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WWII History Uncovered

Calling all history enthusiasts!

Each week, we’ll share stories related to World War II and aviation. From historical movies, books and speeches to photos and artifacts, there is always something new to discover.

Check This Out / Listen To This / Watch This / Explore Our Collection / Explore Our Blog

Check This Out:

WWII Warbirds arrive at Pearl Harbor for 75th Commemoration of end of WWII

WWII Warbirds Arrive at Pearl Harbor

Check out these photos of the 14 WWII Warbirds that will participate in historic flyovers for the 75th Commemoration of the End of WWII!

 

BellX1 breaks sound barrier

History of Aviation Timeline

From the Wright brothers’ first flight to breaking the sound barrier, this FAA timeline marks all the important moments in aviation history!

 

Happy National Aviation Week!

August 19 marks National Aviation Day, which was established in 1939 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This holiday coincides with the birthday of Orville Wright who, together with his brother Wilbur, achieved the first successful flight in a self-propelled airplane in 1903. Watch real footage of these pioneers of aviation take flight.

 

Victory Celebrations on August 14, 1945

Victory Celebrations Mark the End of WWII

On August 14, 1945, Imperial Japan announces its unconditional surrender, effectively ending World War II.  Victory celebrations broke out around the United States and the world, reflecting the overwhelming sense of relief and joy felt by citizens of Allied nations at the end of the war.

 Though Japan surrendered in August, it wasn’t until a few weeks later, representatives signed the official Instrument of Surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri. This week, we look back on the historical events surrounding the end of WWII.

 

Victory Celebrations Gallery

End of WWII Photo Gallery

The war is over! Check out these photos taken from around the world of different people celebrating the end of  WWII.

 

The Battle of Guadalcanal

The Battle of Guadalcanal

August 7 marks the anniversary of the beginning of the first major offense by Allied forces against Japan. The objective of the Allies was to use the Guadalcanal and Tulagi bases to eventually capture or neutralize the Japanese base at Rabaul. Several naval, land, and aerial attacks took place for about six months until the Japanese abandoned their efforts to retake Guadalcanal and evacuated their forces.

The Battle of Guadalcanal was significant as the Allies transitioned from defensive to offensive operations and preceded various other offensive attacks in the Pacific, ultimately leading to Japan’s surrender in 1945.

 

Cactus Airforce

The Cactus Air Force

The island of Guadalcanal was code named “cactus” by the Allied forces. Learn more about the role of the Cactus Air Force and their airplanes with the resource below!

 

Amelia Earhart

July 24: Amelia Earhart Day 

Amelia Earhart is known as a trailblazer of aviation. Earhart made history as the first female to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, and set numerous altitude, endurance, and speed records in the 1930s. In June of 1937, Earhart set out on a journey to become the first pilot to circumnavigate the globe. Unfortunately, she never returned home and it’s still unknown what went wrong on her final flight. On July 24, we celebrate the life and legacy of this brave pilot as we recognize National Amelia Earhart Day.

Earhart was also a founding member and the first President of the Ninety-Nines, an international organization supporting female pilots that still exists today.

 

Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Vega

Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Vega 5B

Amelia Earhart set many aviation records while flying this aircraft. Further explore photos and facts about her beloved airplane!

 

Buzz Aldrin during the first moonwalk in 1969

51st Anniversary of the Moonwalk 

At the beginning of the 1960s, President John F. Kennedy announced an ambitious goal to send Americans safely to the moon before the end of the decade. On July 20th, 1969, the dream became reality when Neil Armstrong made history as the first man to walk on the moon. This week, we celebrate the anniversary of those historic steps and recognize the many advancements in aerospace technology since!

 

USS Arizona Timeline

Interactive Timeline: USS Arizona

Uncover the history of the USS Arizona through this timeline that details everything from the battleship’s construction and launch, all the way to its destruction during the Pearl Harbor attack.

 

Interesting Fourth of July Facts

Did you know that on July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the Declaration of Independence was finalized, former U.S. Presidents and authors of the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, reportedly died just hours apart? Click below to discover other little-known facts about July Fourth.

 

Pearl Harbor Then and Now Photos

Pearl Harbor: Then and Now

Check out these incredible photo illustrations created by the U.S. Navy, comparing destructive scenes from December 7, 1941, to the present day.

