest in a long, not so illustrious list of literary fakers [including] Jayson Blair, and recovery-memorialist James Frey… Blogger David Brennan, who detailed the potential extent of Pellegrino’s truth-stretching on a James Cameron [fandom] website, questioned passages from Pellegrino’s earlier books, on topics ranging from September 11 to the Titanic.” (Sarah Weinman, March 2, 2010, Associated Press, daily finance.com).
THE FACTS: Along with Coster-Mullen and R. Krauss, David Brennan was among the primary internet attackers who (because their blogs and Emails had “gone viral” and become mainstream news) were given, by Holt, inexplicably high-level, Bill Broad scale scientific/historical credibility, against any documentation provided contrary to their claims. These people were essentially given power of judgment over the fate of a book, despite clear evidence that two of them, Krauss and Coster-Mullen, had falsely represented themselves as 509th veterans, an act that shifted into the realm of criminal abuse the moment they used their stolen valor in a plea to James Cameron (on digitally fabricated 509th letterhead), that he should jettison me and hire them as historical advisors on any Hiroshima/Nagasaki film he might have in mind. Another of them, Brennan, had a prior and very negative history with me. An example of this is the July 2007, “9-11 Conspiracies” thread (learn more by searching Charles Pellegrino, Discussion Forum). Brennan’s prior, 2007 complaint involved a bizarre allegation that I was a chief apologist for the Bush Administration’s version of 9/11, that I had helped the administration to cover up evidence that 9-11 was “an inside job” involving “controlled demolition” of World Trade Center skyscrapers in an effort to falsely frame Bin Laden, and that I was therefore one of the “real” 9/11 terrorists. Sarah Weinman (at A.P.) did not mention this record, despite its prominence in the very same blog she examined while writing her news story about Brennan’s uncovering of what she characterized as my “truth-stretching” and questionable ideas about 9-11 (that is, as characterized by Weinman sourcing Brennan, my crazy “truth-stretching” idea that America was attacked by terrorists who hijacked passenger planes and dive-bombed them into buildings under the leadership of Bin Laden).
Weinman (for Associated Press) further cited the same source as evidence of my so-called “Titanic fakery” as well, without verifying any relevant facts with Ballard, Detweiler, Cullimore, Cameron, or any other primary sources with whom I had sailed during the expeditions described in my Titanic books. On his James Cameron blog-spot (in the same infamous manner by which many 9-11 deniers cherry-pick and distort their “evidence”), Brennan cherry-picked the most acidic Titanic-related comments he could dredge up, going back more than twenty years. He put particular emphasis on Michael Parfait’s rants (NYT, August 27, 2000) against my book, Ghosts of the Titanic. Among the many Parfait assertions was that I had falsely placed myself on famed explorer Robert Ballard’s 1985 expedition that discovered the Titanic, when in fact I had clearly stated in the first chapter that I was sick in New York with a negative prognosis and was clearly not on that expedition. The chapter also explains how medical technology saved me and I then sailed with Ballard during the late fall 1985 Argo-RISE expedition to the Galapagos hydrothermal vent zone, where late at night we examined results of the first robotic reconnaissance of the Titanic.
In 1996, I visited the Titanic aboard the ill-fated research vessel Ocean Voyager, on an expedition for which travel-writer Michael Parfait had been passed over by expedition leader George Tulloch, in favor of me. According to Tulloch, he already had a good science writer aboard (Bill Broad of the N.Y. Times); he explained that what he really wanted in a second writer was a scientist who could work with famed Canadian microbiologist Roy Cullimore on the complex biology of a strange and only recently recognized “living fossil” festooning Titanic’s decks (as in our paper, Rev. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 173: 117-141, 2002).
Parfait, among his many accusations (in his review of the book he believed he had been more deserving to write, about the expedition for which he had been passed over by Tulloch, in favor of me), asserted that I knew almost nothing about the Titanic or deep-ocean biology and suggested that Bob Ballard had no respect whatsoever for me or my work. In reality, Ballard not only cited my “downblast” hypothesis and had artist Ken Marschall consult me about our early understanding of the Titanic’s break-up for his classic book, The Discovery of the Titanic, Ballard also cited none other than my Parfait-maligned book, Ghosts of the Titanic in the Selected Bibliography of his latest book, Titanic: The Last Great Images (Madison Press, 2007, Page 191).
At Holt, under S. Rubin and M. Braman, an accusation was received, and treated with credibility, that I had never even been to the Titanic in the first place. During the weekend following Feb. 25, 2010, I was ordered to obtain, for Rubin, verification from Roy Cullimore and James Cameron that my Titanic dives were not fakery (that is, not confined to special effects in a movie studio). The letters were received but disregarded by Rubin during the weekend of February 28, 2010 and on the Monday morning of March 1, he declared that I had been unable, even to adequately answer questions as to whether I had actually been to the Titanic. (This, in the wake of an E-mail “photo analysis” received at Holt – which had shown Rubin “positive forensic proof” that a scene of me behind the porthole of a Mir submersible in the James Cameron documentary, Ghosts of the Abyss, had involved computer animation – meaning, according to Rubin, if James Cameron could not in their opinion stand behind that scene, my entire presence in videos of the Titanic must be called into question.)
THE CLAIM: Jurassic Park fakery: D. Brennan asserted that his research had definitely “shot down” any credit to me as the originator of the recipe that made possible the scientific premise behind Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. The blogger claimed to have researched reports that the N.Y. Times credited me with this work in the 1990s and asserted (on his blog and in letters copied to A.P. and Holt) that no such N.Y. Times statements existed (Associated Press, daily finance section, S. Weinman, March 2, 2010).
THE FACTS: This claim, too, went quickly from blog and A.P. to other mainstream media outlets around the world, evidently with no one at these outlets backing off from the wrecking crew long enough to track sources to their origins or to verify the veracity of the claims.
As examples of what five minutes of fact-checking could easily have been found, in addition to Crichton himself crediting me in the novel:
- N.Y. Times, February 2, 1992; Paul Helou reporting: “After exploring a prehistoric forest and lake in Sayreville, New Jersey, Pellegrino formulated a theory that dinosaur DNA could be preserved in the mouth parts and stomachs of 95-million-year-old flies trapped in amber. That is the basis for Michael Crichton’s novel, ‘Jurassic Park,’ which Steven Spielberg is filming.”
- N.Y. Times, September 25, 1992; Malcolm Browne reporting: “Just such a prospect, first articulated by Charles Pellegrino, inspired the best-selling novel, Jurassic Park.”
- First articulated for Jack Wiley as internal papers RE Smithsonian Magazine, the J.P. recipe was published in Time Gate (TAB Books, 1983) and in two issues of OMNI.
Worth noting: The February and September 1992 articles (above) followed, by many months, an incident in which the New York Times mistakenly credited George Poinar with my work (Science section, N.Y. Times, P1, June 25, 1991): “Recipe for a dinosaur, suggested by George Poinar Jr.”
A month later, in early July 1991, N.Y. Times legal writer Leslie Oelsner began to provide Poinar with legal representation against me, despite Poinar having already admitted, on tape, to having known all along that the “Jurassic Park recipe” was original with me at least as far back as my 1983 book, Time Gate, and that the theory was never in any way original with him. Days later, Poinar denied to N.Y. Times science writer Malcolm Browne any personal knowledge of my prior work. In response, I sent Browne a copy of the tape in which Poinar referred specifically to having seen this in my book, Time Gate and to actually having a copy of the book within reach, on his shelf. On this same tape, Poinar also described Browne as an untruthful reporter who had misquoted Poinar, in giving him credit for my work (Browne checked his interview tape [personal communication, July 27, 1991, memorialized in letters, notes, and on tape] and affirmed that Poinar had clearly given himself credit for my work). Browne agreed that this must be corrected, but N.Y. Times legal reporter Oelsner inexplicably moved to delay correction, and attempted to have Poinar’s taped confession declared illegal and irrelevant. Even after the N.Y. Times published corrections, months later, Oelsner continued to represent Poinar as the “real” originator of the “Jurassic Park recipe,” until final settlement of the matter in a lawsuit subsequently brought by me against Poinar (he confessed to the N.Y.S. Supreme Court, April, 1996), and then against Oelsner (N.Y.S. Supreme Court Index# 100423/99), June 27, 2000. Exactly one month after the June 27 settlement, the intensely negative Michael Parfit Ghosts of the Titanic review was published in the N.Y. Times.
