Today is the 70th anniversary of the attack on the US naval base Pearl Harbor, a surprise attack conducted by the Japanese that led to America’s entry into World War 2.
Hollywood movies, books, essays and endless documentaries have been made on the topic of Pearl Harbor, a day that Franklin D. Roosevelt announced at the time “will live in infamy”, and still a hotly-debated military subject today.
However, like all history, nothing is better than watching footage of the actual events themselves if possible. In the British Pathé Film Archive we have a copy of the first newsreel to report on Pearl Harbour, and this footage was later used for a British Pathé documentary series entitled A Day That Shook The World.
This morning, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, we uploaded these scenes onto our YouTube channel War Archives. Click on the screengrab above to view it now.
Less than a minute’s footage of the actual surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was recorded, and that was by accident by a local doctor trying out his new camera, but remarkably he managed to capture the blowing up of the Arizona – and so this features in our reel. The rest of the footage was recreated by John Ford in Los Angeles at Fox Studios immediately after the attack. The American War Department directed him to recreate the scene so that it could be issued around the world as a key piece of reasoning in why America had declared war on Japan and entered WWII.
Ford’s original feature was called 7th December and ran eighty-three minutes. However the War Department were worried about showing the full-length film because Ford did such a good job of depicting how unprepared the American troops were for such an attack, and were concerned therefore that the movie might damage morale.
Of course, as with all sensational moments in history, ambiguity gave way to conspiracy and some have claimed that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor never actually happened, or worse still, was conducted by American forces, and was used as a mechanism to trigger and kick-start America’s entry into the war.
To add to the confusion many news groups since, including CNN, have confused the recreated scenes for the real thing.
Pearl Harbor was made into a successful Hollywood film 60 years later, starring Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale.
Today is the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
View all 90,000 British Pathé newsreels for free online at: http://www.britishpathe.com