 

The Night of Dec. 7

The Deadly Night of Dec. 7, 1941

When the light faded on Dec. 7, 1941, darkness consumed an island filled with fear and on guard against a new enemy. Read how this led to a tragic incident that left three pilots killed on Ford Island — all by friendly fire.

 

Ford Island

Ford Island: America’s WWII Battlefield

When you visit Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, you are standing on America’s WWII Battlefield — the only place where you can walk on the ground and visit the structures that withstood the historic Pearl Harbor attack.

Visit us to discover how aviation rose out of the ashes of December 7, 1941, to inspire hope and galvanize a nation to overcome.

Click below to learn more about the Ford Island battlefield during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

 

Battle of Philippine Sea

Two Historic Pacific War Battles

This week in history was notable for two important WWII battles. On June 19-20, 1944, the U.S. eliminated the Japanese Navy’s ability to conduct large scale carrier actions in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, otherwise known as the Marianas Turkey Shoot.

About one year later, on June 22, 1945, the last major battle of Word War II, the Battle of Okinawa, came to an end. Although it resulted in an Allied victory, both sides suffered enormous losses, marking it as one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific Theater.

 

Flag Day

Flag Day and U.S. Army 245th Birthday

On June 14, 1775, the Continental Army was created as a unified fighting force against its colonial oppressors. Today, 245 years later, members of the U.S. Army continue to defend and protect America by answering the call to serve.

Exactly two years after the formation of the Army, on June 14, 1777, a resolution was passed stating: “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation.”

This was the first “American” flag, which became a new symbol of freedom for our young nation — a symbol that we continue to honor today and everyday.

 

Battle of Midway photos

Battle of Midway Photo Collection

On June 4, 1942, the decisive Battle of Midway began. Just six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan devised a plan to defeat the U.S. Pacific Fleet in a surprise attack aimed at the Allied base at Midway Island. Check out these photos of this epic battle from the Naval History & Heritage Command.

 

Five questions with project recover

5 Questions With Project Recover

Project Recover is a collaborative effort to enlist 21st century science and technology in a quest to find and repatriate Americans missing in action since WWII.

Their work “blends historical data from many different sources to optimize underwater search areas with scanning sonar, high definition and thermal cameras, advanced diving and unmanned aerial and underwater robotic technologies.”

Read this fascinating Q&A blog with Director of Project Recover, Dr. Pat Scannon.

 

Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) of WWII

Organized in September 1942 as a way to free up more male pilots for combat roles abroad, the WASPs worked as test pilots, flight instructors and ferry pilots that transported planes off the assembly line and to Army bases around the country and abroad.

This incredible online WASP exhibit, created by the National Women’s History Museum, uncovers the unique history of this pioneering force of brave women

 

75th Anniversary of V-E Day Video Tribute

Watch this special V-E Day video tribute to those who served on the front lines of WWII. Award winning broadcast journalist David Hartman introduces you to Veterans 75 Years later. Hear their stories.

 

Ansel Adams Photos of Japanese-American Interment at Manzanar

These photos taken by one of America’s most well-known photographers, Ansel Adams, reveal the daily life of hundreds of Japanese-Americans interned at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California in 1943.

 

Hollandia Landing: Actual Footage

The Battle of Hollandia (code-named Operation Reckless) began on April 22, 1944, with Army forces landing on 3 beachheads near Hollandia, New Guinea. Within four days, the airfields at these beachheads were in American hands and the U.S. had secured 175 miles of the northern New Guinea coast.

 

Leave A Message For A Veteran

The Friends of the National World War II Memorial are asking you to remember our “Greatest Generation” during this challenging time for our nation and the world, by leaving a message of encouragement or appreciation for a veteran. This simple and rewarding gesture might just make the day of our veteran heroes.

 

USS Bowfin Submarine

Take a deeper dive into Pearl Harbor history by checking out our Pearl Harbor Historic Site partner, USS Bowfin Submarine and Park. The USS Bowfin (SS-287) is a fleet attack submarine that fought in the Pacific during WWII. Launched on Dec. 7, 1942, exactly one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, she was nicknamed the Pearl Harbor Avenger. Learn more about the history of the Bowfin on their website and Facebook page.

 

Rarely Seen WWII Photos

This collection of World War II combat photos taken by Edward Steichen and his colleagues will leave you speechless. Get a glimpse into what life was like for service members during the war and gain new perspective through incredible photos of historic battles in the Pacific Theater.


Listen To This:

President Truman Announces Japan’s Surrender

Watch this video to hear President Harry S. Truman’s announcement of Japan surrender to the Allies.

 

USS Arizona Survivor Lauren Bruner

At age 21, Lauren Bruner became one of the few onboard the USS Arizona to survive the Pearl Harbor attack. Listen as the Purple Heart recipient tells the story of December 7, 1941 from his point of view.

 

Pearl Harbor Survivor Stories

Listen to this short clip from the History Channel featuring a number of Pearl Harbor survivors sharing their firsthand accounts of the attack and offering insight on the lessons to be learned from that day.

 

“Surviving the Battle of Okinawa” Memoir

Follow along as World War II Marine,Ted Estridge, recalls his experience from the Battle of Okinawa, known for being the deadliest battle in the Pacific War.

 

Boy with flag

Short Clip: The 50 Star Flag

Did you know the current 50 star American Flag was designed as a school project? Click below to meet the creator, Bob Heft, and find out the full story.

 

Short Clip: Dick Girocco

Listen to late Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum volunteer and Pearl Harbor survivor Dick Girocco recount the first 12 seconds of the attack.

 

V-E Day Commemoration Playlist

A powerful selection of nostalgic wartime music from some of the world’s best-loved singers to help you celebrate V-E Day 75.

Charles E. McGee Oral History

Retired Brigadier General Charles E. McGee tells of his time as a soldier in three wars. McGee fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and holds the record for the highest three-war total of fighter combat missions of any pilot in U.S. Air Force history. His military service began as one of the Tsukegee Airmen in the 332nd Fighter Group, famed pioneers who fought racial prejudices to fly and fight for their country in WWII.

 

Louis Zamperini Oral History

Italian-American Olympian Louis Zamperini spent 47 days floating on a raft at sea after a near-fatal plane crash over the Pacific. He was captured by the Japanese and became a Prisoner of War. Listen to his story in his own words.

 

Richard E. Cole Oral History

Listen to Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole recount his experience as copilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid in this incredible oral history captured by The National WWII Museum.

 

“Man-On-The-Street” Interviews

These recordings will transport you back into time. On Dec. 8, 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, fieldworkers in ten different localities across the U.S. were sent out to collect “man-on-the-street” reactions of ordinary Americans to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the subsequent declaration of war by the United States.

 

Top Music Hits of 1942

Music played a big role in the lives of Americans, both soldiers and civilians, during World War II. It was the first major conflict to take place in the age of electronically distributed mass music. From the Bing Crosby classic “White Christmas” to Glenn Miller’s “(I’ve got a gal in) Kalamazoo” and Kay Kyser’s “Praise The Lord & Pass The Ammunition,” Swing and Big Band music provided a source of joy and an escape from the woes of war.

“Day of Infamy” Speech

We’ve all heard of it, but have you actually listened to it? On December 8th, 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his declaration of war address to Congress and to the nation. He called the surprise attack, a “date which will live in infamy.”

 


Watch This:

Kissing the War Goodbye

You’ve probably seen the iconic photo of the sailor and nurse kissing as they celebrate the end of WWII. Watch this video to hear the full story!

 

Watch the Final Moments of Amelia Earhart on the Ground

Take a look at some of the last footage of Amelia Earhart on the ground before her mysterious disappearance in 1937, before she took off on from a California airstrip.

 

Apollo 11 Documentary

Check out this documentary, featuring never-before-seen high resolution footage from NASA’s monumental mission on the Apollo 11 that first put men on the moon.

 

Time-lapse Video: USS Arizona Exhibit Installation

Watch the behind-the-scenes installation of our newest exhibit, “A Piercing Blow: The Aerial Attack on the USS Arizona.” The exhibit was carefull moved from the Museum’s Hangar 79 to Hangar 37, where it is proudly displayed today.

