80 years ago today, on the morning of December 7, 1941, Japanese bombers and torpedo planes staged a surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, propelling the United States into World War II. In less than 2 hours, the U.S. Pacific Fleet was devastated, and more than 3,000 Americans were either killed or wounded.
USS Shaw (DD373) lies in drydock YFD-2 after being hit by three bombs which exploded her forward magazine. Part of the drydock at right is under water while while the other side is listing heavily. National Archives Identifier 12008979
This Navy dispatch sent from the Commander in Chief of the Pacific announces the attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by the Japanese Navy. It was received at the Squantum Naval Reserve Aviation Base on December 7, 1941 from the First Naval District. It states, “AIR RAID ON PEARL HARBOR X THIS IS NOT DRILL.”
DocsTeach, the online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives, has online teaching activities related to Pearl Harbor. In Pearl Harbor Dispatch Analysis, students analyze the “This is Not Drill” naval dispatch in an activity that encourages students to look for evidence to decode the true meaning of the message.
US Navy (USN) Sailors assigned to the ceremonial guard Naval Station (NS) Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (HI), preparing in the early morning hours for the 63rd commemoration of the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor at the battleship USS ARIZONA (BB 39) Memorial, 12/7/2004. National Archives Identifier 6669772
The Cartographic unit at the National Archives holds maps and aerial photographs depicting Pearl Harbor, as well as plans for ships that were present on December 7, 1941.
Manuscript color Map of Pearl Harbor after the Attack, National Archives Identifier 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.
The battleship USS Arizona (BB-39) was bombed and sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The following ship plans for the USS Arizona list alterations to the ship’s design dated as late as June 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. National Archives Identifier 12009088
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 day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt delivered a six-minute speech before a joint session of Congress that ended with a request for a declaration of war. Congress approved within hours.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt's annotated draft of a proposed message to Congress requesting a Declaration of War against Japan. The speech was dictated by Roosevelt on December 7, 1941 in the hours following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The handwritten notations are Roosevelt's modifications and corrections to the typewritten first draft. The final version of the speech incorporating Roosevelt's annotations was delivered by the President to a Joint Session of Congress on December 8, 1941. National Archives Identifier: 593345
On DocsTeach, the online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives, you can find primary sources like maps and speeches – even images taken by the Japanese military during the attack that were later captured.
DocsTeach also includes posters that used the attack on Pearl Harbor as a rallying cry for a variety of war efforts, like joining the Coast Guard, buying war bonds, or working harder in a factory. Learn more on the Education Updates blog.
Learn more about the records held at the National Archives related to Pearl Harbor:
During World War II, the U.S. Army administered more than 200 surveys to over half a million American troops to discover what they thought and how they felt about the conflict and their military service. Topics covered by the army’s troop surveys include leave policies, food preferences, radio listening habits, combat experiences, racial views, mental and physical health, postwar plans, and more. The surviving collection of studies, held by the National Archives, is now accessible at The American Soldier in World War II. Browse and search over 65,000 pages of responses handwritten by service members, view and download survey data and original analyses, read topical essays, and access additional learning resources.
This resource is also made possible by the nearly 7,200 citizen-archivists who submitted a combined quarter-million transcriptions and annotations in a little over two years. Learn more at: https://americansoldierww2.org