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These Photos Of The Pearl Harbor Attack Are Still Shocking 80 Years Later

"A day that will live in infamy."

Posted on December 7, 2021, at 12:08 p.m. ET

Early in the morning on Dec. 7, 1941, Japan's Imperial Navy launched a surprise airstrike on the US military base at Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. As a result, 2,403 Americans were killed, and more than 1,000 were wounded.

The United States had considered itself neutral in World War II up until that point and entered battle the following day on the side of the Allied forces. Of the eight Navy battleships stationed at Pearl Harbor at the time, four were sunk in the attack. All but the USS Arizona were raised and restored to go on and fight in the war.

Eighty years later, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the US's involvement in WWII show a long and complicated legacy. Americans responded with horror and began fully preparing themselves to enter the war. There were also countless acts of racism and senseless violence against Asian Americans. This anti-Asian bias later led to the incarceration of Japanese Americans and Japanese citizens living in the United States.

These photos show the shocking violence of a day that shaped modern history and global politics. Each year, a group of survivors gathers at the site to pay homage to the thousands of soldiers and civilians who died on Dec. 7, 1941.

Fine Art / Corbis via Getty Images

The ocean burns from oil near the Naval Air Station, shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941.

/ AP

An incendiary bomb from a Japanese plane set fire to a drug store near Waikiki, Honolulu, creating some of the greatest wreckage in the attack on Oahu, Dec. 7, 1941. Flames spread over a wide area before the fire department brought it under control.

/ AP

White House reporters dash for the telephones after being told by press secretary Stephen T. Early that Japanese submarines and planes had just bombed the US Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Historical / Corbis via Getty Images

Black smoke clouds the sky over the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard following the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941.

/ AP

Troops work a machine gun nest at Wheeler Field, which adjoins Schofield Barracks in Honolulu, after the Japanese attack on the island of Oahu, Dec. 7, 1941.

Buyenlarge / Getty Images

This photograph shows the USS West Virginia on fire and the upper part of the USS Tenessee already underwater.

Universal History Archive / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The USS West Virginia burns during the Japanese air raid on Pearl Harbor.

Historical / Corbis via Getty Images

Ships sunk or damaged at dry dock in Pearl Harbor included USS Pennsylvania, USS Cassin, USS Downes, USS Helena, and USS Shaw.

Associated Press

Rescue workers help evacuate the Lunalilo High School in Honolulu after the roof of the main building was hit by a bomb during the attack.

Mary Naiden / AP

Officers' wives investigate an explosion with smoke in the distance on Dec. 7, 1941.

Historical / Corbis via Getty Images

The capsized USS Oklahoma and the USS Maryland were two of the ships destroyed in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

/ AP

Students of the Lunalilo High School in the Waikiki district of Honolulu watch their school burn after the roof of the main building (center) was hit by a bomb during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

/ AP

A small crowd inspects the damage after a Japanese bomb hit the residence of Paul Goo during the raid.

Historical / Corbis via Getty Images

A mangled pile of metal is what was left of the USS Cassin (left) and the USS Downes after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Keystone / Getty Images

Seen here is the wreckage of a Japanese fighter bomber brought down during the attack.

Fine Art / Corbis via Getty Images

A Japanese submarine is seen on the beach at Bellows Field, Hawaii, after the attack.

Fox Photos / Getty Images

A jumbled mass of wreckage in front of the battleship USS Pennsylvania constitutes the remains of the destroyers USS Downes and USS Cassin.

Historical / Corbis via Getty Images

A crane lifts the mangled remains of a plane, a result of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Historical / Corbis via Getty Images

A heap of demolished planes and a wrecked hangar at Wheeler Airfield is the result of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Russell Lee / Getty Images

A man reading an account of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in the San Francisco Chronicle at the Shasta Dam in California.

Associated Press

Rider Joy Cummings examines a Japanese cherry tree that was cut down with the words "To hell with those Japanese" carved into it, Dec. 10, 1941.

Associated Press

A crowd tries to enter the House of Representatives to hear then-president Franklin Roosevelt speak on Dec. 8, 1941.

Associated Press

Declaring Japan guilty of an unprovoked attack, then-president Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Dec. 8, 1941.

Associated Press

A crowd of young men enlist in the Navy in San Francisco on Dec. 7, 1941, at the Federal Office Building.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Two service members sit on the wreckage of a bomber, surrounded by dirt and sandbags, on Hickam Field after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.


A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.