Joe O’Donnell put his camera, the negatives and 30 prints into a trunk and placed it in the attic for 40 years. 


At 11:05 A.M. on August 9, 1945, an atomic (plutonium based) bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

On August 9, 2007, American photojournalist Joe O’Donnell passed away at the age of 85. He was in Nagasaki and Hiroshima a month after bombing.

“The cause [of his death] was complications of a stroke, said his wife, Kimiko Sakai. She said that he had had more than 50 operations, among them surgery on his colon and his heart, and that he had attributed his poor health to radiation exposure resulting from his visits to Nagasaki and Hiroshima. ”  (New York Times)

It’s been seventy years since the World War II ended on August 15, 1945.

“Brothers at Cremation Site”

Brothers at Cremation Site

This image is linked from Tyge O’Donnell’s (Joe’s son)  flickr site. You can see more photos of Joe O’Donnell by clicking this image.

This image above reminds of the anime “Grave of the Fireflies,” one of best movies that I’ve ever seen, that I never wish to see again.


quote_blueI saw a boy about ten years old walking by. He was carrying a baby on his back. In those days in Japan, we often saw children playing with their little brothers or sisters on their backs, but this boy was clearly different. I could see that he had come to this place for a serious reason. He was wearing no shoes. His face was hard. The little head was tipped back as if the baby were fast asleep. The boy stood there for five or ten minutes.”


quote_blueThe men in white masks walked over to him and quietly began to take off the rope that was holding the baby. That is when I saw that the baby was already dead. The men held the body by the hands and feet and placed it on the fire. The boy stood there straight without moving, watching the flames. He was biting his lower lip so hard that it shone with blood. The flame burned low like the sun going down. The boy turned around and walked silently away.”

A Japanese boy standing at attention after having brought his dead younger brother to a cremation pyre, 1945


23-year-old O’Donnell was sent to Nagasaki and Hiroshima for seven months as a US Marine photographer, one month after the atomic bombs dropped in Japan. His duty was to document the destruction caused by the atomic bombs. However, he was not supposed to take pictures like these. So he had to use his own camera, too, in secret . He kept them in secret for 43 years, even from his family.


“A Girl in a Kimono”

The Most Powerful Pictures of Atomic Bomb Victims

The deaf girl in kimono

This girl in a kimono became deaf from the sound caused by atomic bomb, the mother of the girl said to O’Donnell after he shot this image. (I wonder this was on November 15, 7-5-3 festival, as it would explain her formal kimono.)


“Burned Back of Young Boy”

The Most Powerful Pictures of Atomic Bomb Victims

“Burned Back of Young Boy” is framed image displayed on right . The man in front is the “burned back” person.

This screenshot above is at the O’Donnell photography exhibition in Nagasaki. The man showing his back to Tyge O’Donnell (who continues his father’s mission) is Sumiteru Taniguchi in 2008.

While Joe O’Donnell was photographing wounded people at a hospital  — one of whom was Mr.Taniguchi — he saw a person who had no hair, no eyebrows and ears, and was just a lump of flesh. “You are enemy, aren’t you,” said the person, “please kill me.”  O’Donnell only escaped from this person to face another patient. But when he was leaving the room he saw the first shapeless person again,  and who once more begged “Please kill me.” He saw tears in the eyes of the shapeless face.

Mr. Taniguchi was in the documentary film “Dark Circle.”  In the film he said (which I can never forget and this is my own Japanese-to-English translation):

quote_blueI hated my parents.
            I hated all grownups.
            Not only was a war hateful,
            but every parent
            who didn’t oppose the war was hateful.


Later on in life, O’Donnell had backbone pain and he had skin cancer that spread throughout his entire body. He knew it was caused by radiation exposure, as he was present in Ground Zero just a month after the atomic bomb. The military didn’t give any information about radiation when he was sent to Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Joe O’Donnell himself was one of the atomic bombs’ victims.


Today on August 9 in Nagasaki, Mr. Taniguchi made a speech at the 70th anniversary ceremony. (Read @GlobalPost below what is happening in Japan 70 years after WWII. )



Three images I posted here are screen shots from “Brothers at Cremation Site” American Photographer who saws NAGASAKI by NHK.