Given the oddity of a N.Y. Times book review published more than five months after the book (Ghosts of the Titanic) came off the press, does the Parfit incident not have a little bit of the pay-back stench, in the aftermath of my having just won a lawsuit against a New York Times writer?
Regarding the N.Y. Times’ treatment of two authors who mistakenly believed dishonest sources, each of whom (the sources) misappropriated credit for the work of another, the history of two very similar cases should be considered and compared:
In the first case, George Poinar falsely expanded his scientific resume` to include misappropriation of work he knew to be original with me. When presented with evidence that included Poinar’s taped confession of misappropriation, the N.Y. Times was slow to respond with a correction and in fact one N.Y. Times writer (Oelsner), armed with a law degree, continued to vehemently challenge a truthful correction of the record until after I won a lawsuit against her and Poinar.
In the second case, WWII veteran Joseph Fuoco falsely expanded his military resume` to include misappropriation of credit for flight engineer James Corliss’ participation in the Hiroshima mission. When presented with evidence from colleague Bill Broad that I had made a Malcolm Browne-type error, I went on national radio that very night (The John Batchelor Show, Feb. 18 and 20, 2010), announcing that there was an error in my book, in immediate need of correction.
THE CLAIM: Faking my cousin’s death to become a phony 9-11 Family Member.
THE FACTS: The internet has become a Krell Machine. No more proof is needed of this.
On page 13 of his James Cameron fandom blog (April 2010, “21:14AM,” no specific date given, 4th paragraph down), D. Brennan demonstrated that members of the most extremist faction of the “9-11 truthers” are not above such subterranean cruelty as to mock 9-11 Family Members for their losses. The blogger claimed to a near certainty that my cousin’s death was “another lie,” and that there were a lot more skeletons “lying” in the Pellegrino closet.
My cousin, Donna M. Clarke, was in fact murdered by the 9-11 hijackers on the west side of the North Tower’s 98th floor. Neither she nor anyone else in her office area survived long enough to get a cell phone message out and one woman in the same firm broke off in mid-sentence during an already on-going conversation with her husband. Located where Flight 11’s starboard wing struck, nothing was ever found of my cousin and death probably came within 1/200th of a second. Donna and her co-workers at Marsh and McLennan were among the lucky ones.
Most readers are already familiar with the antics of Holocaust-denying President Ahmadinejad of Iran, who in his address to the U.N. on September 23, 2010, asserted that segments of the U.S. government had engineered 9-11 “in order to save the Zionist regime.” Add to such sorry displays, D. Brennan: The July 2007 “9-11 Conspiracies” Brennan discussion (http://www.ibdof.com/viewforum.php?f=60/), leads up to Brennan’s appalling endorsement – ostensibly as a victory for free speech – of his more extremist colleagues giving Nazi salutes to 9/11 family members, at the World Trade Center crater, during anniversary ceremonies. Brennan declared before the world and in writing that he did not care if I or any other 9-11 family member “got [our] feelings hurt” by such behavior. (And this initially unnamed “web journalist,” N.Y. Times entertainment reporter M. Rich later admitted, was her primary source. Add to this, such secondary sources as the Los Alamos nuclear physicist who turned out never to have existed, and two 509th veterans who were never in the 509th. [M.Rich was subsequently severely demoted at the NYT, while M.Braman, at Holt, was fired and essentially banned from New York Publishing for life; A.P. has taken no similar disciplinary action against S. Weinman, for publishing hoaxes as news].)
THE CLAIM: The many accusations against Pellegrino remain active on Wikipedia, therefore they must be true.
