Pearl Harbor in Images: 'A Date Which Will Live in Infamy'

Pearl Harbor in Images: 'A Date Which Will Live in Infamy'

If you were raised in the United States, you were taught about the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. You’ve heard the famous description of it by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who called it “a date which will live in infamy.” With a lack of declaration of war and without warning — and killing 2,403 Americans — the surprise attack by Japan’s military on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii was judged to be a war crime, and was the impetus for the U.S. officially entering World War II. You know this, but there’s a good chance you haven’t seen many (or any) photos from that day.

What better way to immortalize the events of that day 76 years ago than through photographs? As photographers, we know that photographs are time capsules; the images we create pause time and document history in ways we won’t understand until we ourselves are long gone. Looking back on photos taken during this time is certainly a reminder of that. Here are a few of them from the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command, along with some of their captions, that I thought were interesting. I encourage you to take a look at that site and look at more of the images -- there are a lot of them, and they certainly have a story to tell.

A Japanese Navy Attack Plane taking off from an aircraft carrier on its way to Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. For some reason I liked the profile in the foreground of the Japanese soldier looking on.

A Japanese Navy Attack Plane taking off from an aircraft carrier on its way to Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. For some reason I liked the profile in the foreground of the Japanese soldier looking on.

Here's a cartoon that was found in a wrecked Japanese plane following the attack on Pearl Harbor. I think drawings and cartoons like this say a lot about the spirit of the times. The Japanese inscription at left reads: "Hear! The voice of the moment of de

Here's a cartoon that was found in a wrecked Japanese plane following the attack on Pearl Harbor. I think drawings and cartoons like this say a lot about the spirit of the times. The Japanese inscription at left reads: "Hear! The voice of the moment of death. Wake up, you fools."

Image taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island.

Image taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island.

A view of Pearl Harbor looking southwest from the hills towards the north. Taken during the Japanese raid, with anti-aircraft shell bursts overhead. Large column of smoke in lower center is from USS Arizona.

A view of Pearl Harbor looking southwest from the hills towards the north. Taken during the Japanese raid, with anti-aircraft shell bursts overhead. Large column of smoke in lower center is from USS Arizona.

View from a pier looking toward the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard's drydocks.

View from a pier looking toward the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard's drydocks.

A photograph taken from an automobile around 9:30 a.m. on December 7.

A photograph taken from an automobile around 9:30 a.m. on December 7.

There aren't as many images like this, showing the U.S. forces fighting back.

There aren't as many images like this, showing the U.S. forces fighting back.

A patrol bomber burning at Naval Air Station Kaneohe, on Oahu, with crews trying to put out the fires.

A patrol bomber burning at Naval Air Station Kaneohe, on Oahu, with crews trying to put out the fires.

"A U.S. Army B-17E at Hickam Air Field, after landing safely during the Japanese air raid. Smoke from burning ships at Pearl Harbor is visible in the distance. Photographer may be Staff Sergeant Lee Embree."

"A U.S. Army B-17E at Hickam Air Field, after landing safely during the Japanese air raid. Smoke from burning ships at Pearl Harbor is visible in the distance. Photographer may be Staff Sergeant Lee Embree."

"Destroyed U.S. Army aircraft at Wheeler Field, Oahu, during post-attack cleanup activities. P-40 pursuit planes are among the types present."

"Destroyed U.S. Army aircraft at Wheeler Field, Oahu, during post-attack cleanup activities. P-40 pursuit planes are among the types present."

The forward magazine of USS Shaw (DD-373) explodes during the second Japanese attack wave. At right is the bow of USS Nevada (BB-36), with a tug alongside fighting fires. Photographed from Ford Island, with a dredging line in the foreground. U.S. Naval Hi

The forward magazine of USS Shaw (DD-373) explodes during the second Japanese attack wave. At right is the bow of USS Nevada (BB-36), with a tug alongside fighting fires. Photographed from Ford Island, with a dredging line in the foreground. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Explosion of the forward magazines of USS Shaw  in the floating drydock, after a bombing attack by Japanese planes on 7 December 1941. USS Nevada, also hit by the attackers, is at right. Photographed from Ford Island, with USS Avocet partially visible at

Explosion of the forward magazines of USS Shaw in the floating drydock, after a bombing attack by Japanese planes on 7 December 1941. USS Nevada, also hit by the attackers, is at right. Photographed from Ford Island, with USS Avocet partially visible at left. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

USS Cassin burned out and capsized against USS Downes after the attack. It's hard to imagine the time and effort required to clean up the wreckage from these massive ships.

USS Cassin burned out and capsized against USS Downes after the attack. It's hard to imagine the time and effort required to clean up the wreckage from these massive ships.

"USS Downes, at left, and USS Cassin, capsized at right, burned out and sunk in the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard drydock on 7 December 1941, after the Japanese attack. The relatively undamaged USS Pennsylvania is in the background." Note the man in a white shir

"USS Downes, at left, and USS Cassin, capsized at right, burned out and sunk in the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard drydock on 7 December 1941, after the Japanese attack. The relatively undamaged USS Pennsylvania is in the background." Note the man in a white shirt standing under the gun, in awe.

