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.
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