Hiroshima book pulled from shelves over doubts about sources





A best-selling book about atom bomb survivors in Japan has been pulled from shops following claims sections of it may have been based on false accounts made up by an imposter.

Charles Pellegrino's Last Train from Hiroshima has been dropped by its US publisher, Henry Holt and Company, which said it had doubts over facts in the book.

After publication in January, it emerged that a source who claimed to have been on the US bombing mission over Hiroshima had invented his story. The publisher has now said it also has doubts relating to two other people named in the work.

Last Train from Hiroshima won acclaim earlier this year as a thorough and painstaking piece of research, being described by The New York Times as a "gleaming, popular wartime history". Oscar-winning director James Cameron even bought the film rights after previously using Pellegrino as an adviser on Avatar.

The book included testimony from Joseph Fuoco, who claimed to have been a last-minute replacement for flight engineer James R Corliss on an observation plane which accompanied the Enola Gay, the aircraft that dropped an atomic bomb dubbed "Little Boy" on Hiroshima on Aug 6, 1945.

But surviving members of the crew said Fuoco, who died in 2008 at the age of 84, was not on the mission and scientists and historians also doubted him. The family of Corliss, who died in 1999, produced evidence that their relative was on the plane.

It forced Pellegrino to admit he was duped and said he was "stunned" because Fuoco had "loads of papers and photographs" to back up his story. He said the book would be corrected.

But that was only the start of the controversy and the publisher now says it is suspicious about two other figures in the book. They were a Father Mattias, who was said to have lived in Hiroshima and committed suicide, and John MacQuitty, a Jesuit scholar who was said to have presided over the funeral of Father Mattias.

Oscar winning director James Cameron has acquired the film rights to the book and has a long working relationship with the author. Pellegrino was an advisor on Avatar, his latest blockbuster which has been nominated for nine Oscars.

The award-winning director also wrote introductions for Pellegrino's Ghosts of the Titanic, published in 2000, and his controversial 2007 book The Jesus Family Tomb, which claimed that a tomb discovered in Jerusalem contained the remains of Jesus.

Cameron has now defended the author, saying: "All I know is that Charlie would not fabricate so there must be a reason for the misunderstanding."

The director said any decision he makes about the Hiroshima film project would not be influenced "by the issue of a single flawed source" and he "would be a fool to ignore the rich vein of eyewitness testimony, so painstakingly gathered."

Henry Holt president Stephen Rubin said: "Without the confidence that we can stand behind the work in its entirety, we cannot continue to sell this product to our customers."

Pellegrino is fighting back, saying he used pseudonyms to protect the men's identities but had forgotten to acknowledge that.

The author said he had produced documents to prove the existence of "Father MacQuitty" and that he wanted to protect the priest because he was elderly.

The publisher also questioned Pellegrino's education. According to his website he has a PhD from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand but the university said it had no record of it.

Pellegrino countered that his degree was revoked years ago in a dispute over evolutionary theory but later reinstated. The university said it is investigating.

About 18,000 copies of the book had been printed and the publisher said it was leaving it up to retailers whether to sell the remaining copies. Barnes & Noble, the largest book retailer in the US, said it would pull copies from shelves.


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