The Day All Hell Broke Loose

It was a glorious morning in Hawaii, one like so many others. Sun, balmy breezes, a heavenly paradise in the Pacific.

A little before 8 a.m. on that December 7, 1941, as families prepared to go to Sunday services, the ominous sound of incoming planes was heard, and then all hell broke loose.

More than 300 Japanese planes dropped tons of bombs on the U.S. Pearl Harbor fleet. Four battleships sank. Destroyed in the sneak attack were 188 aircraft. Damaged or destroyed were another three cruisers, three destroyers and one minelayer.

The human casualty count was 2,402 killed and 1,282 wounded.

The biggest casualty, however, was America’s complacent belief that distance made the country safe from aggression.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed it a date that would live in infamy, and the country went to war.

These official U.S. Navy photographs, now in the National Archives, chronicle the devastation and horror of that day.

A Japanese attack plane takes off from the deck of the Shokaku to bomb Pearl Harbor.

Pearl Harbor under attack. Anti-aircraft shell bursts overhead while the USS Arizona burns.

A frame from a motion picture shot from the USS Solace of the USS Arizona exploding after being hit by a Japanese bomb.

The USS Utah, hit by a torpedo shot from Japanese aircraft, capsizes.

A motor launch races to rescue survivors.

A poster designed by Allen Sandburg that was issued by the Office of War Information in 1942. A quote from Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” is featured: “. . . we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”

(Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Center. Donated by Dr. Robert L. Scheina, 1970.)

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