THE FACTS: At least one NYC publisher has expressed concern over the seemingly permanent hijacking of my name on Wikipedia. False Wikipedia biographies have become disgustingly commonplace and infectious, since many off-shoot websites are programmed to clone the entries in totality, without verifying content for factual accuracy. Colleagues who had attempted since March 2010 to correct the Wikipedia entries under my name with proper citations saw their articles scrubbed within seconds, and replaced again with the anonymous, pirate article. In my case, the Wikipedia biography hijackers were 9/11, “Nuke Lies,” and anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists, led by “web journalist” and NYT/AP/Holt primary source, D. Brennan.
Wikipedia management has virtually no incentive to correct malicious and baseless posts because Section 230 of the Congressional Communications Decency Act holds Wikipedia and its secondary sourcers (including AOL News) completely harmless against claims of defamation. Considering what it makes possible, the title of the Communications Decency Act seems to rank with such great oxymorons as “scientific creationism,” given that it effectively encourages indecency in cyberspace, by rendering the on-line interactive “encyclopedia” sue-proof. Wikipedia in particular, observed John Siegenthaler (in USA Today, Nov. 29, 2005), is “populated by volunteer vandals with poison-pen intellects. Congress has enabled them and protects them.”
Mr. Siegenthaler knows what he is talking about. For too many months, he was described on Wikipedia as believed “to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven.”
THE CLAIM: Phony scientific credentials.
THE FACTS: My Dissertation, The Role of Desiccation Pressures and Surface Area/Volume Relationships on Seasonal Zonation and Size Distribution of Four Intertidal Decapod Crustacea from New Zealand: Implications for Adaptation to Land, has been accessed at least as far back as 2002 as part of an Australian proposal to monitor possible global warming effects in Pacific intertidal zones. The Dissertation passed oral review at VUW, was, at the advice of my examiners, written up into its final form from three separate papers into one, and was subsequently published verbatim and via peer review in the field’s leading scientific journal, Crustaceana Vol.47, Part 3, 1984, p251. The Dissertation was listed in the Victoria University of Wellington Library under the call number AS741 VUW PhD TZ 81 1983, with the citation, “in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Zoology. Series: Thesis. Zoology. Ph.D. (Victoria University of Wellington); 82. Status: Awarded Doctoral Thesis. Available.”
James Powell and other colleagues at Brookhaven National Laboratory re-verified my credentials as soon as I bagan working with them on brainstorming sessions involving advanced preliminary design of space propulsion systems. During the early 1980s, when scientists and physicians settled in America, even degrees from the Common Wealth had to be re-verified by American institutions and certified as complete and up to the standard of American universities. Such verification was routine, in those days. (During this same time frame, my brother-in-law underwent a secondary internship to similarly re-verify his MD from Taiwan – essentially producing two degrees: One from Taiwan and one from the Elmhurst General Hospital where he completed his second internship… and where he died on the first responder front lines, in April 2020, during the COVID-19 plague). On the matter of advanced degrees, if under some troubling logic, one were to legitimize the mid-1980s anti-evolution, self-named “ad hoc” tribunals of New Zealand, and to justify the (notably illegal) “embargoing” of my Ph.D., I had two of them – to say nothing of the Master of Science degree from LIU (for a final tally of three advanced degrees) and my FBIS.
Moreover, this should never have been an issue in the first place because I do not put degrees after my name on the covers of my books. A reason? I am not eager to advertise a university (VUW) where a small group of “ad hoc” tribunalists with the mind-set of schoolyard bullies, was given free reign, from Government House, in the early-mid 1980s, to engage in a war against science (during which I, and evidently just upward to nine other young scientists, became New Zealand’s Scopes Monkey Trial, sometimes called, “The Wellington Ten”). At the time of the 2010 Hiroshima controversy – the very same time frame in which M. Rich of the NYT was quoting a VUW spokesperson’s claim that I had variously dropped out without writing my Ph.D. thesis or failed my PH.D oral exam (sometimes the spokesperson seemed a bit confused about which of the two false claims should be applied), a pamphlet published by Victoria University through Barnes and Noble, inviting foreign students to study natural history in New Zealand, actually placed my name on the cover, as an example of the university’s 20 most distinguished alumni. ITEM: I was not using them (VUW) on my resume`. They, were using me, on their resume`.
