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“This Is No Joke: This Is War”: A Live Radio Broadcast of the Attack on Pearl Harbor

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, stunned virtually everyone in the U.S. military. American intelligence, with the benefit of intercepted Japanese messages, had known for some time that Japan was planning an assault, but military leaders had no idea precisely when and where. Hawaii, they assumed, was so far away from Japan that the Japanese navy could never mount an effective attack. Japan’s carrier-launched bombers found Pearl Harbor totally unprepared. A radio broadcast from station KTU in Honolulu the day of the attack captured the events as they unfolded over several hours. From the roof of a Honolulu office building, the radio reporter described significant damage. Apparently, he was calling New York City on the phone, while the New York station broadcast his call to the nation at large.

Listen to Audio:

Reporter: Hello, NBC. Hello, NBC. This is KTU in Honolulu, Hawaii. I am speaking from the roof of the Advertiser Publishing Company Building. We have witnessed this morning the distant view a brief full battle of Pearl Harbor and the severe bombing of Pearl Harbor by enemy planes, undoubtedly Japanese. The city of Honolulu has also been attacked and considerable damage done. This battle has been going on for nearly three hours. One of the bombs dropped within fifty feet of KTU tower. It is no joke. It is a real war. The public of Honolulu has been advised to keep in their homes and away from the Army and Navy. There has been serious fighting going on in the air and in the sea. The heavy shooting seems to be . . . a little interruption. We cannot estimate just how much damage has been done, but it has been a very severe attack. The Navy and Army appear now to have the air and the sea under control.

Operator: Ah, just a minute. . . . This is the telephone company. This is the operator.

Reporter: Yes.

Operator: We have quite a big call, an emergency call.

Reporter: We’re talking to New York now.

Source: Courtesy of the Michigan State University, G. Robert Vincent Voice Library.

See Also:The "Man in the Street" Reacts to Pearl Harbor
"A Date Which Will Live in Infamy": FDR Asks for a Declaration of War