By Chet Yarbrough
Last Train from Hiroshima
By Charles Pellegrino
Narrated by Arthur Morey
The latest episode of “Designated Survivor” re-opens the terror of nuclear war. Consider whether “The Last Train From Hiroshima” horrifies more than enlightens. “Last Train from Hiroshima” is not for the faint hearted. It is a gruesome reminder of the horror of war.
Charles Pellegrino has written a story of Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s bomb survivors. Arthur Morey brings Pellegrino’s words to life. Pellegrino recounts survivor stories; i.e. what they saw, and what happened to them and their families in the aftermath of the world’s first use of a nuclear weapon.
Pellegrino is a wordsmith. He uses words that blow torch images on a listener’s mind. His words capture the horror of nuclear war; the physical and mental effect of a nuclear detonation on human beings.
After Nagasaki’s bomb, a young girl walks out of a tubular bomb shelter and sees a shadowy figure that she presumes is an escaped zoo animal. It has rough, blackened, mottled skin, and is crawling on four limbs. It is a human being, exposed to the flash and burn (pika don) of the bomb.
Pellegrino describes the aforementioned crawling man as one of the “alligator people”, a classification that repeats itself on the skins of anyone that survives direct exposure to the bomb’s flash and burn. He tells the story of a “tap dancer” running down a street in Hiroshima; tap, tap, tapping the hard-surfaced street because he has no feet. Pellegrino recounts the story of a father greeting his lost daughter by asking “…do you have feet” because a Japanese aphorism believed ghosts are recognized as apparitions with no feet.
The aftermath of Japan’s nuclear blasts left thousands of people with few apparent injuries. They wander in a fog of confusion, like ants in long lines following each other, single file to nowhere. They were, as Pellegrino explains, the “ant walkers”. Days later, the “ant walkers” are stricken with fever, vomiting, loss of appetite, and internal bleeding; some survive to go through the same symptoms weeks or months later; some become crippled for the remainder of their lives; some die after the first onset of sickness; some die years later from leukemia or other maladies traced back to those two fateful August days in 1945.
The survivor stories in Pellegrino’s book are so vivid that one wonders where real history ends and his imagination begins. Regardless of the veracity of Pellegrino’s survivor facts, his description of nuclear weapon damage and radioactive exposure is verified by later scientific experiments and accidents.
Once again Israel and Gaza, Pakistan and India, Russia and Ukraine threaten peaceful coexistence. Nuclear weapons are not relinquished by any who wield weapons of mass destruction. “Never again” has been said before. One is left with thought and fear.