December 7, 1941. “A date,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt told the nation, “which will live in infamy.” The surprise attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor began at 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time under a clear sky — perfect conditions for the swarms of Japanese fighter pilots to drop their bombs.
The images from that day are apocalyptic. Battleships obliterated, planes destroyed. Smoke. Flames. The next day, as the images of the carnage that killed 2,403 American men, women and children spread throughout the world, Roosevelt declared war on Japan. Not long after that, Italy and Germany declared war on the U.S.
The world was at war, and America was now in it.
This picture, taken by a Japanese photographer, shows how American ships are clustered together before the surprise Japanese aerial attack on Pear Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Minutes later the full impact of the assault was felt and Pearl Harbor became a flaming target. [Associated Press] Believed to be the first bomb dropped on Pearl Harbor in the sneak-attack on Dec. 7, 1941, this picture was found torn to pieces at Yokusuka Base by photographer's mate 2/C Martin J. Shemanski of Plymouth, Pa. One Japanese plane is shown pulling out of a dive near bomb eruption, center, and another the air at upper right. [Associated Press] A boy and a woman carrying a dog flee toward quarters during the attack on Pearl Harbor. A neighbor, Mary Naiden, then an army hostess, exclaimed, "There are red circles on those planes overhead. They are Japanese!" [Photo by Mary Naiden via Associated Press] Anti-aircraft gunners of the U.S. Army who fired on the Japanese planes during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, in Wheeler Field, Hawaii. [Associated Press] American ships burn during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. [Associated Press] The destroyer USS Shaw explodes after being hit by bombs during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. [Associated Press] Three U.S. battleships are hit from the air during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Japan's bombing of U.S. military bases at Pearl Harbor brings the U.S. into World War II. From left are: USS West Virginia, severely damaged; USS Tennessee, damaged; and USS Arizona, sunk. [Associated Press] An undamaged light cruiser steams out past the burning USS Arizona and takes to sea with the rest of the fleet during the Japanese aerial attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, during World War II. [U.S. Navy photo via AP] Troops man 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. [Associated Press] Black smoke rises from the burning wrecks of several U.S. Navy battleships after they had been bombed during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. [Associated Press] In this image provided by the U.S. Navy, sailors stand among wrecked airplanes at Ford Island Naval Air Station as they watch the explosion of the USS Shaw in the background, during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. [U.S. Navy photo via AP] Heavy black smoke billows as oil burns from shattered fuel tanks on ships that were hit during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, during World War II. Visible through the murk is the U.S. battleship Maryland, center, and the hulk of the capsized USS Oklahoma to the right of it. [U.S. Navy photo via AP] A Japanese dive bomber goes into its last dive as it heads toward the ground in flames after it was hit by naval anti-aircraft fire during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. [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 Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. [Associated Press] The front page of an extra edition of the St. Petersburg Times for Dec. 7, 1941, announcing the attack on Pearl Harbor. [Times] President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the declaration of war after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor at the White House on Dec. 8, 1941, at 3:08 p.m. Watching from left to right are, Rep. Sol Bloom, D-N.Y.; Rep. Luther Johnson, D-Texas; Rep. Charles A. Eaton, R-N.J.; Rep. Joseph Martin, R-Mass.; Vice President Henry A. Wallace; House Speaker Sam Rayburn, D-Texas; Rep. John McCormack, D-Mass.; Sen. Charles L. McNary, R-Ore.; Sen. Alben W. Barkley, D-Ky.; Sen. Carter Glass, D-Va.; and Sen. Tom Connally, D-Texas. [Associated Press] Hawaii residents comb through wreckage on Dec. 17, 1941, after Japanese bombing raids on December 7. [Associated Press]