The crowning ironies: A reason I made the list of 20 was “the Jurassic Park recipe” – one of the very “heresies” for which I was put on trial in 1984 (as if both the year and the title being appropriate, in my case, had not already been sufficiently ironic). During the 1990s, the same university listed fellow alumnus Sam Neil among the 20, for acting in the Jurassic Park films. In addition to paleo-DNA, the controversial theories about subsurface seas sustaining hydrothermal life on (or rather, in) certain icy moons of the outer Solar System – particularly Europa, Ganymede, Enceladus and Titan – which formed the actual core theory in Darwin’s Universe was, in 2010, no longer a heresy and was in fact being taught at Victoria University. (Now, what theory might explain why the VUW Vice Chancelor and ad hoc tribunalist R.G. Wear left that part out of their 2010 press releases? This should be one of those things that causes everyone to stop and go, “Hmmmmm…”)
It should be further noted that my VUW Ph.D. thesis involved a method (a principle still in use around the world today) that allowed for the first time, the quick measurement of complex surface areas (in this case, crabs) with an accuracy comparable to the measurement of volumes. This solution of an old and previously intractable engineering problem was applied to an evolutionary question no less important than how life emerged out of the sea and onto the land (Niles Eldredge, American Museum of Natural History, January 20, 1984 [Atkinson Doc. #14]).
The Dissertation is currently permanently guarded as belonging to the VUW library record because no matter how vehemently the self-named “ad hoc” tribunals of the mid-1980s (W.E. Harvey, June 15, 1984 [#22B]) insisted they could attack scientific papers during retroactive re-reviews while holding “the academic merits of a work irrelevant,” they never had a legal mandate and no “stop” or “remove” order, or any official notice of “failure” via “ad-hoc” re-review, could be forwarded through the Registrar’s Office.
Additionally, colleagues at Brookhaven National Laboratory, with carefully worded letters, helped me to provoke a November 6, 1984 letter from ad hoc tribunalist Dearden (p2, parag. 5), admitting that I had successfully completed all the formal requirements for awarding of the degree. From that moment forward, combined with the self-admitted blatant violation of international academic standards by which the ad hoc committee declared “the academic merits of the work irrelevant” (as in Dearden transcript, Nov. 19, 1984 [#23], and letter dated Sept. 4, 1985 [#25]) – from that moment (of the Nov. 6, 1984 Dearden admission), BNL, under the advice of the Head of Reactor Systems, James Powell, (my co-designer and mentor on the Valkyrie rocket and Europa melt-through probe), was able to legally re-verify my degree and cite it in official government papers (BNL/Atkinson docs. #26A,B, C), no matter how much Dearden subsequently tried to trivialize his admission that all degree requirements (including a thesis demonstrating “a significant contribution to the knowledge or understanding of a field of study”) – had been completed.
From the very start of the ad hoc committee “investigation,” the criticisms raised had almost nothing whatsoever to do with my already passed Ph.D. Dissertation but, rather, with “deserved punishments” for my two subsequent books, Darwin’s Universe and Time Gate. Three of my mentors on those two contested books were Harold Urey, Luis Alvarez, and Francis Crick. Their support of the very same works being targeted by the committee was dismissed by the committee as “irrelevant,” notwithstanding the fact that all three were Nobel-winning scientists. (By comparison, one should query the prior and subsequent accomplishments the committee members, who were so unfamiliar with my areas of research even as encompassed by my Ph.D. thesis that one of them criticized my failure to study land crabs in New Zealand, when in fact no such animals exist in New Zealand [#3,p2; Pellegrino to Axford, #3,p2, Feb. 27, 1984]; nonetheless, the scientific expertise of Urey, Alvarez, and Crick was judged “irrelevant”). Anyone who looks into the nature of New Zealand ad hoc committee justice will discover that the word “irrelevant” tended to be used like a magic charm, to be raised whenever anything too relevant loomed.
The obvious first question should have been (and in any country calling itself a democracy should always be): What did my having survived the criminal abuse of an ad hoc tribunal in 1984 have to do with whether or not I was telling the truth about Hiroshima in 2010?
