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Haunting photographs of 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki

If you’re against war, get this book: The photos will haunt you http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201708100035.html By SONOKO MIYAZAKI/ Staff Writer August 10, 2017 A boy standing at rigid attention with the dead body of his infant brother strapped to his back at a crematorium in Nagasaki is one of searing images of the city’s destruction after the U.S. atomic bombing in 1945.

In a book published Aug. 9, Kimiko Sakai, the widow of Joe O’Donnell, the photographer who snapped the image, tells the story of her husband’s life work through photographs he shot in Japan in the immediate aftermath of the war.

Aug. 9 marked the 72nd anniversary of the bombing as well as the 10th anniversary of O’Donnell’s death at the age of 85.

The 192-page book, titled “Kamisama no Finder: Moto-Beijugun Cameraman no Isan” (God’s finder: the legacy of a former war photographer), was published by the Tokyo-based Word of Life Press Ministries.

After Japan’s surrender, O’Donnell, who was attached to the U.S. Marine Corps, traveled to Hiroshima, Nagasaki and other Japanese cities to document the wartime devastation. He stayed in Japan from September 1945 to March 1946.

He took 300 or so photographs for his private use.

He believed it was wrong to drop the atomic bombs after witnessing the sufferings of the victims.

But O’Donnell didn’t exhibit these pictures for decades because of prevailing U.S. sentiment that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki hastened the end of World War and saved many American lives.

O’Donnell later decided to exhibit the photographs in the hope they would help advance the anti-war movement.

The catalyst for this was when he gazed on a sculpture evoking Jesus on the cross and engulfed by flames at a church in Kentucky in 1989. The life-size work, titled “Once,” was created for the repose of the tens of thousands of people killed in that atomic bombings, with photos of victims pasted all over the body. O’Donnell was stunned.

After that, O’Donnell until his death held exhibitions of his photos in the United States and Japan to convey the horrors of nuclear war.

The image of the boy at the crematorium stayed with him. O’Donnell recalled that the boy stared motionless as bodies were being burned and he awaited his turn. He also noticed that the boy’s lips were caked with blood because he was biting them so hard, although no blood spilled.

Sakai agreed to a proposal to publish the book after she was contacted by the publisher two years or so ago. Sakai, who lives in Tennessee, said she accepted out of respect for her husband’s commitment to the anti-war cause.

“My husband photographed his subjects as fellow human beings, not as an occupier,” she said in a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun.

Asked if she had a message for those working to rid the world of nuclear arsenals, she said, “Just ‘not to forget,’ which is important.”

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August 11, 2017 - Posted by | history, Japan, Reference, resources - print, weapons and war

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