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Drawing on the voices of atomic bomb survivors and the new science of forensic archaeology, Charles Pellegrino describes the events and the aftermath of two days in August when nuclear devices, detonated over Japan, changed life on Earth forever.

To Hell and Back offers readers a stunning, “you are there” time capsule, wrapped in elegant prose. Charles Pellegrino’s scientific authority and close relationship with the A-bomb survivors make his account the most gripping and authoritative ever written.

At the narrative’s core are eyewitness accounts of those who experienced the atomic explosions firsthand—the Japanese civilians on the ground. As the first city targeted, Hiroshima is the focus of most histories. Pellegrino gives equal weight to the bombing of Nagasaki, symbolized by the thirty people who are known to have fled Hiroshima for Nagasaki—where they arrived just in time to survive the second bomb. One of them, Tsutomu Yamaguchi, is the only person who experienced the full effects of both cataclysms within Ground Zero. The second time, the blast effects were diverted around the stairwell behind which Yamaguchi’s office conference was convened—placing him and few others in a shock cocoon that offered protection while the entire building disappeared around them.

Pellegrino weaves spellbinding stories together within an illustrated narrative that challenges the “official report,” showing exactly what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and why.

Also available from compatible vendors is an enhanced e-book version containing never-before-seen video clips of the survivors, their descendants, and the cities as they are today. Filmed by the author during his research in Japan, these 18 videos are placed throughout the text, taking readers beyond the page and offering an eye-opening and personal way to understand how the effects of the atomic bombs are still felt 70 years after detonation.

Review

"The nuclear weapons of today make the ones detonated in 1945 look like firecrackers, and more and more countries possess them or threaten to do so. . . . The virtue of [this book] is the reminder of just how horrible nuclear weapons are."The Wall Street Journal

On the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Pellegrino’s (Farewell, Titanic: Her Final Legacy, 2012, etc.) account of the survivors—a book recalled and pulped in 2010 by its original publisher after doubts about the authenticity of the claims made by one of the author’s sources—now appears in a revised edition.
After the atomic devastation of Aug. 6, 1945, in Hiroshima, a surviving father told his daughter: “Thank God we have relatives in Nagasaki. We will be safe there.” Based on interviews, memoirs, archival research, and new reporting, Pellegrino’s narrative is as riveting and powerful as John Hersey’s classic
Hiroshima (1946). Recounting graphically detailed stories of the hibakusha (exposed), including double survivors who experienced the bombings of both cities, the author conjures a hellish landscape: we see “flash-burned” images on roads, people dissolving into gas and desiccated carbon, a man seemingly tap-dancing on feetless legs, and men, women, and children “degloved,” their skin pulled off by the wind. Much of the focus is on Hiroshima, which “was converted to a lake of yellowish boiling dust, left behind by a billowing red cloud that rose at impossible speed.” There, thousands of people “lived on the cusp of instantaneous nonexistence, on the verge of dying before it was possible to realize they were about to die.” Others lingered with radiation disease, dying most often from cancer; some survived for many years with nightmares and psychological damage. The second, more powerful bomb actually missed Nagasaki, obliterating an adjacent suburb. As in Hiroshima, some people were vaporized; others, sufficiently sheltered, went unharmed. Concerned mainly with ordinary people whose lives were changed in a “split second catastrophe,” Pellegrino also narrates the heartbreaking stories of the U.S. pilots (“My God, what have we done?” wrote one) and the many atomic orphans, as well as the origin of paper cranes fashioned by survivors as messages of hope.
This is horrifying, painful, and necessary reading.
Kirkus

A book that everybody should be reading on the occasion of President Obama’s non-apology tour of Hiroshima is Charles Pellegrino’s To Hell and Back. It’s a meticulous reconstruction of the immediate aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the perspective of the victims.

It depicts, as the title implies, an utter hellscape of dazed survivors threading their way through the blasted landscape in ant-like lines to nowhere amid flickering whirlwinds of flame, human ash and bone, rivers of corpses, clouds of flies; and slow death brought on by desperate thirst, blast, burn, and radiation injuries, and the longer terms effects of radiation exposure. . . . Indeed, removing memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been the top priority, especially for American nuclear denialists who resent detailed reporting of the horrors of the atomic bombings and any implication that the US should feel any qualms about what it did.
Asia Times

Pellegrino’s book is a moving and grueling close-up look at the horrors experienced by the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki both on the day of the bombing and in the days and years afterward. . . . There are few opportunities for inspiring ‘triumph of the human spirit’ narratives amid the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombings were titanic, apocalyptic events that mock human scale and comprehension. . . . Nevertheless, Pellegrino documents instances of courage, compassion, and ingenuity and people sustaining their humanity through acts of love and sacrifice.The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus

I have travelled with Pellegrino to Japan to visit survivors of both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, and to consult with officials and historians there. Among that community he is well respected and considered an important voice for the history of these events. Pellegrino combines intense forensic detail—some of it new to history—with unfathomable heartbreak. The author unflinchingly chronicles these most devastating events in Japan, the only times nuclear weapons have been used against human beings, and begs us to hold hands and to pray that it never happens again. A must read for anyone with a conscience. -- James Cameron, director, producer, engineer, and explorer

By far the best book I have ever read on the subject. . . . No one I know has ever articulated more fully, more accurately, and more effectively the essential nature of the atomic bombings. A great book—a potential game-changer in the struggle to eliminate nuclear weapons. -- Steven Leeper, Hiroshima Jogakuin University, former chair of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation

The book opens with imagery that leaves one speechless. Pellegrino is a poet at heart, a poet with a Japanese soul. -- Francis Kakugawa, poet, Hiroshima family member

Drawing on his considerable scholarly skills as well as his poetic sensibility, Charles Pellegrino has greatly enlarged our understanding of the singular tragedy that was—and is—Hiroshima. The pages themselves seem to weep, drenched as they are in poignancy, passion, and a salutary measure of unbearable truth.

-- James Morrow, author of Shambling Towards Hiroshima and This Is the Way the World Ends

I just finished reading the book again. Each time I take the journey, the words leave a stronger impression—the most important piece of literature written about the hibakusha (the exposed) since John Hershey’s Hiroshima. -- Paule Savinio, author of From Above

Charles Pellegrino’s writings have provided critical information, particularly on the first twenty-four hours after the nuclear explosion in Hiroshima. This information has added significantly [to our] knowledge and understanding about the medical and pathological events of the early period after the nuclear event. In turn, this information has allowed the development of a plan that could potentially save thousands of lives if another nuclear explosion, similar to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, occurs. Our military believes that this is inevitable. -- Norman Ende, Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Rutgers, New Jersey Medical School

Pellegrino fills this fascinating work with dark revelations, incredible imagery, and unforgettable characters. With a scientist''s eye for detail, the author sets the record straight about what actually happened. So forget what you thought you knew about the August 1945 atomic bombings and their aftermath. This book is the definitive account. -- Bill Schutt, American Museum of Natural History

During my forty years as a senior scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, including thirty years of collaboration with Charlie Pellegrino, I have always found him to be a careful, thoughtful, imaginative, and honest researcher. I was involved in R&D on applications of fission and fusion nuclear energy [for] nuclear rockets, and Charlie and I collaborated on a next step: Interstellar probe designs based on anti-matter propulsion. -- James Powell, Brookhaven National Laboratory

Let''s hope this book touches the hearts of the many and that such extreme methods of societal control are finally eliminated. . . . A monumental work. -- Roy Cullimore, founder and president, Droycon Bioconcepts

Charles Pellegrino''s unique forensic archaeological approach . . . should be required reading for all those making decisions of war. Despite past attempts to suppress this history, Charles has succeeded in a detailed immortalization of one of the true turning points in human existence. -- Tom Dettweiler, NOAA ocean explorer and engineer, US Navy

