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Politics Unforgettable photos from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 77 years ago today

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On December 7, 1941, the US fleet at Pearl Harbor were unaware that Japanese bombers were headed toward America's most important Pacific base.

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(U.S. Navy)

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 around 8 a.m., eventually killing 2,403 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 Pacific and the Nazis and other Axis powers in Europe.

Here are photographs from the attack and its immediate aftermath.

Amanda Macias and Kamelia Angelova contributed to an earlier version of this story.

On the morning of December 7, 1941, an attack planned by Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto to demobilize the US Navy was carried out.

One of more than 180 planes used in the attack. play

One of more than 180 planes used in the attack.

(AP)


Around 7 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.

An aerial view of Battleship Row in the opening moments of the raid. play

An aerial view of Battleship Row in the opening moments of the raid.

(U.S. Navy)


The Japanese hit most of the US ships in Oahu before 9 a.m.

A Japanese plane flying over Pearl Harbor as black smoke rises from the area. play

A Japanese plane flying over Pearl Harbor as black smoke rises from the area.

(AP)


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 respond.

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 respond. play

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 respond.

(U.S. Navy)


More than 90 ships were anchored at Pearl Harbor. The primary targets were the eight battleships in Battleship Row.

Battleship Row during the attack. play

Battleship Row during the attack.

(U.S. Navy)


The USS West Virginia, left, was one of the battleships to sink during the attack. The Japanese successfully damaged all eight.

The USS West Virginia (left) next to the USS Tennessee during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. play

The USS West Virginia (left) next to the USS Tennessee during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

(U.S. Navy)


At about 8:10 a.m., the USS Arizona exploded as a bomb ignited its forward ammunition magazine. About half of the total number of Americans killed that day were on this ship.

At about 8:10 a.m., the USS Arizona exploded as a bomb ignited its forward ammunition magazine. About half of the total number of Americans killed that day were on this ship. play

At about 8:10 a.m., the USS Arizona exploded as a bomb ignited its forward ammunition magazine. About half of the total number of Americans killed that day were on this ship.

(U.S. Navy)


Here's another picture of the USS Arizona.

Smoke rises from the USS Arizona battleship as it sinks after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. play

Smoke rises from the USS Arizona battleship as it sinks after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

(AP)


The USS Shaw, a destroyer, also exploded during the two-hour attack by Japan.

The USS Shaw, a destroyer, also exploded during the two-hour attack by Japan. play

The USS Shaw, a destroyer, also exploded during the two-hour attack by Japan.

(U.S. Navy)


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

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

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

(National Archives and Records Administration)


A Japanese plane hit by American naval antiaircraft fire was engulfed in flames. Fewer than 30 Japanese planes were lost in the attack.

A Japanese plane hit by American naval antiaircraft fire was engulfed in flames. Fewer than 30 Japanese planes were lost in the attack. play

A Japanese plane hit by American naval antiaircraft fire was engulfed in flames. Fewer than 30 Japanese planes were lost in the attack.

(AP)


About 190 US planes were destroyed, and another 159 were damaged.

Hickam Field near Pearl Harbor. play

Hickam Field near Pearl Harbor.

(AP)


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

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

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

(U.S. Navy)


People in New York's Times Square bought newspapers with headlines like this one, "Japs Attack US." The US entered World War II after the surprise attack.

People in New York's Times Square bought newspapers with headlines like this one, "Japs Attack US." The US entered World War II after the surprise attack. play

People in New York's Times Square bought newspapers with headlines like this one, "Japs Attack US." The US entered World War II after the surprise attack.

(AP)


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

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

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

(U.S. Navy)


About 10% of Japanese planes were lost on December 7, 1941.

A Japanese torpedo plane being hoisted from the bottom of the sea. play

A Japanese torpedo plane being hoisted from the bottom of the sea.

(AP)


The USS Oklahoma was considered too old to be worth repairing.

One of the Oklahoma's propellors peeking out from the water. play

One of the Oklahoma's propellors peeking out from the water.

(U.S. Navy)


Here, a Marine holds a piece of shrapnel removed from his arm after the attack.

Here, a Marine holds a piece of shrapnel removed from his arm after the attack. play

Here, a Marine holds a piece of shrapnel removed from his arm after the attack.

(US Marine Corps Photo)


Sailors participated in a memorial service for the more than 2,400 Americans killed in the attack.

Sailors participated in a memorial service for the more than 2,400 Americans killed in the attack. play

Sailors participated in a memorial service for the more than 2,400 Americans killed in the attack.

(Library of Congress)