THE CLAIM: “Movie Man Witch Hunt a Fantasy.” According to former ad hoc tribunalist R.G. Wear, as told to the New Zealand Herald on March 7, 2010, “Claims by one of Hollywood director James Cameron’s closest collaborators that he was hounded out of New Zealand by an academic witch hunt in the 1980s are pure fantasy… The best-selling author says… his laboratories were destroyed… Wear [says]: ‘I guess Pellegrino is very good at bullshit… I couldn’t keep him on track, he used to go off on all these weird tangents. He talked a lot, about anything and everything.’” The N.Z. Herald also suggested that I falsely claimed to have lectured at the Carter National Observatory.
THE FACTS: This was not Professor R.G. Wear’s first complaint about his own inability to understand how someone could be interested simultaneously in amber, meteorites, the intertidal zone, the deep ocean, outer space, and dinosaurs (“all these weird tangents… anything and everything”). To the N.Z. Herald, in 2010, Wear was simply further memorializing complaints first voiced by him in May 1982, in support of demands that Darwin’s Universe and its companion book Time Gate (with its introduction of the Jurassic Park recipe) be withdrawn by me from publication (#3, Reviews, Biography, C. Pellegrino. Also, Powell-Pellegrino Brookhaven File, Item #3, Item #4, Item #15 [includes Niles Eldredge, in a classic response to an R.G. Wear complaint: “Even suggesting to a young scientist that it is somehow inappropriate to ‘question Darwin’ is the antithesis of what a young scientist is supposed to learn – – to question virtually everything.”]). What Wear derided as “all these weird tangents,” a defender of mine, Sir Charles Fleming, praised as “polymathy.” The multi-disciplinary naturalist – among the greatest scientists New Zealand had ever produced and a father of the then-emerging science of paleobiology – insisted that being a polymath was a plus, not a minus. Sir Fleming was a polymath himself, as was astronomer Frank Andrews, who arranged my lectures at the National Observatory and, as memorialized in his letter of August 3, 1984, wished I would come back to New Zealand and resume the observatory lectures (in contradiction of A.P. and N.Y. Times claims, in 2010, that there was no evidence of my ever having lectured at the Carter National Observatory: I gave both M. Rich and S. Weinman National Observatory astronomer Frank Andrews’ contact information and they never contacted him to verify the facts).
Along with R.G. Wear, VUW Vice Chancellor Walsh gave conflicting reports to the Associated Press and the New Zealand Herald. To the former (March 1, 2010), Walsh claimed there was some evidence that I had been a graduate student but had apparently dropped out without completing my degree. To the latter, Walsh asserted that I had taken a Ph.D. oral examination and failed. (Both men denied that the “ad hoc” committee ever existed.) On September 29, 2010, news was relayed to me from New Zealand investigative journalist Kent Atkinson, that VUW was refusing to answer his questions or to provide documentation of a failed examination even under the New Zealand government’s version of the Freedom of Information Act: “VUW hides behind the excuse that they have few records going back as far as the 1980s and cannot assist. This is a lie and [we know] it.” The Vice Chancellor was unable to produce records of a failed examination because it never happened. The evidence is, in fact, exactly contrary.
In a June 15, 1984 letter, W.E. Harvey (Item #23B, BNL File), for the first time in writing, referred to the committee that would ultimately revoke credentials by declaring any proven merits of my Dissertation retroactively irrelevant. Most significantly, Harvey called his committee an “ad hoc” tribunal. R.G. Wear’s claim (to the N.Z. Herald, 3/7/2010) that the ad hoc “witch hunt” never happened was yet another blatant and defamatory lie. The reason for calling themselves ad hoc may forever remain a mystery. In science, ad hoc is actually a derogatory term in which extraneous and even ad hominem data and arguments are introduced to sustain a pre-conceived notion and keep it from being falsified. Ad hoc hypotheses generally define “pseudoscience.” Under the British system, “ad hoc” law defines an emergency committee operating outside the normal procedures and protections of law. (Military tribunals are called “ad hoc.”)
