On a Monday morning,Tsutomu Yamaguchi survived the first nuclear weapon detonated in war, though the spark of atomic fire burned him and ruptured his ear drums. He crawled across a river on a bridge of bodies to reach a train station and escape the wasteland of Hiroshima to his home town of Nagasaki. On Thursday morning, he reported for work and survived the second nuclear weapon detonated in war. Yamaguchi was the only individual officially recognized by the Japanese government as having survived both nuclear explosions, although there were 30 others who took that last train with him out of Hiroshima. He lived until age 93, dying last week finally of stomach cancer, the latest of a series of radiation related ailments that emerged in his final years.
It’s the sort of story that would be scoffed at if not true, that any editor would kick back in the first draft stage as eye-rollingly implausible. The suspension of disbelief required of fiction can’t survive such coincidences even though they riddle history.
Charles Pellegrino has written a book interweaving the stories of the survivors of the atomic blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, peeking into the first hand experiences of the people on the ground. Last Train From Hiroshima is slated for a January 19th release (and oddly is also listed as Last Train To Hiroshima with cover art of both versions on Amazon). Pellegrino wrote the controversial Jesus Family Tomb and collaborated with James Cameron on the Ghosts of the Titanic, which was released in the wake of the success of Titanic at the box office.
Pellegrino and Cameron visited Japan last week, met with Yamaguchi just before his death, and just announced that Cameron has optioned the film rights for Last Train From Hiroshima
It’s far from certain that even if Cameron ends up making the film that he would be the director, but it’s an odd pairing nonetheless. It seems the sort of story that would make a brilliant film if done quietly, thoughtfully, with an eye for the philosophical implications of the events. For all his successes at film, those aren’t the type of descriptions that immediately leap to mind to describe Cameron’s work. It sounds far more like Letters from Iwo Jima than Avatar, Titanic, Aliens, or Terminator.