Conventional scintillation detectors are typically single crystals of heavy-metal oxides or halides doped with rare-earth ions that record the recombination of electron-hole pairs by photon emission in the visible to ultraviolet. However, the light yields are typically low enough to require photomultiplier detection with the attendant instrumental complications. Here we report initial studies of gamma ray detection by zinc oxide (ZnO) nanowires, grown by vapor-solid deposition. The nanowires grow along the c-axis in a wurtzite structure; they are typically 80 nm in diameter and have lengths of 1- 2 μm. The nanowires are single crystals of high quality, with a photoluminescence (PL) yield from band-edge exciton emission in the ultraviolet that is typically one hundred times larger than the PL yield from defect centers in the visible. Nanowire ensembles were irradiated by 662 keV gamma rays from a Cs-137 source for periods of up to ten hours; gamma rays in this energy range interact by Compton scattering, which in ZnO creates F+ centers that relax to form singly-charged positive oxygen vacancies. Following irradiation, we fit the PL spectra of the visible emission with a sum of Gaussians at the energies of the known defects. We find highly efficient PL from the irradiated area, with a figure of merit approaching 106 photons/s/MeV of deposited energy. Over a period of days, the singly charged O+ vacancies relax to the more stable doubly charged O++ vacancies. However, the overall defect PL returns to pre-irradiation values after about a week, as the vacancies diffuse to the surface of these very thin nanowires, indicating that a self-healing process restores the nanowires to their original state.