Dead Battleships: How It Felt To Watch Imperial Japan Destroy Pearl Harbor

Dead Battleships: How It Felt To Watch Imperial Japan Destroy Pearl Harbor

Warfare History Network

History, Asia

A terrifying experience.

Key point: It’s important to remember our history so we do not repeat our mistakes.

One of the defining images of the 20th century is the horrifying moment when the battleship USS Arizona exploded in a cataclysmic fireball at 8:10 am on Sunday, December 7, 1941. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor catapulted the United States into the most destructive war in human history.

Nearly every American who is old enough can remember where they were and what they were doing on December 7. But there were thousands of young men whose lives and destinies were forever changed in those hours as the Japanese planes tore into the heart of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Today the number of men, survivors who served on the ships moored along Ford Island’s famous Battleship Row is dwindling. Old men now, they are white haired with slow movements and shuffling feet, but their minds, filled with visions of an apocalypse they never imagined, are as sharp as ever.


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Target: Pearl Harbor

On that peaceful Sunday morning nearly the entire fleet was in port. The battleship California was moored far ahead of the paired Maryland and Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia, Arizona and the repair ship Vestal, and the lone Nevada. Pennsylvania was in drydock at the Navy Yard near the destroyers Cassin and Downes and the minelayer Oglala. More destroyers and submarines were tied to piers past the Navy Yard.

The target ship Utah and cruisers Helena, Honolulu, Detroit, and Raleigh were on the west side of Ford Island. All in all, more than 90 vessels were in Pearl Harbor that morning.

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