Before reading this, I believed we should be prepared to do unto others as they would do unto us and do it first. I was wrong. I did not really know what an atomic bomb does (to the people beneath it). I believe anyone who even considers the first use of a nuclear weapon (or who designs one), has found the unforgivable sin. -- Amnon Rosenfeld, forensic anthropologist, Israel Geological Survey

This can be a powerful wake-up call for some of the younger generation—that rare combination of scientific expertise and profound humanism. -- Mark Selden, Asia Pacific Studies, Cornell University

Review

Sober and authoritative: This is gleaming, popular wartime history, John Hersey infused with Richard Preston and a fleck of Michael Crichton. . . . [Pellegrino] certainly studies every kind of fallout and does not neglect the spiritual variety. He writes about one doctor who recalled that, ‘Those who survived the atomic bomb were, in general, the people who ignored others crying out in extremis or who stayed away from the flames, even when patients and colleagues shrieked from within them. . . . In short, those who survived the bomb were, if not merely lucky, in a greater or lesser degree selfish, self-centered—guided by instinct and not by civilization. And we know it, we who have survived.’The New York Times

The tragedies and atrocities of World War II now belong to history, while Hiroshima is still part of our world, our continuing present, maybe our dreaded future. . . . Charles Pellegrino''s account about what it was actually like to be on the ground in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, culled from survivors’ memories and his own work in forensic archaeology, is the most powerful and detailed I have ever read. It puts flesh on the skeletons. . . . This book offers more than just effective popular history. It is a kind of reminder. We have now lived long enough with the bomb to begin to take it for granted. [As] nations join an expanding nuclear ‘club,’ we are in danger, as MacArthur''s committee was, of thinking of nuclear weapons as nothing but more sophisticated bows and arrows. [This book] gives us, instead, a glimpse of their horror. It makes us afraid again. As we should be.The Instrumentalist

A tragic cautionary tale as well as a celebration of human resilience.People Magazine

Heart-stopping. Pellegrino dissects the complex political and military strategies that went into the atomic detonations and the untold suffering heaped upon countless Japanese civilians, weaving all of the book’s many elements into a wise, informed protest against any further use of these terrible weapons.Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

The train of the title was bound for Nagasaki: thirty survivors of the Hiroshima bombing fled there, only to run straight into a second catastrophe. Pellegrino’s account is full of such terrible ironies—which he describes with a lucid, almost lyrical precision.Time Magazine

A frightening, grim, yet fascinating examination of the nuclear attacks on Japan. . . . This is shocking, well-written, and will counter the oft-expressed opinion that [nuclear bombs] are ‘just another weapon.’Booklist

About the Author

Charles Pellegrino is the author of numerous books, including the New York Times bestseller Her Name, Titanic and Ghosts of the Titanic. His research includes work in paleobiology, nuclear propulsion systems for space exploration, and forensic archaeology at sites ranging from Pompeii and the Titanic to the World Trade Center. He serves as a scientific consultant to James Cameron for both his Titanic expeditions and his ongoing Avatar film series.

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4.6 out of 54.6 out of 5
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David H. (Austin)
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Grim, gut-wrenching, and, at times, unbearable.
Reviewed in the United States on January 27, 2018
This book surprised me, as I had never encountered a narration that continually forced me to put it down and weep. The stories of the people who experienced this obscene horror are unremitting in their frightfulness, pathos, and, at times, are uplifting. I cannot emphasize... See more
This book surprised me, as I had never encountered a narration that continually forced me to put it down and weep. The stories of the people who experienced this obscene horror are unremitting in their frightfulness, pathos, and, at times, are uplifting. I cannot emphasize enough that this book is not at all about the reasons, pro and con, for unleashing these grotesques in 1945. There are plenty of polemics about the bombs elsewhere to fill a library, not to mention a raft of armchair generals to bloviate about the reasons for dropping them.

