Visualizing Pearl Harbor 75 Years Later

Tomorrow marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. In remembrance of the event, we are presenting related maps, photographs, ship plans, and films held by NARA’s Special Media Division.

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Manuscript color Map of Pearl Harbor after the Attack (NAID  29032720).  Prepared by the Joint Intelligence Center, Pacific Ocean Areas to illustrate the locations of roads, railroads, airfields, buildings, storage tanks and positions of unnamed ships in the harbor.

Photographs documenting the aftermath of the attack may be found in the General Photographic File of the Navy (RG 80-G, RG 80-GK), Color Photographs of Signal Corps Activity (RG 111-C), and Photographs of American Military Operations (RG 208-MO).

Pearl Harbor, HI. Thick smoke rolls out of a burning ship during the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. December 7, 1941. NAID: 12009098.

The Cartographic Unit holds maps and aerial photographs depicting Pearl Harbor, as well as plans for ships that were present on December 7, 1941.

Map of Pearl Harbor, one of approximately 40 new pictures of combat action during first six months of Pacific war, released in connection with publication of “Battle Report” by Comdr. Walter Karig, USNR and Lt. Welbourne Kelley, USNR. Rec’d Nov. 27, 1944. Local ID: 80-G-47105.
Aerial Photograph showing Pearl Harbor on March 10, 1942, three months after the attack. (RG373: ON 002922, Exposure 24)

Below you can see plans for the USS Arizona (BB-39), which was bombed and sunk during the attack. They list alterations to the ship’s design dated as late as June 1941.  (RG19:  Alpha Series; USS Arizona (BB-39)

Because the bombing of Pearl Harbor was a surprise, there is very little American footage of the attack itself. The following film captures about three minutes of the attack and its aftermath.

The National Archives also holds records captured by US military forces, but created by Japan. The following film, designated in NARA’s holdings as “A Captured Film, Hawaii“, is an English-language Japanese propaganda film about the attack on Pearl Harbor and Japan’s declaration of war. It appears to have been part of a larger film reel that also contained a French-language propaganda film. It’s possible that such films were intended to be shown to foreigners in territory captured by the Japanese military.

Almost twenty years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, US Navy divers recovered a Japanese midget submarine that had taken part in the December 7 attack. The recovery operation was captured on film in July 1960.

You can also learn more about the US Military’s December 7th film about the Pearl Harbor attack (directed by John Ford) in this blog post from 2014.

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