R.G. Wear’s vehement denial that there had been any destruction of my two N.Z. laboratories is refuted by numerous documents, including Dr. Kenneth Goldie’s letter, bearing witness to Wear’s dismantling of one of my labs and the apparent theft of my fossils (July 27, 1983 [#5]); R.G. Wear’s subsequent insistence that I had no right to demand answers RE the whereabouts of my specimens (letter dated November 2, 1983 [#7]); an admission through D.A. Hamer that my specimens, along with multiple notebooks of raw data had been lost or destroyed (letter dated Nov. 30, 1983 [#8]); and a March 1, 1984 letter in which D.A. Hamer (page 3) referenced specimens (many dozens of jars, actually – filling entire shelves), removed by R.G. Wear from the Island Bay Lab (my second lab) and destroyed.
The “witch hunt” of vandalism and ad hoc tribunalism existed, and is documented beyond all reasonable dispute. If they lied about this, anything about me that comes out of New Zealand should be viewed with an element of doubt, including my 2001 death notice (which read, in part: “We really are not glad that Pellegrino is dead, we are simply glad he isn’t writing books anymore”). Perversely, R.G. Wear was allowed to sit on the ad hoc tribunal and decide how to “punish” me (for publishing two “deplorable” books), while my complaints about burglary and vandalism (to say nothing of censorship) were still active against him. Just as perversely, during his ad hoc re-review of my work, Wear attempted with the aid of his committee members to misappropriate credit for the engineering method I had (under the mentorship of Merv Loper) invented for my thesis. On or about January 20, 1984, ad hoc member 2 (p4. Parag. 4) and member 3 (p3, parag. 5) cited my method as “sound” and “original,” but member 2 asserted that “credit for the concept” should be attributed to member 1, R.G. Wear. This was not the only attempt at misappropriation by participants in the N.Z. ad hoc committee activities. George Poinar, Jr. had submitted letters deeply critical of what later became known as my “Jurassic Park recipe” – which letters were used against me by Wear (as evidence against the paleo-DNA chapter of Time Gate, one of the two “deplorable” books under trial). Indeed, in one letter, Poinar had referred to the paleo-DNA theory behind the recipe, as presented in Time Gate, and in an earlier article for Smithsonian (rejected by Poinar while he served as a Smithsonian peer-reviewer, and later published by me in Time Gate and OMNI), as an idea so ridiculous that it could only have come from the mind of a “madman.” R.G. Wear and the other contributors to the tribunal initially concluded that the ideas presented in Darwin’s Universe and Time Gate were such a threat to the standards and reputation of the university as to merit special ad hoc tribunal treatment. The next obvious question: If my work really was rubbish, why did two ad hoc committee participants (Wear and Poinar) subsequently feel that they needed to steal from my rubbish bin?
In New Zealand, the ad hoc committees were a rogue element, hell-bent on subverting due process and natural justice. We ad hoc targets found ourselves thrown down Alice’s rabbit hole and dragged before Red Queen justice: Verdict first. (Invent reasons later.)
Under ad hoc rules, an author’s credentials could be revoked or frozen in “Restricted Status” indefinitely and an already passed Dissertation could be subjected years later to secret re-review in absentia, under which certain rights of “natural justice” (what in America is known as due process) were amended in the following ways:
1) Right to appeal: Suspended.
2) Right to legal council: Suspended.
3) Right to second party representation (in my case, by Sir Charles Fleming and other experts in my field of study, who tried to intervene): Suspended.
4) Right to represent self and refute claims in person: Suspended.
5) Right to refute the claims in writing: Suspended.
6) Right to know the nature of all claims: Suspended. (As in Dearden transcript, Nov. 19, 1984, p1, parag. 5.)
7) Right to argue the academic merits of the works under trial: Suspended. (As in Dearden decree, 1985, Kent Atkinson docs. 22B, 23A, B, 24, 25: “The academic merits of [Pellegrino’s] work are ruled irrelevant.”)
