About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for the film December 7th

Greetings from the National Archives’ flagship building in Washington, DC, which sits on the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank peoples. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s screening of December 7th, presented in commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into the Second World War.

This screening is presented with our National Archives Motion Picture Preservation staff, and the film today will be introduced by Audrey Amidon from that staff.

Before we begin, I’d like to tell you about two programs coming up soon on our YouTube channel.

On Wednesday, December 8, at 1 p.m., Bruce A. Ragsdale will tell us about his new book, Washington at the Plow, which takes a fresh, original look at George Washington as an innovative land manager whose passion for farming would unexpectedly lead him to reject slavery.

And on Thursday, December 9, at 7 p.m., join us as Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer discusses his recently published book, The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics. Following the conversation with Justice Breyer, a panel of experts will respond and debate the central argument in his new text and other challenges facing the nation and the Court.

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Eighty years ago today, a surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, left the fleet in ruins and killed more than twenty-four hundred Americans. The next day, the United States declared war on Japan and became an active participant in the Second World War.

The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, is well documented in the holdings of the National Archives.

Photographs documenting the aftermath of the attack may be found in the General Photographic File of the Navy, Color Photographs of Signal Corps Activity, and Photographs of American Military Operations.

Our Cartographic Unit holds maps and aerial photographs depicting Pearl Harbor, as well as plans for ships that were present on December 7, 1941.

Among our textual records, logbooks of U.S. Navy ships give firsthand accounts of that Sunday morning, a Navy radiogram sent on December 7 to all ships in the Hawaiian area declares “this is no drill,” and Navy dispatches announce the attack to the U.S. mainland.

Because the bombing of Pearl Harbor was a surprise, there is very little American motion picture footage of the attack itself. As you will learn today, the vast majority of the footage in December 7th was recreated.

The film December 7th was created by director John Ford’s Field Photographic Unit and released by the U.S. Navy in 1943. The 20-minute film won the Academy Award in 1944 for Best Documentary Short Subject.

Today’s screening will show this award-winning film as well as Dia Toa News, a captured Japanese newsreel that chronicles the attack from their perspective. To set the context of these films from our holdings, we’ll hear from Audrey Amidon, a motion picture preservation specialist here at the National Archives.

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Audrey Amidon has worked in the National Archives Motion Picture Preservation Lab since 2006. In the lab, she and her colleagues preserve and make accessible the motion picture holdings of the National Archives, including the films you will be seeing today. In 2005, Audrey completed an MA in film studies and film archiving from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. She writes about the work of the lab and shares stories about our film holdings on NARA’s Unwritten Record blog.

Now let’s hear from Audrey Amidon and see December 7th. Thank you for joining us today.