The shock of Pearl Harbor

The Japanese bombing of the US naval base in Pearl Harbor 75 years ago sent a seismic shock around the world. Nicholas Best charts how stunned onlookers across the planet – from Dirk Bogarde to Adolf Hitler to Mao Zedong – reacted to the news

The USS Arizona burning in Pearl Harbor following the Japanese attack. To the left of her are USS Tennessee and the sunken USS West Virginia. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Joan Fawcett rose early on the morning of 7 December 1941. The 21-year-old Englishwoman was a passenger aboard the Dutch ship Jägersfontein, travelling to India from San Francisco. After several days at sea, she was looking forward to arriving in Honolulu soon after breakfast. Joan didn’t want to miss a moment as the ship approached the Hawaiian island of Oahu from the south.

The other passengers were up early too. They were all enjoying the view of Diamond Head as they prepared to enter harbour. To add to the fun, the US navy was carrying out some sort of naval exercise ahead of them. As Joan later recalled: “I noticed a few puffs of grey smoke in the sky, just over the harbour, and as they seemed queer clouds I asked the boys what explanation they could give and we decided that they were the puffs from anti-aircraft fire.

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