If anything like this ever happens to you, I advise that you adopt the Omoiyari principle, don’t let the bullies stop you from working, working, working – and keep your sense of humor intact (you’ll need it). One should also research and consider the political background against which all of this mayhem took place – with New Zealand on the verge of declaring nuclear powered or potentially nuclear weapons-bearing ships banned beyond a nuclear exclusion zone (since arms contents were classified, the ban went essentially against the entire U.S. Navy), and with relations between Government House and the Reagan White House having grown somewhat worse than being merely “tense,” between 1982 and 1984. I was American born, and within this very same time frame of an attempt to retroactively expel me from VUW, approximately twenty New Zealanders were expelled from American naval academies. At VUW, an ad hoc tribunalist named Jack Garrick suddenly had CIA on the brain – and among the accusations thrown at me (as memorialized in the SFWA Bulletin, 1995), was a claim that because I had been “receiving too much mail from NASA” (Voyager 2 photos of Saturn and its moons, confiscated from my office), I needed to be reminded that being accused of “posing” as a student while spying meant that my degree could be summarily embargoed while my case was examined. The most damning “proof” of espionage while having been a student “under false pretenses,” included “self-incriminating” letters confiscated from my lab that referenced my actually having an American handler, referred to in writing, and “by Pellegrino’s own admission” as “my agent” (You mean – a secret agent? Yes, that’s exactly what Garrick had in mind). In the real world, as opposed to the Twilight Zone, the confiscated letters referred to the American “agent” handling my book, Darwin’s Universe. He was the famed literary agent Scott Meredith, of the Scott Meredith Literary Agency in New York. Any such answer from me was barred from entry into the record, on the basis of being “irrelevant.”
Dr. Kenneth Goldie, who personally witnessed much of this process, regarded the attacks against the books Darwin’s Universe and Time Gate and the retroactive freezing of my credentials as an act of censorship, plain and simple (with the ad hoc committee misusing the political climate of the time to my disadvantage). On March 16, 2010, Dr. Goldie wrote: “I was employed from March 1980 – April 1988 at the Electron Microscope Facility, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, as an electron microscopist. During this time I met Charles Pellegrino who was enrolled under the Ph.D. programme in the Zoology Department of Victoria University. Charles used our electron microscopy facilities for part of his thesis studies where he developed with Merv Loper (Facility Lab Head), a novel method to measure the surface areas of irregularly shaped objects such as the crabs he was studying. Charles made rapid progress in his studies and was greatly admired by his colleagues for his enthusiasm and knowledge.
“I was extremely surprised and disappointed when I learned at a later stage that Charles’ thesis was challenged, [re-reviewed], and revoked by an investigative panel for reasons that did not appear to be directly related to the work embodied in his dissertation (in particular, the publication of his and Dr. Jesse Stoff’s book, ‘Darwin’s Universe’ – which had nothing to do with his dissertation).
“It is my opinion that Charles had carried out his Ph.D. research at a high standard and he is one of the most highly talented and original scientific thinkers I have had the pleasure of working with in my scientific career.”
The relevant facts freeze-dry ad hoc tribunalist R.G. Wear’s March 2010 denials to the N.Z. Herald and to the world at large down to a very simple multiple choice question for Wear and VUW’s Vice Chancellor: Which is it? What shall they answer:
- The ad hoc “investigative” committees never existed.
- The ad hoc committees previously denied really did exist after all (believe us, we’re telling the truth this time), and Pellegrino – along with the approximately nine or ten other people we ad-hocked – really did deserve everything we did to them.
Two impossible things before breakfast.
Add a third: That a respected publisher and countless mainstream news outlets with sterling reputations were willing to embrace, without questioning (and even to clone from blogs, as news, without attribution, without fact-checking), a coordinated series of internet hoaxes.
The Last Train from Hiroshima is the first book in the history of American publishing to be destroyed in this manner – much to the consternation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors whose lives have been characterized as false, and whose voices are silenced when they most need to be heard. Add to this Steven Leeper’s observation that Holt management, by its example, has all but assured that “Last Train” will not be the last book censored by this species of literary terrorism.
Therein reside the still spreading, still gestating roots of the scandal of the literary world in Modern America.
Some Additional References:
“Surviving the Last train from Hiroshima”: Contains VUW Library record of my 1983 Ph.D. – which, above and beyond the basic requirements of a thesis, was published in the field’s leading peer reviewed scientific journal: CRUSTACEANA, Part 3, 1984:
Rowman and Littlefield, 2nd edition: “To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima”