Unforgettable photos from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor

Under the South Pacific sun on December 7, 1941, troops serving the US fleet at Pearl Harbor began a calm Sunday morning unaware that Japanese bombers were headed toward America’s most important Pacific base.

There, like a string of pearls draped across the docks and waterfront, was the majority of the US’s naval might.

The devastating Japanese onslaught began at 7:48 a.m., eventually killing 2,402 Americans and wounding many others, sinking four battleships, and damaging military airfields.

The Pearl Harbor attack spurred America into World War II, leading ultimately to Allied victory over the Japanese in the East and Nazis and other Axis powers in the West.

Here are photographs from the attack and its immediate aftermath.

Kamelia Angelova contributed to this report.

On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, an attack planned by Admiral Isoroku Yamamotoa was carried out to demobilize the US Navy. This picture shows one of more than 180 planes used in the attack.

Image: Naval Aviation Museum

Image: Naval Aviation Museum

At 7:00 a.m., an Army radar operator spotted the first wave of the Japanese planes. The officers to whom those reports were relayed did not consider them significant enough to take action. This photo shows an aerial view of Battleship Row in the opening moments of the raid.

Image: USN

Image: USN

Here, planes and hangars burning at Wheeler Field during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Image: Naval Aviation Museum

Image: Naval Aviation Museum

The Japanese also took the opportunity to attack military airfields while bombing the fleet in Pearl Harbor. The purpose of these simultaneous attacks was to destroy American planes before they could defensively respond.

Image: USN

Image: USN

There were more than 90 ships anchored at Pearl Harbor. The primary targets of the attack were the 8 battleships sitting at Battleship Row. Here is a picture of Battleship Row during the attack.

Image: USN

Image: USN

USS West Virginia (left) pictured here next to USS Tennessee, was one of the first battleships to sink during the attack. The Japanese successfully damaged all 8 battleships.

Image: USN

Image: USN

At about 8:10 a.m., USS Arizona explodes as the ship’s forward ammunition magazine is ignited by a bomb. About half of the total number of Americans killed that day were on this ship. Here is a picture of battleship USS Arizona.

Image: USN

Image: USN

Here is another picture of USS Arizona.

Image: Naval Archives

Image: Naval Archives

Destroyer USS Shaw explodes during the 3-hour Japanese attack.

Image: USN

Image: USN

The damaged USS Nevada tried to escape down the channel toward the open sea but became a target during a second wave of 170 Japanese planes, hoping to sink her in the channel and block the narrow entrance to Pearl Harbor. The ship was grounded with 60 killed on board.

Image: Naval Archives

Image: Naval Archives

The burning wreckage of an SBD Dauntless dive bomber pictured at Ewa Mooring Mast Field (later Marine Corps Air Station Ewa, Hawaii) after the attack.

Image: Naval History Museum

Image: Naval Aviation Museum

Sailors examine the wreckage of an Aichi D3A dive bomber (codenamed Val) that was salvaged from the site where it crashed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Image: Naval Aviation Museum

Image: Naval Aviation Museum

Sailors at the Naval Air Station in Kaneohe, Hawaii, attempt to salvage a burning PBY Catalina in the aftermath of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Image: USN

Image: USN

Group image of the original crew of the destroyer Shaw (DD-373) taken in 1936. The destroyer was the first vessel struck by Japanese dive bombers at Pearl Harbor

Image: Naval Aviation Museum

Image: Naval Aviation Museum

Salvage work begins on destroyers USS Cassin and the USS Downes. The Japanese failed to damage any US aircraft carriers, which were surprisingly absent from the harbor.

Image: USN

Image: USN

The battleship Nevada (BB-36) burns in the aftermath of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Image: Robert L. Lawson/Naval Aviation Museum

Image: Naval Aviation Museum

USS Oklahoma, seen in this photo with one of its propellers peeking out of the water, was considered too old to be worth repairing.

Image: USN

Image: USN

A Marine holds a piece of shrapnel removed from his arm following the attack.

Image: USMC

Image: USMC

This photo shows sailors participating in a memorial service for the more than 2,400 killed in the attack.

Image: Library of Congress

Image: Library of Congress

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