1941 Attack On Pearl Harbor Told Through Pictures

A break in the thick smoke choking the horizon reveals the towers of the badly damaged battleships, USS West Virginia and USS Tennessee. Moored side-by-side in the harbor’s Battleship Row, the pair of battleships fought valiantly to repel the Japanese aircraft while keeping the ships above water. Fifteen sailors received the Medal of Honor that day, including the Captain of the West Virginia when he refused to leave his post, even after an exploding shell mortally wounded him, instead directing his crew’s efforts.

Photo: Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections/Claude Larkin Collection (COLL/791) -- Another casualty of the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, this photograph was taken seconds after the plane exploded.
Photo: Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections/Claude Larkin Collection (COLL/791) — Another casualty of the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor, this photograph was taken seconds after the plane exploded.

After spreading fires forced the crew to abandon the USS Shaw, the raging flames reached the ship’s forward magazine, resulting in a tremendous explosion and a spectacular photograph. But the Shaw also serves as a symbol of the military’s resilience. Despite the tremendous damage, the Navy repaired the Shaw within months of the attacks, and the destroyer would go on to serve throughout the war, earning eleven battled stars.

Photo: U.S. Navy/National Archives Collection -- The U.S. Navy battleships USS West Virginia (BB-48) (sunken at left) and USS Tennessee (BB-43) shrouded in smoke following the Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor.
Photo: U.S. Navy/National Archives Collection — The U.S. Navy battleships USS West Virginia (BB-48) (sunken at left) and USS Tennessee (BB-43) shrouded in smoke following the Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor.

Tragic as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was, it was only a prelude to the looming devastation awaiting U.S. forces in the field of Europe and the Islands of the East Pacific.



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Photo: U.S. Navy/National Archives Collection -- A navy photographer snapped this photograph of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, just as the USS Shaw exploded.
Photo: U.S. Navy/National Archives Collection — A navy photographer snapped this photograph of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, just as the USS Shaw exploded.
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