Thursday, August 16, 2007
Joe O'Donnell, 85, who shot some of the first photographs after the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, and who served as a White House photographer spanning the terms of five presidents, died Aug. 9 at a rehabilitation center in Nashville. He had complications from a stroke.
Mr. O'Donnell grew up in Johnstown, Pa., and began his photography career in the Marine Corps at the outbreak of World War II, during which he recorded the Pacific campaign.
In September 1945, Mr. O'Donnell was one of the first outsiders to visit Hiroshima after its destruction by the atomic bomb. He put many of those photographs away in a trunk because he thought they were too painful to look at, and he did not revisit them for nearly 45 years.
In the 1990s, the photographs were displayed for the first time in Europe and Japan, and in 2005, they were put into a book published by Vanderbilt University Press, "Japan 1945: A U.S. Marine's Photographs From Ground Zero."
After the war, Mr. O'Donnell began working as a freelance photographer in Washington, where he was recruited by the U.S. Information Agency to photograph presidents.
He worked as a White House photographer during the administrations of Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon. Mr. O'Donnell was one of several photographers to capture a picture of John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father's coffin.
Because Mr. O'Donnell's photos were made for the government, they are considered public domain, and he rarely received personal credit for his work. His photos continue to be distributed throughout the world.
Mr. O'Donnell moved to Nashville after he retired in 1968 with a medical disability that was discovered to have been caused by the radiation exposure he suffered while taking photographs in Japan after the country surrendered.