Wartime Wednesday: First Photographs at Pearl Harbor
So, in 1982, the E. Stanley Wright Museum Foundation was established. It would be another ten years before David and his wife, Carole, found the perfect location in Wolfeboro, NH. In the early days, it wasn’t much, but apparently, word got out about its potential and how special it was going to be because Army photographer Lee Embree who was the first photographer to snap pictures during the attack at Pearl Harbor showed up one day at the Wright museum and offered David his photos.
Born in Iowa in 1915, Lee enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1936. Shortly thereafter, he was assigned
to the 38th Reconnaissance Squadron as an aerial photographer. By the time 1941 rolled around, he’d been promoted to staff sergeant. On the “day that will live in infamy, Lee had hitched a ride on one of twelve B-17 Flying Fortresses that was heading to Hawaii from California. He was headed to the Philippines along with a few other soldiers.
|Courtesy of Wright|
The planes all held skeleton crews of five and carried bomb sights and machine guns but no ammunition. The 2,400-mile flight required all the gasoline the aircraft could carry. Because the B-17s were expected, the inbound Japanese planes that showed up on radar were assumed to be the Americans.
As the pilots in the Flying Fortresses spotted the Hawaiian islands, they saw what they thought were burning sugar cane fields that bordered the air base. Not long after that, they noticed a group of fighter jets headed their way, and were glad to have escorts for the remaining miles to the field. To their dismay, the plans began to fire on them, and the bombers scattered.
During the mayhem, Embree grabbed his camera and began snapping pictures, many of which ended up in Life, Time, and other important periodicals of the time. Copies are at the National Archives. In a 2001 interview, he was asked why he didn’t take more photos than he did. His response: “I can only answer that I was so flabbergasted at what I saw I forgot about the camera that was in my hand.” He went on to say, “They passed us so close on the left, I could see the pilots’ faces. They were grinning from ear to ear. We were just very lucky. The plane was hit several times, but we weren’t.” On the third circle over Pearl Harbor, Embree’s plane was out of fuel and forced to land (still in the midst of the attack).
He passed away at the age of 92 in 2008.
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Aubry DeLuca storms the beaches at Normandy, then wakes up in the hospital, his eyes bandaged. Will he regain his sight? Will the only woman he’s ever loved welcome him home or is he destined to go through life blind and alone?
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