Here are the wrecked destroyers USS Downes and USS Cassin at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard after the attacks were over. This image has been attributed to Navy Photographer's Mate Harold Fawcett

Here are the wrecked destroyers USS Downes and USS Cassin at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard after the attacks were over. This image has been attributed to Navy Photographer's Mate Harold Fawcett

Sailor lies face down, killed during the air attack at the Naval Air Station in Kaneohe Bay.

Sailor lies face down, killed during the air attack at the Naval Air Station in Kaneohe Bay.

"A Marine rifle squad fires a volley over the bodies of fifteen officers and men killed at Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay during the Pearl Harbor raid. These burial ceremonies took place on 8 December 1941, the day after the attack."

"A Marine rifle squad fires a volley over the bodies of fifteen officers and men killed at Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay during the Pearl Harbor raid. These burial ceremonies took place on 8 December 1941, the day after the attack."

This, to me, almost looked like an old drone shot. "Aerial view of Battleship Row moorings on the southern side of Ford Island, 10 December 1941. ... Note dark oil streaks on the harbor surface, originating from the sunken battleships."

This, to me, almost looked like an old drone shot. "Aerial view of Battleship Row moorings on the southern side of Ford Island, 10 December 1941. ... Note dark oil streaks on the harbor surface, originating from the sunken battleships."

I didn't see many portraits in the archives, but here are a couple. "Divers emerging from a gas-filled compartment aboard one of the ships undergoing salvage, after the 7 December 1941 Japanese raid. Note oily conditions, and face masks worn by the men."

I didn't see many portraits in the archives, but here are a couple. "Divers emerging from a gas-filled compartment aboard one of the ships undergoing salvage, after the 7 December 1941 Japanese raid. Note oily conditions, and face masks worn by the men."

Taking the time to pose during cleanup. "Divers standing in front of a decompression chamber, while they were working to salvage ships sunk in the 7 December 1941 Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor. Note warrant officer standing at right."

Taking the time to pose during cleanup. "Divers standing in front of a decompression chamber, while they were working to salvage ships sunk in the 7 December 1941 Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor. Note warrant officer standing at right."

Looking back on these images is also a reminder of how far photography has come since the 40s. These images are in black and white, taken before the popularity of color film hit in the 1970s. Many are out of focus, no doubt taken with a manual focus camera in a quickly developing, traumatic situation. The question is, would we want these images to be more “technically correct” than they are, so as to get a more accurate picture of what happened on that day? Or, at this point, is there something about the historical "feel" to them that adds something to what they communicate? I don’t have an answer. Either way, they still tell a story that shouldn't be forgotten. And maybe, if we all look back and remember the damage caused during past wars, we'll be less inclined to start new ones.

All images from the U.S. Naval History and Historical Command Archive.

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85 Comments

Previous comments

Where did I say or suggest that it is wrong to want peace? Read again what I wrote.

Michael Holst's picture

Then I suggest you do everyone you’re debating the same service and not imply that because they want peace they’re just being politically correct and somehow equate what they say to meaning we shouldn’t be prepared to go to war. This isn’t a two sided coin.

Anonymous's picture

Preach, brother!

First, "I suggest" that you allow others to speak for themselves.

The original statement I addressed is politically correct, since it avoids the truth in order to make some people, group or nationality feel better about themselves.

The issue I had was with the comment itself. That you feel the need to read anymore into that is at best a misunderstanding on your part and at worst a purposeful misrepresentation of what I said in order to formulate an argument that you can successfully argue against.

Just because someone doesn't like a particular tree doesn't mean they want to cut down the entire forest.

Michael Holst's picture

Hows the view from way up on that high horse?

You're right Peter, 2,403 looks like a more accurate number. I read 2,402 somewhere.

I never said Americans started WWII. I also never said fighting back in this instance wasn't justifiable.What I was implying was that if we remember and learn from history -- both from our mistakes and the mistakes of others -- and remember the damage to society that wars cause, we'll be more inclined to find a peaceful solution to our problems rather than start violent conflicts.

Anonymous's picture

A fair point well articulated in the article. Others’ agenda and bias may complicate it or muddle their comprehension of it, but that’s not your fault.

Yes, I have an "agenda"; it's called the truth. Where there is truth "bias" has no relevance.

Anonymous's picture

Again with the dogmatism. You've shown a pattern of devolving conversations this way. Sorry Bob, but I'm not going to engage further with your pointless ego stroking.

In my opinion truth is almost always relative (with some glaring examples). Always has been, always will be.

Bias is almost impossible to get away from.

Sure, 2x2=4 (at least on earth). But, in considering two or more arguments, in considering two or more interpretations of the same event, bias always plays a role.

No?

Anonymous's picture

Yes I agree wholeheartedly.

Best of luck articulating your logic any further on this forum, lol.

Truth, by definition, is never "relative" nor up for "interpretations." That would only be the case for those who for whatever reason are detached from reality.

Don't confuse "arguments" based on preferences with those based on facts.