No, this is about people and the effects inflicted on them by advanced science. This is THEIR story. As to that, the science is fascinating enough at times to make one aware that the bombs really were a rip in the fabric of the universe, but the effects on human bodies were immediate. I was almost ashamed to be so riveted by the things unleashed by the bombs. Blue fireflies witnessed by the survivors at night? No a form of St. Elmo’s Fire created by the disturbance of electro-magnetic fields. Neutron sprays? Ephemeral isotopes? They’re all there.

Military historians will be diverted by the stories of the two flights that delivered the bombs to their targets — I learned much that I didn’t know about that aspect of the story.

But the people of the affected cities are at the center of the book. The horror is endless but necessary to leave no doubt as to the feasibility of ‘winning’ a nuclear war. Their deaths should serve not only as a warning, but also as inspiration.

One or two things completely surprised me: orphans of the bomb strikes were inadvertent enablers of the resurgence of the Yakuza, especially in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, after the war. Moreover, survivors of the atomic obscenity were shunned by the rest of Japanese society and often had to live sub rosa lives just to marry or to escape from being fired from their jobs if found out.

Reading this book is necessary. Take from it what you will, but never lose sight of the human beings at the center of the story. Please.
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Frances H. Kakugawa
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Deathbed wish met by Pellegrino''s book
Reviewed in the United States on July 26, 2015
Before my mother died, she left me with a nagging thought. She told the minister, “ Don’t let me be forgotten.” What if all my ancestors in Hiroshima had said this? What if my grandparents or their parents and their parents had said that, too? I know nothing of them until... See more
Before my mother died, she left me with a nagging thought. She told the minister, “ Don’t let me be forgotten.” What if all my ancestors in Hiroshima had said this? What if my grandparents or their parents and their parents had said that, too? I know nothing of them until today. They have remained statistics without names or personhood, except for the surnames of both my grandfathers: Kakugawa and Takahashi. Until today, I have carelessly referred to every member of my Hiroshima family as “my ancestors who were killed in the Hiroshima bombing.”

Today, they have risen out of the shadows because of Dr. Charles Pellegrino’s newly published book,
Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima. My ancestors have become real people. They are children, teenagers, young adults, mothers and fathers and grandparents. They are children who went to school on an empty stomach because of war rations and of their mothers who would try to find forgiveness by leaving baked potatoes on their children’s graveside for the rest of their lives. They all have a voice.

The story begins in Hiroshima at the first flash of the bomb and ends at Nagasaki and beyond. Approximately 300 people from the smoldering city of Hiroshima fled to safety to Nagasaki. Nagasaki was home to many of these survivors. 90% of them were killed by the second bomb. Thirty people survived the second atomic bomb in Nagasaki to become double survivors. One known survivor would experience radiation for the third time in Fukushima.

This story is told through the voices of the survivors of the bombings. Pellegrino preserves that part of history with his forensic and archeological expertise along with his poetic and masterful use of language. It is not a generic history but a very personal and humanistic one. It is not a political story, it is a story of humanity. It is not a story of blame, it is a story of forgiveness and hope for our future children. Pellgrino had originally published a riveting book titled : Last Train From Hiroshima. After publication, more survivors sought Pellegrino to tell their stories, stories that were silenced for 70 years. Their message is clearly told…what they experienced must not happen again. What happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki must not be forgotten, ever for the sake of our children.

Each time Pellegrino brought forth the story of a child, a teenager, a mother or father, I saw them as my ancestors. Ancestors I haven’t thought of as real people.

On pages 43-44, 14 year old boy Akihiro Takahashi’s story is told with uncensored description of the people he saw that day. Pellegrino calls it the un-gloving where skin is burned away and only flesh remains. Takahashi bears many of these scars.

My mother’s voice echoes back. I need to believe that Akihiro Takahashi was one of my ancestors.

