tampabay.com

His camera captured scenes of World War II

By ELENA LESLEY
Published June 4, 2007


Just two weeks before he died, Oscar Arsenault was still snapping pictures.

It wasn't the most high-profile assignment the longtime photographer ever had. After all, it was Mr. Arsenault who developed the first photos out of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bomb was dropped, his family said. But when the chorus at his local retirement community requested his skilled eye, he couldn't refuse.

"Wherever he was, people wanted him to be the photographer, " historian Ray Arsenault said of his father, who died Friday (June 1, 2007). Mr. Arsenault was 85.

Oscar Wilfred Arsenault was born Dec. 13, 1921, in Rumford, Maine, the first of seven children.

When he was 14, Mr. Arsenault's family gave him "a new suit, $20 and a ticket to Boston" to pursue his education, his son said. He ended up on Cape Cod, working at an ice factory and struggling to go to school, when he was taken in by a photographer.

In 1941, he enlisted in the Navy, where he became the photographer for the battleship USS New York. On that ship, he took one of World War II's most famous images: a bridge-level shot of 14-inch gun turrets awash in heavy seas in the North Atlantic.

At war's end, he supervised a photo lab in Okinawa. There he became one of the first to see the aftermath of nuclear warfare.

Mr. Arsenault retired from the Navy in 1971 and worked at the MCS Microfilm company in Jacksonville and later as a wedding photographer.

He and his wife of 62 years, Patricia Ostby, moved to Westminster Suncoast retirement community in St. Petersburg in 2006. A memorial service will be held at the Westminster Suncoast chapel at 3 p.m. today.