In September 1945, Joe O’Donnell was a 23 year old Marine Crops photographer in Japan, then under American occupation. His orders were to document the aftermath of U.S. bombing raids in Japanese cities, including not only Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but also cities such as Sasebo, one of more than 60 Japanese cities firebombed before the atomic blasts. “The people I met,” he recalled, “the suffering I witnessed, and the scenes of incredible devastation taken by my camera caused me to question every belief I had previously held about my so-called enemies.” In addition to the official photographs he turned over to his superiors, O’Donnell recorded some 300 images for himself, but following his discharge from the marines he could not bear to look at them. He put the negatives in a trunk that remained unopened until 1989, when he finally felt compelled to confront once more what he had seen through his lens during his 7 months in post-war Japan. Joe’s photographs were exhibited in Europe and Japan during the 1990’s and first published in book form in 1995. We hope this exhibit will help you understand and spread Joe’s message for peace. The Book Japan 1945 which features these photographs and more is available for purchase.
“Peace is the future. Without peace there will be no future.” – Joe O’Donnell