Our Director, Mr. Clay Perkins, helped to expose lies in the Atomic bomb book

Kinue Tokudome

 “The Last Train From Hiroshima” written by Charles Pellegrino received good reviews when it was published in January of this year. James Cameron, producer of successful movies like Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009), optioned it and announced his plan to produce a movie about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki based on this book.

Last month, the book’s accuracy was challenged by members of the 509th Composite Group, which consists of veterans and relatives of those who participated in the atomic bomb missions. In a press release, they pointed out, among other errors, that the person who Pellegrino quoted as the flight engineer on board the plane escorting the Enola Gay never flew on the mission.

Based on their press release, the New York Times published a major article on February 20. It wrote, “Charles Pellegrino now concedes that he was probably duped.”

Doubts Raised on Book’s Tale of Atom Bomb (New York Times article)

The publisher of the book, Henry Holt& Company, first announced that it would correct the errors in the new edition, but later decided it would stop printing the book. It is reported that Cameron is still interested in making a movie about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

This episode is not directly related to the POW issue, but Mr. Clay Perkins, one of the Directors of our website, was heavily involved in exposing problems in this book.

Mr. Perkins was one of the three authors of the press release by the 509th Composite Group, of which he is an honorary member. Robert "Stan Norris, Senior Research Associate with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, DC., and author of many books and monographs including Racing for the Bomb: General Leslie R. Groves, the Manhattan Project’s Indispensable Man (Steerforth Press, 2002) and John Coster-Mullen, author of Atom Bombs, the Top Secret Inside Story of Little Boy and Fat Man were the other two authors of the press release.  Robert Krause was listed as the contact person because he knew the actual veterans best.  

Their Press release can be read at:

Pellegrino inserted statements in his book that were purported to have been made by Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay.

“In private moments, friends reported that Tibbets was occasionally horrified by what he had seen over Hiroshima.”

“Tibbets expressed his belief that after Hiroshima and the massive firebombing elsewhere, Japan was so defeated and so close to surrender that Sweeney’s bomb (Nagasaki bomb) had become redundant if not irrelevant, and never needed to be dropped in the first place.”

Members of the 509th Group, including Tibbets' life-long friend, categorically denied that these statements could have been made by Tibbets.

Why did Pellegrino feel that he needed to insert these statements?  Who did he think these statements would please? Did he think that Japanese people would want to hear these statements even if they were untrue?  Don’t we deserve to know the truth, no matter how painful it may be?

Mr. Perkins and I met through an introduction by our mutual friend, the late Admiral Frederick Ashworth, the weaponeer on Bockscar that dropped the Nagasaki bomb. He worked for the Manhattan Project under William “Deke” Parsons, who was the leader of the Ordnance Division. Admiral Ashworth (Commander at the time) was also operations officer for the final testing and assembly of the bomb components on Tinian.

Mr. Perkins and I deeply admired his integrity and honesty. He shared with me his belief that Atomic bombs had been necessary to end the war quickly while showing his utmost sympathy for the victims.

Obituary of Admiral Frederick L. Ashworth who passed away in 2005

One can be critical of the US decision to drop the Atomic bomb, but he/she should not base his/her argument on false information. 

There will be more debates on the history of the Atomic bomb and more discussions on what to do with the nuclear weapons the world has come to possess. But we must start by facing our past honestly and listening to those who lived through it.

Now, many people in Japan are hoping that President Obama will visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But have they made their efforts to learn what happened to more than 30,000 Allied POWs who were brought to Japan and enslaved by Japanese companies during WWII? Inhumane treatment of POWs by Japan took place before the dropping of the Atomic bombs. How could Japanese people invite President Obama to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki while not a single memorial has been built by the Japanese government for more than 3,000POWs who perished in Japan and while not a single company has issued an apology for wartime slave labor?

Our website has been made possible by the support from Mr. Perkins and his wife, Dorothy. When Dr. Lester Tenney’s POW memoir, “My Hitch in Hell,” was translated in Japanese by our Tokyo Representative, Ms. Yuka Ibuki, and her friends in 2003, the Perkins purchased 200 copies and allowed us to distribute them among members of the Japanese Parliament. With each copy, I attached a message from Mr. Perkins:

It has been fifty-seven years since the end of the war. Japan and the United States have gone from bitter enemies to the best of friends. It is in that new spirit that I address you -- as a friend. I want to share our common history so that we can be closer as human beings.

I am proud to call Dr. Tenney my friend. In spite of his prison experience, he bears no ill will against Japan or the Japanese people. I hope that you too will find in this book his well-tempered faith in humanity.

I believe that people like Mr. Perkins, not people like author Pellegrino, are the ones who are helping the Japanese people understand what really took place during WWII and promoting dialogue between our two countries.                                

Mr. Clay Perkins, Kinue Tokudome and Dr. Lester Tenney