Messages from James Cameron and Steve Leeper

March 3, 2010

I have worked with author/scientist/historian Charles Pellegrino on several projects including Titanic and Avatar. Charlie is a seeker of truth and he is already working to correct the errors that were included in his powerful book, The Last Train from Hiroshima. Charlie has introduced me personally to survivors of the bombings, and his diligence in interviewing these last connections with living history is beyond dispute. It would be a shame if the resulting book, which is a valuable historical resource, is dismissed or overtly blocked from wide dissemination due to inaccuracies resulting from a single unreliable source. Charlie’s faulty source clearly used elaborate deception to create a false account. On our numerous projects together, I have known Charlie to be a diligent and thorough researcher, who always does his best to cross-reference testimony. In this case he was clearly the victim of a convincing fraud. Charlie is currently doing all that is humanly possible to correct the resulting errors in his book, as any responsible writer would. I have wanted to do a film on the general subject of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings for years, and still intend to do so, although I do not currently have a shooting script and no decision has been made to proceed in the short term. My decision criteria for the project are not in the least influenced by the issue of a single flawed source out of the scores who contributed to Charlie’s book. When I do go forward with a film, I would be a fool to ignore the rich vein of eyewitness testimony, so painstakingly gathered, that exists in The Last Train from Hiroshima, and I will preserve my option on the book accordingly. The truth will prevail, and Charlie’s book, once corrected, will stand as an important and compelling account of one of the most important events of the 20th century.

– James Cameron

August 15, 2010

In August 2010, while Pellegrino returned to Japan, James Cameron gave an interview about The Last Train from Hiroshima: The Avatar sequel is still several years away – “We’re in the early days of technical development,” James Cameron told Entertainment Weekly during an interview last week in Santa Monica, where he is plugging the August 27 3-D re-release. But that’s not the only film on the director’s do-do list. Cameron is also quietly working on a serious, history-based movie that sounds like it could be his Schindler’s List. It’s called The Last Train from Hiroshima and it’s about a Japanese man during World War II who miraculously survived the atomic blast in Hiroshima, got on a train to Nagasaki, and survived the nuclear explosion in that city, as well.

“I met Yamaguchi, the survivor, just days before he died [on Jan. 4, 2010],” 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.”

Still, Cameron has a lot of questions to answer before he begins rolling cameras. “The issue is tonal,” he says. “Yeah, sure, I could forensically show you what it was like to be at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But you probably wouldn’t want to stay around for the back half of the movie. And then there’s the question of whether I should do it in 3-D. I’ve made a blanket statement that all of my movies are going to be in 3-D from now on, but I couldn’t do this in 3-D. It’d be too sensationalistic.”

How long before he solves these problems and makes the movie? Is it possible that it could be in theatres before the Avatar sequel? Cameron isn’t sure: I’d like it to be sometime before the next nuclear war.” [That is, for the film to help teach people that Nagasaki must be the last city ever to die this way. Education. There is no substitute.]

– Entertainment Weekly

June 29, 2010

By the spring of 2010, the two 509th veterans who had been sending letters to the publisher of “Last Train” and to the media, writing under 509th letterhead that the book was full of lies about radiation poisoning in Hiroshima, and who were given credibility by the media as knowledgeable veterans of the bomber wing that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan, were revealed by James Cameron’s historical researchers to have “never been in the 509th.” In an equally strange development, a widely quoted Los Alamos scientist who insisted that the “shadow people” of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were a hoax created by the Japanese, turned out never to have existed at all. Many of the most venomous statements against the book were unmasked as having originated from members of the self-named “9/11 Truth” organization – which had a long and well-documented prior history of accusing Pellegrino of having been a corrupt scientist who helped the Bush Administration to cover up the “controlled demolition” of the World Trade Center and to frame Osama Bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks.

Owing largely to an outreach from Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors (some of whom were perplexed by amateur blogs that somehow ended up being quoted as objective journalism by major American news organizations, ever more loudly denying the survivors’ experiences and in some cases even denying their existence), Pellegrino was invited as an honored guest to the 65th anniversary ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Meanwhile, Steven Leeper, Chairman of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation (which manages the Hiroshima Museum), wrote a plea to Pellegrino’s literary agent and to the American publishing community:

I am writing today 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 in 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.

I have attempted to establish my credentials as a person who knows the Hiroshima story because I want it to mean something to you when I say that The Last train from Hiroshima is by far the best book I have ever read on the subject of the bombings… No one I know has ever articulated more fully, more accurately and more effectively the essential nature of the atomic bombings.

The great “crime” of 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… 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… 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 The Last Train from Hiroshima 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.

– Steven Leeper

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