Perhaps then the word truth is being used with multiple meanings at the same time. Truth does not equal fact.

Fact is often not nearly the solid point of reference that many assume it is.

The argument has gone on for a while here, and has taken many twists. I don't want to put words in your mouth, can you tell me where you see others confusing your truth with untruth? Or, fact with preference?

"Perhaps then the word truth is being used with multiple meanings at the same time."

Clearly, but certainly not by me.

"Truth does not equal fact."

Yes, it does.

"Fact is often not nearly the solid point of reference that many assume it is."

If your goal is something not based on reality, then you are correct.

"can you tell me where you see others confusing your truth with untruth? Or, fact with preference?"

I don't speak through intermediaries. Everyone here is capable of speaking for themselves and at least in trying to support what they say. If *you* are specifically confused about something then simply state what that is and I'll try and answer your question as best as I can.

I think truth has a pretty fluid meaning. And, truth certainly changes over time.

There is along chain of discussion above, I'm just asking you were you feel that you are being accused of not speaking the truth. I'm not asking you what others think. I'm asking you where you think your truth is being called into question.

As another question, do you really and truly believe that truth is so clear and distinct from preference? You don't see any grey? I'm not judging, just asking.

"I think truth has a pretty fluid meaning."

No point in going further then if facts, and clear and simple word meanings, are relative to you.

Anonymous's picture

'Tis you, good sir, who needs to review some meanings of words:

I'm starting to think that you are an Fstoppers staff member since I have repeatedly reported your trolling account and yet here you are once again trolling with the same account. Three accounts so far, two banned, including one impersonating me and yet here you are again.

As to your comment, facts don't care about sensibilities and they don't care about your feelings.

Anonymous's picture

And what, pray tell, are you reporting me for? I merely provide assistance to those who seek definitions of words! I am logophile! I have made no threats, and caused no abuse. I seek to enlighten!

I know not of these accusations you speak of: I have never been banned from this fine website.

Aha! I've found another word of relevance for you!

In the three trolling accounts you have had so far you have never engaged in a discussion on any article topic with either me or anyone else. Anyone can do a search on your posts and see that your account only exists to stalk and troll mine, either directly or indirectly.

You have been banned before for impersonating me since this site's system apparently allows for anyone to create identical screen name accounts. All your accounts have followed the same stalking and trolling pattern and all were created around the same time.

You also had another account under the corporate name of Mirriam Webster, that you were either also banned from using or that you abandoned, the later perhaps knowing that you would eventually get into trouble for using a corporate trademark, and in the manner you were doing so, after I had mentioned so. So what did you do, you created another similarly named account, all for the purpose of continuing your stalking and trolling posts.

It took messaging a leading staff member on this site to have your impersonating account deleted and I suspect the same will result will occur with this latest account of yours.

You called me a "hypocrite" before for using a pseudonym, as if somehow that was equivalent to you illegally using a corporate trademark and impersonating me in order to troll, and I responded by saying that I may just go ahead and create an account under my actual name and identity to see if you would like to impersonate me again. You went quiet for a while after that, after I said I would then have grounds for legal action, especially since an account and posting histories will show and prove intent.

While you may have come to the conclusion that you're safe in doing what you are now doing, rather than impersonating me, what you are not safe from is where this kind of behavior may end up taking you in life. And it's not a good place, because in the real world you can't troll people. And you can't hide from the real word all your life.

All that said, I would still welcome any discussion and debate with you in the future if you are willing to, that is topical and not personal. You certainly don't have to agree with anything I say. How about it?

Michael Holst's picture

Triggered much?

Anonymous's picture

My word! (Aha!)

Lies and threats to my safety offline? How very troubling. And all for providing dictionary definitions to an assumed fellow logophile.

As you have threatened me and accused me of crimes I did not commit, without cause or evidence, I now fear for my wellbeing.

It was a fair and reasonable response in an article about the start of WWII.

As I said previously, your final comment is a politically correct sentiment that has actually contributed to more tyranny, conflict and wars. Threats of "violent conflicts" against tyranny is all that tyrants respond to. Human history has shown that to be the case time and time again. The same goes for schoolyard bullies.

I can certainly agree with the bully comment. And as far as it extends to world politics, I can also agree.

Where we disagree is when the someone actually is a tyrant and needs to be stood up to. It's easy, I think, to see certain people as tyrants in retrospect. Harder at the time. More on this in our other conversation.

By the by, I have no problem about a political discussion when the article is essentially about a political topic.

A political comment was made by the author and olitical comments ensued. Photography by its nature also invokes discussions and debates about political and social issues. Everything, in that regard, is functioning as it should.

Michael Holst's picture

Don't worry. Bob is on a crusade to purge the nation of political correctness by being obtuse and dense. Take his comments with a grain of salt.

Don't worry, we're used to it.

That's extremely unprofessional behavior to be supporting comments like Michael's while taking on the role of a writer on this site. Mature and respectful discussions and debates should be focused on what people say, not on attacking people personally simply because you disagree with their views and opinions.

Why do you feel the need to convince others about the value of my comments and opinions? Don't you believe in other people's right to self-determination?

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