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Contents Foreword by Mark Seldon vii (or vi?) Preface ix? Japan 1945: Images Landing Sasebo Fukuoka Hiroshima Nagasaki Afterword 00 <page vi?, vii> Foreword by Mark Selden Foreword After the Bomb: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Photographic Record Mark Selden In the wake of Japan's surrender, the U.S. military set out to document the damage inflicted from the air on the Japanese homeland. Firebombing had destroyed central areas of 64 Japanese cities, killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, and left thirteen million homeless in the final months of the Pacific War. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima would take another 140,000 lives, and that of Nagasaki an additional 70,000 by the end of 1945, leaving many more to suffer lifelong effects of blast, fire, and radiation. On September 2, 1945, 23-year old Marine Sergeant Joe O'Donnell filmed the American landing near Sasebo. His panorama reveals a formidable U.S. naval armada in a pristine coastal area off Kyushu with paddy fields etched into the hills and rolling mountains as far as the eye can see. Over the next seven months he would travel by plane, jeep, and horseback across Western Japan, chronicling the devastation wrought by the American air campaign in Sasebo, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. His photographs, of course, reveal the obliteration of Japanese cities. More important, some of the most poignant images in this collection illuminate the plight of bomb victims including the wounded, the dead, the orphaned and homeless. The Photographic Record of the Atomic Bombing Pictures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have seared the consciousness of people throughout the world. But what images have circulated widely, and what images have been censored or suppressed? When the plutonium bomb exploded over Nagasaki, within one-millionth of a second the temperature rose to several million degrees centigrade, giving rise to a fireball and mushroom cloud whose image was circulated throughout the world in a U.S. Army Air Force photograph shot minutes after the explosion. Who has not been transfixed by the mushroom cloud, the visual counterpart to President Harry Truman's official proclamation announcing the bomb to the world on August 6, 1945: "It is an atomic bomb. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East." The mushroom cloud, rising above Hiroshima or Nagasaki, elides the city below and its inhabitants. This iconic representation of U.S. supremacy at the moment of nuclear monopoly provides no visual reference to the dead, the wounded, or the irradiated. Yet no viewer of that image can be entirely oblivious to the fate of its invisible victims. A second signature official photograph circulated by U.S. authorities pans the ruins of Hiroshima. The gutted frames of a few buildings is all that remains visible on a site where a city of 350,000 people had stood. Again interdicted from the picture are the dead and mutilated. Six decades after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the most compelling photographic images detailing the human consequences of the bombing of Japanese cities remained hidden from American view. Joe O'Donnell's photographs provide the first sustained American gaze on the destruction inflicted by the bombing of these cities, represented here by Sasebo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. They document the toll that firebombing exacted on the built environment: Sasebo in September 1945 is a city in ruins, inviting the viewer to reflect on the striking resemblance to the atomic landscapes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, while there is an abundance of detailed data on the numbers and conditions of the atomic dead and wounded, we know nothing of the numbers who died in Sasebo and scores of other bombed cities. The significant exception is Tokyo where a single devastating raid is said to have taken 100,000 lives, left more than one million homeless, and destroyed much of the inner city. The U.S. aerial bombardment of Japan, building on techniques honed in the 1944 British-U.S. bombardment of Dresden and Munich, would shape subsequent wars. The direct attack on civilian populations through strategic bombing, so strongly condemned by President Franklin Roosevelt in his 1937 warning to the Nazis, would subsequently become the signature and centerpiece of American warfare. It was an approach that other air powers would emulate, though none would rival the U.S. in the toll inflicted on civilians in air campaigns. O'Donnell, in his most memorable work, takes us to the center of the human toll of the bombing. Photographing a 14-year old Nagasaki burn victim (62, page 00), he recalls that "flies and maggots feasted on his oozing sores. I waved the flies away with a handkerchief, then carefully brushed out the maggots, careful not to touch the boy's skin with my hand. The smell made me sick and my heart ached. . . ." At that moment, literally brushing away the human horror inflicted on a single youth, O'Donnell resolved that "I would not take other