March 1, 2010

Author who cried fraud an apparent fraud himself


Charles Pellegrino, in a photo take from the website for "Dr. Charles Pellegrino"

Charles Pellegrino, in a photo take from the website for "Dr. Charles Pellegrino"

Charles Pellegrino, the author who claimed he had some spectacular historical revelations wrong in his book The Last Train from Hiroshima because he’d been duped by a fraud, is himself a fraud, according to a report by David Brennan on, and to a letter Brennan wrote to MobyLives. (See the earlier MobyLives report, in which we took Pellegrino to task for not doing basic cross-checking to verify his sensational reporting. As a later MobyLives report details, Pellegrino’s publisher, Holt, made the surprising decision not to recall the book but to correct it in later editions. See Brennan’s comment to that report.)

Brennan writes to MobyLives that “I contacted the college where Pellegrino supposedly got his PhD. He’s lying: he never graduated from there. He has no PhD.” Further, regarding the supposed hoaxter who Pellegrino says hoodwinked him on the Hiroshima story, Joseph Fuoco, Brennan suggests Pellegrino may have been “attributing quotes to Fuoco that he never said.”

But Brennan’s charges far exceed accusations about merely the Hiroshima book, although those charges are extensive. Indeed, Brennan declares in his report:

Going back well over a decade, Pellegrino has left a wake of fraud, deception, and potentially libelous claims that should send shivers down the spine of any of the remaining people who have trust in the mainstream American media. Pellegrino’s claims and reporting [range] from the inept to the outright fraudulent …  Pellegrino’s bizarre appetite for controversy and his fraudulent reporting make him seem more akin to an amoral sociopath than a sadly insecure man.

For example, Brennan quotes a New York Times review of Pellegrino’s Ghosts of the Titanic, in which critic Michael Parfit writes,

If Charles Pellegrino weren’t so shamelessly self-promoting, it might be O.K. to let this book drift into oblivion past the icebergs that it ought to hit. But he quotes himself in epigraphs, invents friendships with famous people and claims scientific authority for a work that flouts most principles of scientific scholarship. He shouldn’t get away with it.

Parfit goes on to criticize Pellegrino for claiming to have invented the “deep ocean robot” that found the Titanic, which is easily verifiable as false, according to both Parfit and Brennan, as are many other claims made in the book, which Brennan also details.

Then there’s Pellegrino’s claim to have discovered the tomb of Jesus Christ, in the book The Jesus Family Tomb, and the subsequent Discovery Channel documentary based on his work, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, for which James Cameron was the executive producer. As a Wikipedia page notes, the project has come under attack from numerous scholars, including an official report from Israel Antiquities Authority that calls it “very unserious work” that is “all nonsense.”As Brennan notes, while the project proved “a debacle,” it was “in the realm of sketchy claims and sloppiness rather than fraud” … although “Pellegrino’s imaginary doctorates” didn’t seem to help.

And that’s not all. Brennan goes on to debunk numerous other claims in these projects and others, including claims Pellegrino has made about Cameron’s Avatar, his claim to have been the person who first thought up Jurassic Park, and his bizarre theories about the 9/11 attacks.

Meanwhile, others beside Brennan continue to attack The Last Train from Hiroshima for numerous factual errors. The 509th Composite Group — the unit that flew the attack on Hiroshima — issued a list of errors in the book, including this correction, as quoted by Brennan:

Pellegrino claims that Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbets, in his final years, confessed that the bombing of Nagasaki was unnecessary and, therefore, wrong.

The 509th Composite writes: “Pellegrino reserved the final insult for the end of his book. On the very last page, he quotes from an alleged 1999 letter from Tibbets to Nagasaki strike aircraft Flight Engineer John Kuharek and ‘cited by J.C Muller at the 2005 Tinian Symposium.’ Pellegrino states that in this letter ‘Tibbets expressed his belief that after Hiroshima and the massive firebombings elsewhere, Japan was so defeated and so close to surrender that Sweeney’s bomb had become redundant if not completely irrelevant, and never needed to be dropped in the first place.’ The letter in question quoted at this 2005 Tinian Symposium was in fact actually written in 1995 by Tibbets to historian John Coster-Mullen. This erroneous statement by Tibbets does not appear anywhere in this letter and is another complete fabrication.”

Pellegrino’s claims that Tibbets regretted the bombing of Nagasaki appear to be totally made up out of whole cloth. In fact, Tibbets’s Wikipedia page links to obituaries in the New York Times and by the BBC which provide unequivocal quotes from Tibbets that show that he was proud and didn’t regret his bombing of Hiroshima at all. There’s zero mention of him regretting the bombing of Nagasaki.

It’s enough to lead Brennan to comment that “the lies in this book are actually wanton fraud, not mere mistakes.”


Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives