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Japanese Pilot’s Map of Pearl Harbor Attack Now at Library

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Mitsuo Fuchida had one of the more interesting lives of the 20th century. He led the Japanese strike force in the attack on Pearl Harbor, briefed the Emperor on its success and was critically injured in the Battle of Midway. After the war, he converted to Christianity and became an evangelist in the United States. His after-action sketch of the Pearl Harbor attack is now in the Library’s collections. Ryan Moore, a cartographic collection specialist now detailed to the History and Military Science Section, contributed to this report.

Photo by a Japanese pilot coming in behind a fellow bomber during the Pearl Harbor attack. Prints and Photographs Division.

Just before 8 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, Mitsuo Fuchida, leader of the Japanese strike force in the attack on Pearl Harbor, radioed his force: “To-ra! To-ra! To-ra!” It was the signal that they had achieved complete surprise.

During the next two hours, during two waves of attacks, he circled above as his fliers killed more than 2,400 Americans, sank four battleships and ignited war between the two nations.

On Dec. 26, he was back in Tokyo, walking into a small room in the imperial palace. At one end was an elevated platform, about two feet high. A court official walked through, wafting incense. Then Emperor Hirohito entered, wearing the uniform of a “naval generalissimo,” sat down on the elevated platform and listened to a briefing from the men who carried out the attack.

Mitsuo Fuchida’s battle report of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Geography and Maps Division.

The heart of Fuchida’s presentation was his rectangular, hand-drawn map of the harbor and the ships that had been struck. It was mostly accurate, detailed and highly classified. He used a photo enlargement of it to make it easier to see during the presentation.

Today, Fuchida’s original Pearl Harbor map — a one-of-a-kind artifact from a critical moment in world history, made by the person who carried it out — finally rests in the Library’s Geography and Map Division. Its official title is “Estimated Damage Report Against Surface Ships on the Air Attack of Pearl Harbor.” It was purchased from the Miami-Dade Public Library in 2018, ending an odyssey of more than three quarters of a century in which the map was primarily kept in the private collection of Gordon W. Prange, chief historian of U.S. Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

“This was made in almost real time,” says Paulette Hasier, chief of the G&M Division, leaning over the map on a recent afternoon, pointing out details. Fuchida put the map together after consulting with dozens of other pilots and military staff during the voyage back to Japan. “Fuchida crafted this cartographic piece himself, but he didn’t do it without a lot of help from others.”

The map is in good shape on slightly yellowed paper, measures 31 by 24 inches, and is stored in a large conservation box. When the cover is pulled off, the map beneath is a surprising jolt of color.

It depicts an aerial view of the harbor and is labeled 軍極秘 (Top Secret) in red in the upper right corner. Using Tokyo time, Fuchida dated it 8 December 1941 and titled it in traditional Japanese calligraphy.

He carefully drew 60 ships in green, blue and yellow watercolors. He did not generally include the names of ships but instead provided their type and size. Fuchida indicated the level of damage with categories such as minor, moderate, serious and sunk. He noted the types of torpedoes and bombs used. He told the Emperor he thought it was about 80 percent correct, which, given that the pilots were making visual assessments at high speed while under fire, was impressive. His one major error was astonishing: the failure to note the sinking of the USS Arizona, by far the most lethal strike of the day. The Arizona wreckage was obscured by such thick black smoke that it could not be seen clearly from the air.

For comparison: A Navy map of the ships at Pearl Harbor just prior to the attack. Photo: Associated Press. Prints and Photographs Division.

The red arrows depicting torpedoes are still bright, as are the red “X” markings that denote a bomb strike. The orange of billowing fires is still clear. The desperate maneuvers of the battleship USS Nevada to attempt to escape the harbor are marked by a series of elliptical dashes.

Beneath the ink are pencil marks, showing his original outlines.

“It’s not your standard military map in black and white,” Hasier said.  “Obviously, this was made for a presentation. There’s a bit of showmanship.”

The map’s authenticity isn’t questioned, largely thanks to Fuchida. He was one of the few pilots who attacked Pearl Harbor to survive the war – Naval History magazine estimated in 2016 that fewer than 10 percent of Fuchida’s squadron lived to see the end of the conflict. Fuchida himself was badly injured in the Battle of Midway and was hospitalized for nearly a year. After the war, he converted to Christianity, renounced Japan’s aggression, and often toured the United States as an evangelist. Sometime in 1946, Fuchida gave the map to Prange. The historian kept it for the rest of his life, as he wrote definitive accounts of war battles, including “At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor.” His notes became the background for the 1970 film, “Tora! Tora! Tora!”