 

“The Swamp Ghost” Documentary

Tune into the History Channel on July 4 and 5 to watch “The Swamp Ghost,”  a documentary chronicling the recovery of more than a dozen WWII American military airmen and their historic B-17 and B-25 aircraft.

 

5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Attack on Pearl Harbor

We all know about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, killing 2,403 service members and launching the U.S. into World War II — but did you know while military forces worked to rebuild Pearl Harbor in the weeks following, the Japanese initiated a plan to attack Oahu for a second time?

This short clip reveals five things you didn’t know about the attack on Pearl Harbor.

 

Movie Night: Hacksaw Ridge

This film focuses on the real life experiences of Desmond Doss, an American combat medic who refused to use any kind of weapon while serving in WWII. Doss was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his service during the Battle of Okinawa. Available for purchase on Amazon, YouTube or DVD.

 

Movie Night: MIDWAY

This Hollywood blockbuster, based on the real-life events of this heroic feat, tells the story of the leaders and soldiers of this epic battle. Available for purchase on Amazon, YouTube or DVD.

 

Video: How Did the Battle of Midway Happen?

Watch this detailed video about the decisive battle that turned the tide of the war, as told from the Japanese perspective.

 

PBS NOVA: Identifying Lost Crew with Forensics and DNA Analysis

Watch as forensic archaeologists use DNA analysis to identify the lost crew of a WWII B-24 Liberator Bomber.

 

Sunken Roads: D-Day Movie

“Sunken Roads: Three Generations After D-Day”

Don McCarthy was 20 years old on D-Day, when his infantry division landed on Omaha Beach in 1944. In “Sunken Roads,” 20-year old filmmaker Charlotte Juergens joins Don and seven other D-Day veterans on a journey back to France — a commemorative pilgrimage to Omaha Beach for the anniversary of the invasion.

Don’t wait! This film will be available to watch for 18 days only – the sneak preview ends on Sunday, June 21.

 

Pearl harbor Attack footage

Rare Pearl Harbor Attack Footage

Watch this very rare footage of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 from the Navy History and Heritage Command.

 

Biography: Amelia Earhart

Watch this biography about the accomplished female pilot who mysteriously disappeared somewhere over the Pacific in 1937.

 

Short Clip: Bessie Coleman

Watch how “Brave Bessie” became the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license and discover her journey to becoming a stunt pilot.

 

Winston Churchill’s V-E Day Announcement

Watch Winston Churchill’s broadcast officially announcing the end of the war in Europe on May 8, 1945.

 

Honouliuli: Hawaii’s Hidden Internment Camp

Have you heard of Honoluliuli? By March 1943, the internment camp that spanned 160 acres on Oahu’s west side became the largest POW camp in Hawaii. Watch this short video Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii to learn more.

 

Unbroken, The Unbelievable True Story

A powerful true story based on Olympian Louis Zamperini’s harrowing experience during WWII. He survived in a raft for 47 days after a near-fatal plane crash in WWII—only to be caught by the Japanese Navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.

 

How the U.S. Killed Admiral Yamamoto

Exactly one year after the Doolittle Raid, the U.S. launched Operation Vengeance to kill the mastermind behind the attack on Pearl Harbor. Watch The Potillo Expedition: Mystery on Bougainville Island by Tim Gray and The WWII Foundation, following a crew of explorers to Bougainville, New Guinea to visit the remote site of the plane wreck of famed Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s crashed Betty Bomber.

 

Doolittle’s Raiders

Many of the names of the 80 flyers who took part in the April 18, 1942 raid on Japan may not be familiar to most, but collectively they will always be known in history as the Doolittle Raiders. Long ago these American flyers, aboard 16 B-25 bombers, had accomplished a daring mission that changed the morale of an entire nation.

 

Warbirds in Review 2019

Watch 14 hours of FREE premium aviation content from the EAA Warbirds of America. “Warbirds in Review” presents legendary pilots and military aircraft of the past 75 years. See aviation legends such as Bud Anderon, Bob Hoover, Patrick Brady and others up close with aircraft types they flew in combat, testing or training.

