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"New" Pearl Harbour photos are a cheap email propaganda fraud

By Gavin Gatenby
7 July 2007 1245 AM

A couple of hours ago I received, by email, a Powerpoint file purporting to reveal newly-discovered photos of the aftermath of the December 1941 Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbour.

The photos are incredibly dramatic but they certainly didn't, as claimed, come out of a Box Brownie that's suddenly turned up, after 66 years, in a locker somewhere. These "new" Pearl Harbour photos are genuine and probably all are from publicly-accessible archives. Why are they suddenly circulating now – proliferating everywhere – with this laughable story about having just been discovered?

A quick google shows that Photo No. 12 in the PP is a cropped version of a U.S. National Archives photo showing the USS Shaw exploding during the Japanese air raid. The full version is on the internet at:


And there are these obvious anomalies in other "Box Brownie" pics:

• Photo No. 5: a clockface appears in the lower right-hand side of the print (showing approximately 12.20 PM) I'm not sure what 1940s technology was used to produce this, but it appears in none of the other photos and if such a thing was integrated in any contemporary camera it certainly wasn't some sailor's Box Brownie.

• Photo No. 11: The hand-painted notation "7-35" appears in the left-hand corner of the photo. This can only be achieved by painting on the film negative with light-fast paint before making a print. In the old days, this was a standard professional technique (often seen on postcards), but it required that the photographer develop a negative and then paint the notation onto the negative with a fine brush before making prints. It can't just miraculously appear on a negative found in an old Box Brownie. In any case, "7-35" doesn't refer to a date or time so it's probably an archival number.

• Photo No. 13: The notation "rr" and what might be a "#" symbol appears in the right-hand corner of the shot. Also, the shot is extremely vertically compressed. Neither of these anomalies could magically appear on an undeveloped original negative of the period.

It's very, very, unlikely that original negatives could survive, undeveloped, in such good condition, for 66 years.

So why would such an obvious fake suddenly appear now, proliferating across the internet?Who benefits?

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour holds an iconic place in American nationalist consciousness. Recall that in September 2000 the neoconservative Project for a New American Century (PNAC) group hoped for a "new Pearl Harbour" to rally the American people to live out their manifest destiny to dominate the world.

This email exercise has the hallmarks of a cheap softening-up operation – aimed at gullible Americans – for a war on Iran, or Syria, or maybe both. It says: "Remember what happened last time! This time we'd better get in first!" The fact that there are such obvious errors in this exercise indicates that it's been done against the clock. That worries me.