Fuchida died in 1976; Prange in 1980.

After Prange’s death, scholars Donald Goldstein and Katherine Dillon edited many of Prange’s unpublished manuscripts and encountered Fuchida’s map. The Library almost acquired the map in 1994, as a gift from Goldstein’s publisher, but the opportunity passed, for reasons that are now not clear.

The map was sold at auction in 1994 to the Malcolm Forbes Collection, which sold it to the Jay I. Kislak Foundation in 2013. Kislak donated it to the Miami Dade College and, in 2018, that institution sold it to the LOC.

It now rests as a permanent marker of the “date that will live in infamy,” in President Franklin Roosevelt’s iconic words, in America’s national library.

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Comments (12)

  1. Mitsuo Fuchida testimony how his hate was turned into love because he became a Christian then became a propagator of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s exactly what 2 Cor 2:17 said would happen to anyone who puts their trust in Jesus Christ. “Therefore if any man be in Christ he a new creature….”

  2. JUst recently I watched a movie entitled, RED JOAN. Its concern was the atomic bomb. Then yesterday (March 16, 2020) I had just purchased another DVD of footage of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombs were dropped. Its odd how information (rather dispersed yet connected) tend to come in in waves. On another front, this confirms that sometimes one’s doodles can become valuable.

  3. Thanks! Those are extremely useful information – Paso Pro

  4. Very good article impressive God bless Captain Fuchida , God is a forgiving God Col. Bryan hunt 31st field Lightfoot

  5. Can the words ‘beautifully rendered’ be applied in this case? I think so ..

  6. It looks like something developed during the debriefing of the pilots. The damage done is simply incredible. We are so fortunate that our carriers were at sea that morning .

  7. This is quite beautifully designed. I’m glad that it’s at the Library of Congress.

    OTOH, I’m not quite sure how one can spout God is Forgiving, but at the same time condemn those for making choices that you find debatable or morally disruptive Bryan.

  8. Wonderful things to learn of, the associated press illustration was the first time I had seen an overall document in English of the position of all the ships on Pearl Harbor day at anchorage! I’ve seen illustrations of those sank and destroyed but never the full field!

  9. Notice USS Solace north of Ford Island.
    Dr. Eric Haakenson was on it on December 7, 1941 with his new color camera that took the explosion photo of the USS Arizona explosion.
    Dr. Haakenson shot film of aircraft doing touch and go landings at Ford Island on December 6, 1941 because I surmise he was planning to take pictures of the attack on the next day sunday morning. He was ready for the attack at sunrise when most of us would be sleeping on a Sunday morning. Nothing was scheduled like a presidential motorcade in Dallas Texas. No event was scheduled, yet he was ready to take color fi/m of the attack like how Academy award winner John Ford was sent to Midway to film the attack on Midway. FDR knew the attack was coming to Hawaii because FBI Shriver told Captain Burns a week before the attack that Japan was going to attack Pearl Harbor. See page 35 of John A. Burns: The Man and His Times. Secretary of State Hull talked to his friend Joe Lieb on November 30 that Japan was going to attack Pearl Harbor. Mr. Lieb asked him if FBR Hoover knew about this information. Answer yes. And this was passed to FBI Shriver in Hawaii. Tai Hong Honolulu Hawaii

  10. Thank you Library of Congress for making this important part of history so readily available on the Internet and keeping meticulous records validating its authenticity. Keep up the great work!

  11. Would love to see any other maps (from crashed airplanes and the mini-sub).

    Its interesting the the map doesn’t even show the submarine base. Submarines ended up sinking 55% of the tonnage that Japan lost.

  12. I remember vividly when Don Goldstein told me that he had auctioned off this map–perhaps in 1998 when we were consultants for the National Park Service out in Honolulu. It is difficult to relate how upset I was at the time. In the end, however, it was only important that this precious document came into the custody of the Library of Congress. I will be eternally grateful for that.

    Mike Wenger
    Raleigh, NC

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