On Page 208, Pellegrino speaks Kiwanu who survived the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and yet, a third time.

Kiwanu had chosen, as his family’s place of refuge, the pristine-appearing fields of Fukushima. On March 11, 2011, he would suddenly come to a special unity of feeling with the Kakugawa family, whose members had departed Hiroshima ahead of the war, seeking the illusory peace of a farming community in Hawaii. To the west of Kapoho Village lay beautiful Pearl Harbor/ and somewhat nearer, a scared mountain that would one day bury the entire village beneath a lake of lava.

We are all familiar with Sadako and the Thousand Cranes. Sadako’s brother Masahiro asked Pellegrino to continue the legacy of his little sister who made a thousand cranes while dying from cancer.

“I think Omoiyari is the best way to start. The worst way is to call ourselves victims. To say ‘victim’ requires a victimizer, and the victimizer is led to blame; and that starts the cycle of blame…

Sadako understood this theme more personally and more intensely than most people ever will. And she had only enough time to begin teaching anew what most of us have so easily forgotten.”

The survivors who told their stories to Pellegrino are all adults but their memories are from their childhood so these stories are from the children who survived. They are not pretty stories but they are real and a part of who we are. Surely, as Pellegrino and the survivors proposed, each time we do an act of kindness, we honor and remember our ancestors by helping to create a world of peace.

Thank you, Charles Pellegrino, for helping us to not forget all those who have passed before us.
And to my mother, no, you and all those before you, will not be forgotten because there are the Charles Pellegrinos of the world who will painstakingly pick through the mountainous piles of political and historical debris to bring us the human story of all our ancestors. So we carry on this legacy of peace, forgiveness and human kindness in each of their name.

Pellegrino’s book is dedicated to Tomorrow’s Child.
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Matilda Trevelyan
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Not for the faint of heart - a grueling look at the people at ground zero Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Reviewed in the United States on January 8, 2017
I read the older version of this book, and once the author cleared up the forgeries in his book, read it again. Not for the weak-stomached, Pellegrino does not spare the reader the visceral, graphic, no-holds barred descriptions of what an atomic blast does to a living... See more
I read the older version of this book, and once the author cleared up the forgeries in his book, read it again. Not for the weak-stomached, Pellegrino does not spare the reader the visceral, graphic, no-holds barred descriptions of what an atomic blast does to a living body. We hear from the victims, people not directly involved with the blast or its after affects, the men who flew the missions to drop the bomb, and briefly what they and the Japanese people and government thought of the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Effects of the bomb rippled far and wide, in strange directons, effecting such seemingly unrelated things as manga, the Yakuza and Spiderman. Incredible coincidences and miraculous escapes abound. The book is a real page turner.