 

4-4-43: Lt. Col. William Edwin Dyess and The Greatest Story of the War in the Pacific

As we approach National Former POW Recognition Day on April 9, we’d like to share 4-4-43: Lt. Col. William Edwin Dyess and The Greatest Story of the War in the Pacific, the true story of ten American prisoners of war and two Filipino convicts who escaped from one of Japan’s most notorious prison camps.

 

Lifeline: Pearl Harbor’s Unknown Hero

This captivating documentary film by Tim Gray and the World War II Foundation reveals the story of Joe George, a Pearl Harbor hero who remained nameless until decades after the attack. George saved six sailors from the USS Arizona during the attack by throwing a line from the nearby USS Vestal.


Explore The Museum:

SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber Blog

Douglas SBD Dauntless Scout / Dive Bomber

Learn more about the Dauntless and its major role operating off carriers and Henderson Field during the Battle of Guadalcanal in this blog post!

 

Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat (Fighter)

This durable airplane was critical to WWII and the Battle of Guadalcanal. Watch the video below to check out the Museum’s very own Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat!

 

The F-15 Eagle

The F-15 Eagle

In 1969, McDonnell Douglas began development of the Air Force’s next generation fighter. The resulting aircraft was the sophisticated F-15 Eagle. It’s first flight was on July 27, 1972.

 

The F-5A Freedom Fighter

The F-5A Freedom Fighter

Small, simple and supersonic, Northrop’s lightweight fighter, the F-5A, entered service in 1964 and immediately won 85% of weapons competitions. It’s first flight was on July 31, 1963.

 

Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum's B-17, nicknamed "Swamp Ghost."

The B-17 “Swamp Ghost”

In 1935, Boeing created the B-17, a long-range bomber that became an icon of strategic air power. Its first flight was on July 28, 1935. Click below to learn why the Museum’s B-17 is so special.

 

Amelia Earhart's crash on Ford Island

Amelia Earhart’s 1937 Crash on Ford Island

Ford Island, the residence of Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, is the center of many historical events. Read our blog post about Amelia Earhart’s crash on the runway of Ford Island.

 

Hangar 37 Blog

Hangar 37

Today, Hangar 37 is the entry point for visitors to the Museum. On the day of the attack, it was the hangar for utility squadron VJ-1, which fired back at the enemy from machine guns in the back seats of its J2F-1 “Duck” amphibious biplanes.

 

SBD Dauntless

Douglas SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber

This aircraft is best remembered as the bomber that delivered fatal blows to Japanese carriers in the Battle of Midway.

 

F-4c phantom

F-4C Phantom II

In its air-to-ground role, the F-4C could carry twice the payload of a World War II B-17.

 

The bombs of the second wave

The Bombs of the Second Wave

On Dec. 7, 1941 at 8:50 a.m., just minutes after the first wave ended, a second wave of Japanese planes arrived at Pearl Harbor.

 

Douglas C-47 “Cheeky Charlie”

The Douglas C-47 has been lovingly referred to as America’s do-anything go-anywhere WWII airplane. The versatile Douglas C-47 could be used for troop and cargo transport, dropping paratroops, towing a glider, medical evacuation, and virtually any other task assigned to it.

 

Doolittle Raid Aircraft #13

Read this riveting firsthand account from the pilot of aircraft #13 of the famed Doolittle Raid. He flew one of the 16 B-25 bombers that avenged Pearl Harbor on April 18, 1942.

 

“You Are There”

The Museum may be closed, but you can still explore our grounds through “You Are There,” a series of signage that shares interesting highlights from this National Historic Landmark. Located on Ford Island in hangars that withstood the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Museum tells the stories of aviation in the Pacific and pays tribute to the aviators who defended freedom.

 

The Zero

When American pilots first encountered the Zero, they were stunned. The Zero had nearly complete initial dominance, which is sometimes attributed to its high speed. In reality, however, the Zero was rather modest in straight-line speed, with a maximum speed of about 317 to 332 mph.

 

The Flying Tigers

Have you heard of the Flying Tigers? After the attack on Pearl Harbor and the string of Japanese victories across Asia and the Pacific that followed, U.S. morale was at rock bottom. That was until a group of 100 pilots hired by the Chinese made their mark defending Burma and China in P-40 Warhawks nicknamed “Flying Tigers.”

 

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