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James Cameron Defends 'Last Train From Hiroshima' Author, Draws Criticism From Vets

HILLEL ITALIE   03/ 3/10 10:01 PM ET   AP

James Cameron

NEW YORK — An organization of World War II veterans is unhappy with James Cameron's support for a discredited history of the atomic bombing of Japan that the director has optioned for a possible film.

Members of the 509th Composite Group, which consists of veterans and relatives of those who carried out the 1945 attacks, said in a statement Wednesday that many aspects of Charles Pellegrino's "The Last Train from Hiroshima" are "complete fiction and cause great damage to true history."

Publisher Henry Holt and Co., responding to concerns raised by The Associated Press, announced Monday that it had ceased publication of the book. The AP questioned the existence of two men in the book: Father Mattias (the first name is not given), who supposedly lived in Hiroshima at the time of the bombing and committed suicide, and John MacQuitty, identified as a Jesuit scholar who presided over Mattias' funeral. Holt said Monday that Pellegrino did not offer a satisfactory answer.

But Cameron, whose "Avatar" has been nominated for nine Academy Awards, defended Pellegrino in an e-mail sent Tuesday to the AP.

"All I know is that Charlie would not fabricate, so there must be a reason for the misunderstanding," the filmmaker said in the e-mail.

Cameron wrote that he had long sought to do a movie on the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki "and still intend to do so, although I currently do not have a shooting script and no decision has been made to proceed in the short term."

In Wednesday's statement, the 509th Composite Group said "it suspects that Mr. Cameron did not understand the extent of the misrepresentations in Pellegrino's Hiroshima book." The group has been a leading critic of the book, released in January to strong reviews.

"However, we stand by our offer to help Mr. Cameron to make an historically accurate film about these important events," the statement reads. "But we strongly caution that many things in the Pellegrino book are complete fiction and cause great damage to true history."

In an e-mail sent to the AP later Wednesday, Cameron said he did not want to "conduct this conversation via the press."

"I will contact the 509th directly and get this resolved," he said.

Pellegrino first acknowledged flaws last month when he said he had been misled by Joseph Fuoco, who had claimed he was a last-minute replacement in 1945 on the Enola Gay bomber for flight engineer James R. Corliss. Pellegrino promised at the time to correct the errors.

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Filed by Jessie Kunhardt  |