While the victims of the blast and their families do speak through Pellegrino about the bomb and the morals of using it, and there is some mention of the memorials to the dead and anti-war sentiment and memoirs and memories of the victims years after, and while the book did elicit a lot of empathy and sympathy from me for the victims, I can''t say that the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki made me forget the horrors of the Japanese Empire''s atrocities. I''ve read about those too. I had a lot of sympathy for those victims as well. Innocent victims who had not started nor supported any wars. I wondered where the Japanese memorials to the people murdered by their past empire were. None exist. So while some of the Japanese were keen to keep reminding the world of what the bombs did (and also who dropped them), they completely omitted the atrocities of their own armies from their own history textbooks in their schools and basically let generations of their own children grow up unaware of what they''d done. So, unlike one of the arguments in the book about the futility of assigning blame, this book and the horrors depicted did not make me forget the OTHER victims. The victims of the Japanese.
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Lynda G. Lindblom
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
MOST POWERFUL AND INSIGHTFUL OF LIFE BEFORE AND AFTER THE BOMB ON HIROSHIMA. EVER! 😢
Reviewed in the United States on December 19, 2017
This is the most powerful account of life in HIROSHIMA, as the bomb fell, through the lives of all affected, from those creating "the bomb", the flight crew, a history of those on the ground, in every life changed in the flash of a moment! Overwhelming emotions as... See more
This is the most powerful account of life in HIROSHIMA, as the bomb fell, through the lives of all affected, from those creating "the bomb", the flight crew, a history of those on the ground, in every life changed in the flash of a moment! Overwhelming emotions as the reader is drawn into every step taken by those not immediately killed and the affect of the bomb on every cell of their bodies. I cannot explain every aspect of this understanding of every possible aspect of life and death in a flash! EVERY LEADER OF EVERY COUNTRY WITH ACCESS TO MASS MURDER WEAPONS SHOULD BE REQUIRED TO READ THIS BOOK WITHIN THEIR FIRST MONTH IN OFFICE!
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PatCS
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Unbearably detailed and valuable telling
Reviewed in the United States on November 9, 2019
I read the first book by Dr. Pellegrino and thought it was wonderful. I also thought the uproar about one lying “witness” was absurd at the time. But if that caused the author to write this second book, then it was worth it for the reader. Just brilliant and... See more
I read the first book by Dr. Pellegrino and thought it was wonderful. I also thought the uproar about one lying “witness” was absurd at the time. But if that caused the author to write this second book, then it was worth it for the reader.

Just brilliant and vivid. The survivors of the bombings are/were remarkable and generous human beings. Great thanks and appreciation to all of them and to the author, who also traveled this road twice.
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Book Club Member
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Stories of survivors from BOTH 1945 atomic bombs in Japan
Reviewed in the United States on March 12, 2016
After reading The Girls of Atomic City in book club, I wanted to read more about the effects of nuclear war in 1945 Japan. I had read the book Hiroshima in the 1970s, but nothing since. The description for this book revealed something I had never heard of. There were... See more
After reading The Girls of Atomic City in book club, I wanted to read more about the effects of nuclear war in 1945 Japan. I had read the book Hiroshima in the 1970s, but nothing since. The description for this book revealed something I had never heard of. There were people who survived the Hiroshima bombing who fled to Nagasaki, only to be bombed again!

The author interviewed these double survivors over a period of time in the late 20th Century and early 21st Century. Their stories are poignant and powerful, but also surprising. For example, the survivors were subjected to ridicule and rejection. Many did not reveal their status for fear of being shunned. They were considered to be jinxed and unfit candidates for marriage, likely having damaged genes.

The decision to use the bomb is put in historical context. There is no anti-American tone or rant in this book, but it really makes the reader hope no nuclear device is ever again detonated. Everyday life would never be the same.
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Alysha Nicholas
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Devastating story
Reviewed in the United States on September 14, 2015
In World War II, a small number of people survived the nuclear bomb at Hiroshima only to travel to Nagasaki and experience the holocaust there as well. Charles Pellegrino has written a gripping account of the heartbreak and suffering while also supplying the accurate... See more
In World War II, a small number of people survived the nuclear bomb at Hiroshima only to travel to Nagasaki and experience the holocaust there as well. Charles Pellegrino has written a gripping account of the heartbreak and suffering while also supplying the accurate science behind the weapons'' destructive power and the events before and after. There is the story of the Americans who flew the planes carrying the deadly cargo and the scenes of the Japanese government in deep dissension over the decision to surrender. After reading this, you will come to understand why some of the survivors spent the rest of their lives working for world peace. If world peace is not attainable, well then you will also learn what you must do to have a chance of surviving a nuclear attack. Do not confuse this book with a previous edition that was pulled due to problems with the testimony of a WWII veteran. All references made by that person were removed and the book was revised and expanded.
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Joe Dan Richardson
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I know American service men''s lives were saved by dropping the bombs and am pretty sure that millions of Japanese civilians surv
Reviewed in the United States on February 2, 2017
I would have given the book 5 stars had the author excluded his thoughts on the morality of the choice to drop the big bombs. The Japanese were being prepared to resist the invasion of their homeland down to the last man, woman and child. They lied to the citizens... See more
I would have given the book 5 stars had the author excluded his thoughts on the morality of the choice to drop the big bombs. The Japanese were being prepared to resist the invasion of their homeland down to the last man, woman and child. They lied to the citizens concerning the way Americans treated non-combatants. I know American service men''s lives were saved by dropping the bombs and am pretty sure that millions of Japanese civilians survived who would have needlessly sacrificed their lives otherwise. Over all the book is an excellent read. The heroic efforts of the Japanese in saving lives and rebuilding is awe inspiring.
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Top reviews from other countries

Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A good choice.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 24, 2016
A fab read.
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Carolyn
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The horror of taking a friend''s hand only to have the skin of their arm peel off like a glove
Reviewed in Canada on September 15, 2015
A terrifying, macabre, heartbreaking book which should be essential reading for every head of state, military leader, peace activist and physicist and medical worker.. It places you on the ground in areas where the atomic bombs hit in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki , into...See more
A terrifying, macabre, heartbreaking book which should be essential reading for every head of state, military leader, peace activist and physicist and medical worker.. It places you on the ground in areas where the atomic bombs hit in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki , into horrific, gruesome scenes which are surreal and beyond our imagination. Imagine standing in a building which collapses all around you, and you have no visible injury but people near you either are instantly vaporized and vanish or reduced to crumbling lumps of charcoal. This phenomenon is scientifically explained in the book. The horror of taking a friend''s hand only to have the skin of their arm peel off like a glove. Doctors and nurses, themselves ill, working with radiation suffers, in what remains of a building with no roof and without medical supplies. Think of the lines of ''ant people'' with melted faces or burned skin resembling that of an alligator, wandering mindlessly in single file until they drop. This book has been thoroughly researched by Charles Pellegrino with many footnotes and bibliography references. There is a foreword by Steven Leeper who worked for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and feels no one has heard more testimony from the survivors than himself and now teaches Hiroshima studies at University in Hiroshima. He has known personally many of the survivors mentioned in this book and can attest to its power and authenticity. There was a previous book called The Last Train From Hiroshima which I read when first published in 2010. It was a riveting, powerful account, but shortly after its publication it was discovered that one man interviewed fabricated his account. The author acknowledged his mistake and wanted to omit that story, but the book was quickly withdrawn and trashed by the publisher. Pellegrino came under a lot of scorn as a result. He has gone back and rewritten and improved on the original. 300 People who survived the bombing of Hiroshima decided to find safety in Nagasaki, and travelled by train to that city. Very soon after arrival the second bomb was dropped. Only 30 of those passengers survived the second atomic blast. Of those double survivors 4 were still alive between 2008 and 2011 and were interviewed multiple times by the author while this book was written. One of the men was at Ground Zero during both blasts and lived to the age of 93. Many of the survivors of either blast were ostracized by society, and the ones who remained relatively healthy lived to see children and grandchildren sickened by forms of cancer. Their chance of marriage was slim, and many chose to hide the fact that they had experienced the blast and subsequent atomic fallout. The writing of this book caused some to admit their true identity and recount their experiences for the first time in hopes that their stories will prevent this from ever happening again to anyone anywhere. Highly recommended.
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Willilamotte
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Human perspective
Reviewed in Canada on August 31, 2019
Only testimonies of both survivors and bomber crew. A good read if you like that kind of approach.
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To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima

Within the first half second of the atomic flash, images of plants, people — and even the blur of a falling leaf that never reached the ground — were burned onto walls. A persistent myth is that the 'shadow people' instantly and painlessly vaporized. The truth is that throughout Hiroshima, most who cast permanent shadows walked away, and that was the hell of it. Many lived for a little while with all of the skin carbonized on one side of their bodies. Young Toshihiko Matsuda, depicted here, was mostly protected by flash-burned plants, by his hat, and reflective white clothing. The nurses who found Matsuda called him the 'Miracle Boy,' but he was within a zone where he had immediately received six times the amount of radiation lethal to humans, and died only a few days later.