pictures of burned victims unless ordered to do so." Although we encounter one other image of a severely burned "Victim With Rope" (61, page 00), a man whose multiple layers of rags hid his burned, rotting flesh, Japan 1945 exemplifies what John Dower has called the photographer's averted gaze. The decision to turn away from the most horrific images of inhumanity-notably the maiming and killing of women, children, and the elderly-is here made explicit by the photographer. Gazing into the horrors that nuclear war inflicted on civilians, O'Donnell averted his gaze. While recording the destruction of the cities, he is as good as his word to go no further in documenting the human wreckage wrought by nuclear or incendiary bombing. The Japanese Photographic Record of the Atomic Bombing Japanese photographers shot from inside the inferno that was Hiroshima and Nagasaki, arriving within hours, or in some cases days, of the holocaust. Their photographs convey, as no others could, the horror of the destruction that the bomb visited on human beings, nature, and the built environment: in closeups of mangled and burned corpses of children, in hospital wards overflowing with the dead and wounded, in the patterns of a summer kimono burned into the back of a victim, in dazed people fleeing the flames, sometimes walking, sometimes crawling or being carried, in detailed records of wounds inflicted by blast, heat, and radiation, and in the shadow of a human figure burnt into a stone façade, to name a few. Nagasaki Journey: The Photographs of Yosuke Yamahata, August 10, 1945 is the work of atomic photography that is most accessible for American readers. With smoke rising across the city, Yamahata, a Japanese army battle photographer, presents a landscape of death, destruction, and disorientation. Few visual records so compellingly portray the shock and awe of war. However, as Abé Mark Nornes observes, [Yamahata's photographs] look as though he was unsure how to go about photographing the battlefield of atomic warfare. The horizon is often tilted, as if the whole world is askew. Many of the photographs seem to be about nothing in particular or about rubble. The occasional snapshot shows the inexplicable: a scrap of something hanging high in a tree, a dead horse underneath a carriage, a body burned beyond recognition. The people in the photographs . . . inhabit the edges of the frame, looking out to spaces beyond the camera's viewfinder. . . . Nagasaki is gone. The composition of the photos always seems to miss its mark, as though Yamahata had no idea how to frame his experience.1 Perhaps the phenomenon described by Nornes is another version of the photographer's averted gaze, or what the psychologist Robert Lifton has termed psychic numbing in the face of the enormity of the destruction. For this viewer, that disorientation heightens the emotive power of the Yamahata images and those of other photographers operating in the immediate aftermath of the bomb. They detail, as no later photographs could, the magnitude and character of the destruction and disorientation, capturing the faces and bodies of its victims, many of them infants and children. Joe O'Donnell and the American Photographic Record By the time that O'Donnell arrived in Japan, three weeks after the atomic bombings, the dead had been cremated and the cleanup of cities begun. To be sure, orphaned children and the homeless still roamed the streets, but the most severely injured had been moved to hospitals or were cared for at home. Traces of the dead were nevertheless present everywhere in the sights, sounds, and smells. And in O'Donnell's images. Climbing to the top of the ruins of a Sasebo building, he found that "the high-rises had acted like huge ovens that roasted the trapped people . . . the stench of the smoke-blackened bodies . . . filled the stairways and halls" (10, page 00). In Nagasaki "the extraordinary temperatures caused brains to boil and skulls to explode" (70, page 00). What lingered was the "feeling of stench, or smell. The look of a place that is barren. Nothing moving. No birds, no dogs, cats, nothing."2 Three young women in kimono cover their noses and mouths with scarves to block the smell of burning flesh from a nearby crematorium (22page 00). Three skulls and scattered bones remain in a field surrounded by scattered sake bottles left to console the spirits of the dead (60page 00). One poignant image is of a pre-teenage boy, his young brother on his back. "I was photographing cremation sites, and I was on a little hill looking down at the water. They had a pit dug, and they were burning human bones and people. I turned and looked down and saw this little boy. . . . I didn't know why he was bringing his brother. I had no idea he was dead, and all at once, the men came up to him. They had white masks on and they took the little boy off. The boy stood there at attention and watched them lay his brother on the coals, and that boy never moved" (66page 00).3 Some of the most memorable photographs are of a cross-section of the surviving victims of the bombings. Particularly poignant are the children . . . a young girl in kimono who had lost all hearing after a bomb exploded nearby (64page 00); a barefoot boy of perhaps six wheeling a makeshift cart carrying two young boys through the rubble of Nagasaki (63page 00). While the thousands of photographs O'Donnell took in his official capacity as a Marine photographer disappeared into military archives, he was able to circumvent the censors and bring out three hundred images shot with his personal camera. These are the basis for the present volume. The bombing of Japan left indelible impressions on the photographer. "The people I met, the suffering and struggles I witnessed, and the scenes of incredible devastation . . . caused me to question every belief previously held about my so-called enemies."4 Locking the negatives in a trunk on his return to the United States in spring 1946, he resolved never to open it. The memories "were so devastating-the faces of people with no ears, no eyebrows, no hairs, no lips-it was pretty hard to look at, and it was just that I, personally, didn't want to go through it again . . . And so I locked that trunk . . . and it stayed locked for 45 years."5 Censorship and the Photographic Record of the Atomic Bomb The history of the photography of the atomic bomb, no less than of documentary and fictional writing, is one of official censorship. The United States suppressed the most powerful images of the impact of the bomb on Japanese cities and people. Throughout the occupation years it denied the world, and particularly the Japanese people, access to photographic images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Concurrently, it monopolized and restricted scientific evidence about the effects of the bomb. In Japan, on August 6, 1952, a special issue of Asahi Graph opened the floodgates to atomic photographic and graphic arts. Books and magazines were published and exhibits staged. Eventually, survivors' paintings and drawings were collected, exhibited, and made into books and documentaries. Yet to this day, many of the most powerful images of the destructiveness of the atomic bombs, have rarely been seen outside Japan. The United States introduced comprehensive military censorship of photographic and other war images during World War II and has practiced it ever since. Notably elided from view are the dead and maimed bodies of soldiers and civilians. Documenting war without what Susan Sontag has called the "deflating realism" of its photographed agonies culminated nearly six decades later in the introduction of embedded reporters and photographers in the Iraq War of 2003. O'Donnell's photographs were to have been included in the Smithsonian's planned Enola Gay exhibit in 1995, the fiftieth anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. When super patriots faulted the museum for insufficient triumphalism, the entire exhibit was scrapped. Visitors were left to view the aircraft that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima with a spare account of the events that elided all mention of the toll in human lives or the half century debate over the decision to drop the bomb. The publication of Joe O'Donnell's photographs is one important milestone in coming to grips with atomic bombing and the place of the United States in defining the nuclear age. Other Photographic Resources * Many photographs by official U.S. sources and by Japanese photographers can be seen in Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Physical, Medical, and Social Effects of the Atomic Bombings (New York: Basic Books, 1981) by the Committee for the Compilation of Materials on Damage Caused by the Atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. * Nagasaki Journey: The Photographs of Yosuke Yamahata, August 10, 1945 (San Francisco: Pomegranate Books, 1995) edited by Rupert Jenkins, is the most readily available English language introduction to Japanese atomic photography. * The fullest graphic record of the atomic bombings is in the six volume Japanese work by Nihon Tosho Sentaa (Japan Book Center), Hiroshima Nagasaki Genbaku Shashi Eiga Shûsei [Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Atomic Bombings as Seen Through Photographs and Artwork] (Tokyo: 1993). * Document 1961: Hiroshima-Nagasaki (Tokyo: The Japan Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, 1961) brings the camera up close to produce the most memorable and haunting visual examination of the human consequences of the atomic bombing. * The other classic visual imaging of the atomic bomb is Maruki Iri and Maruki Toshi, Genbaku no zu [The Atomic Murals], (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1980) and the accompanying video recording of the work, "Hellfire: a Journey from Hiroshima" produced by John Junkerman and John W. Dower (First Run/Icarus Films, 1986) which introduces the memorable atomic murals painted by Marukis. * Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK), Unforgettable Fire: Pictures Drawn by Atomic Bomb Survivors (New York: Pantheon, 1977) is the best collection available in English of survivor drawings and paintings. * The film by Erik Barnouw and Paul Ronder, Hiroshima-Nagasaki, August 1945, made using footage shot by the Nichiei Japanese team in the weeks following the atomic bombings and confiscated by U.S. authorities, not to be returned until 1967. * A celebratory volume is Donald M. Goldstein, Katherine V. Dillon, and J. Michael Wenger, Rain of Ruin. A Photographic History of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Dulles, VA: Brassey's, 1995) provides the fullest access to the official military record and documents the destruction of the two cities while largely eliding the human consequences of the bomb. * The Hiroshima Peace Museum and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum present print and graphics materials at www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/peacecite and www1.city.nagasaki.nagasaki.jp/abm/abm_e/index.html from which the most powerful images have been eliminated in one of the most poignant examples of the averted gaze. Notes I am indebted to John Dower and Herbert Bix for critical comments on an earlier draft of this foreword. 1. Japanese Documentary Film: The Meiji Era through Hiroshima (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), p. 191. 2. Joe O'Donnell, interviewed by Noah Adams, All Things Considered, NPR, June 28, 1995. 3. Ibid. 4. From Preface of this book, page 00. 5. Joe O'Donnell interview, All Things Considered. Preface My story begins in 1941 when I enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. A nineteen-year-old high school graduate full of anger towards the Japanese, I wanted to get to the South Pacific. However, the Marine Corps had other plans, and I soon found out that, instead of a rifle, the only thing I would aim at the Japanese would be a camera. Four years later while en route to Japan with the invasion forces, I heard about the atomic bombs. With everyone else on board ship, I celebrated the war's end, little knowing that for me it was just beginning. As a U.S. Marine Corps photographer, I waded ashore at Sasebo on September 2, 1945. I was a twenty-three-year-old sergeant, and my orders were to document the aftermath of U.S. bombing raids in various Japanese cities. For seven months I toured the mainland of Japan, from Sasebo to Fukuoka, to Kobe, from Nagasaki to Hiroshima, the war inside myself growing. The people I met, 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. I left Japan with the nightmare images etched on my negatives and in my heart. Upon my honorable discharge in March 1946, I placed the three hundred negatives in a trunk and closed the lid, never intending to open it again. I wanted to forget and go on with my life. But that kind of grief cannot just go away. After twenty years as a White House photographer, I retired with a medical disability later discovered to be caused by my radiation exposure. While numerous surgeries and treatments helped to ease my physical suffering (which can't be compared to the sufferings of those unfortunate people who survived the bomb), I remained obsessed by what I had seen. On a religious retreat to the Sisters of Loretto Motherhouse in Kentucky, I saw a sculpture that had been done by a resident nun, Sister Jeanne Deuber. The sculpture, a life-sized figure of a flame-scarred man on a cross, was titled "Once." It was created in memory of the victims of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States. When I looked at the photographs of atomic bomb victims imprinted on the Christ-like figure's body, I felt everything from inconsolable grief to violent outrage. So much horror, so much waste, so much inhumanity to innocent people, many of them women, children, and the elderly! It was a terrible emotional ordeal for me to relive the past, but in the end I was inspired. [Photo of crucifix about here] I purchased the sculpture, went home, and opened the trunk. Miraculously, the negatives had survived cold, wet basements and hot, humid attics; they were in excellent condition despite the passage of nearly half a century. As I took them out, half afraid to look at them, the frightful images turned into real life scenes from my memory. I could see the victims with maggots covering their bodies, hear their cries for help, smell their burned flesh; and I could remember three children sharing an apple dense with black flies. I became depressed and dreaded going to sleep because the repulsive nightmares kept taking me back. Finally I realized I could no longer run away from my feelings. In 1988 I met a young woman, Jennifer Alldredge, who was writing children's stories and raising a family. The following year we spent hours looking at the photographs, and she would ask questions to get me to remember. That collaboration resulted in a book published in Japan in 1995 by Shogakukan. This new edition from Vanderbilt University Press adds almost twenty photographs. I would like to thank my wife Kimiko and my friend Furman York for their assistance in gathering the materials for this edition. -Joe O'Donnell
Library of Congress Subject Headings for this publication:
War photography -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
World War, 1939-1945 -- Japanese Americans -- Pictorial works.
Bombing, Aerial -- Japan -- Pictorial works.
World War, 1939-1945 -- Aerial operations, American -- Pictorial works.