Nurse Minami (Nancy) Cantwell went into Hiroshima as part of a first responder rescue team. This is the same team that found, and cared for, the Matsuda boy (whose melted glass marbles became their private memorial to him). In the ruins, after the sky rained blackness, she witnessed mysterious blue balls of light, after uncounted thousands died. At one point, she felt, 'they attacked me.' Decades later, her home contained jars filled with paper cranes, folded in prayer for the lost. 'This is my prayer,' she said: 'That there shall be no more graves of the blue fireflies. That there shall come no more black rains. That no loved one shall ever again know what it means to fold a thousand paper cranes.'

Tsutomu Yamaguchi was one of just over thirty people known to have traveled by train to Nagasaki, after the bombing of Hiroshima. During his second experience of nuclear war, most of a Mitsubishi office building disappeared and only those in the very same office with him survived. He became a teacher, and a man of peace. 'One for all and all for one,' he often said. 'One humanity, or none.' There is a flame of hope in Hiroshima, assigned to burn till the day there are no more atomic bombs in the world. Yamaguchi believed that day is surely in our future, either because humankind has survived its nuclear adolescence, or because there is no one alive to take care of the flame. For all of it, Tsutomu Yamaguchi also taught the importance important of maintaining one’s sense of humor: He once joked that the most dangerous thing he might have done occurred during the summer he addressed the United Nations. An avid baseball fan, he had briefly worn the hat of a Boston team, in New York.


When Tsutomu Yamaguchi’s passing was reported in January 2010, a woman who worked for NBC in Nagasaki, was amazed to hear that a 'double hibakusha' lived so near so near to her, unaware that another lived much nearer — her father, Kenshi Hirata (pictured above). He had been in hiding with his family since 1955, fearful of Japan society’s terrible prejudice against the hibakusha (the atomic exposed) — which denied them and their children marriage, employment, and even university education. He came forth in March 2010, following claims in the American press that he and other double survivors might have been a hoax, and that 'Hiroshima did not happen that way.' With him, finally came the rest of the story about his wife Setsuko, who perished almost directly beneath the detonation in Hiroshima. What emerged is perhaps the most poignant story of doomed love, in all human history.


Atomic orphan Takashi Tanemori followed an incomparable journey from Hiroshima to the United States. At the moment of the flash, he was playing hide-and-seek, and though he was indoors with his hands over his eyes, the flash was so bright that he saw the bones of his fingers through the glare. Most of his friends and family died in that same instant and the retinas of Tanemori’s eyes were burned. He ended up in a California hospital where a cruel physician performed excruciating spinal taps while studying Hiroshima radiation effects on a growing child — until a kindly nurse named Mary Furr, aided by doctors and a judge, adopted him and removed him from the experiment. Initially driven by the Furies of hatred and vengeance, with Mary’s help, Tanemori instead built a bridge to forgiveness, and toward a life dedicated in service to others.


Artist Keiji Nakazawa is depicted during a 2010 meeting in Hiroshima, and also as he remembered himself, as a child, during an autobiographical story in Japan’s early Manga artistic movement. As a child, he was miraculously shadow-shielded and shock-cocooned, in a region where almost no one else survived. He took particular interest my intention of telling the previously all but forbidden history of the atomic orphans. After 2010, often from a hospital bed and to his dying day, Nakazawa helped me and the retiring Hiroshima Museum Director to fill in this missing piece of history, arranging interviews with the orphans of the bomb — including one who had become part of the next generation’s Hiroshima Yakuza, as in Nakazawa’s manga story, Pelted by Black Rain, and later, in Ridley Scott’s film, Black Rain.

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