Under the Radar

Pearl Harbor: A New Perspective on Smithsonian's 'The Lost Tapes'

For the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Smithsonian Channel has managed to find a fascinating new way to tell the story of the day that finally brought the United States into World War II. The Lost Tapes: Pearl Harbor is entirely taken directly from original sources. Primary media sources like radio reports, film footage, audio recordings, photos, wire dispatches and first-person accounts are combined to tell the story from an in-the-moment perspective. Check out a clip from the program below:

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The program premieres on Smithsonian Channel on Sunday, December 4 at 9:00 pm ET/PT, and also airs Monday, Dec. 5 at 8:00 pm ET/PT and Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 9:00 pm ET/PT.

Obviously, any history program is going to be influenced by later events and how things turned out. By concentrating on what people said and thought in 1941, this show aims to give some in-the-moment perspective on the "Day of Infamy." Some of the primary media sources used in The Lost Tapes: Pearl Harbor have not been seen or heard in over 70 years.

According to the producers, the following rare materials have not been used in any other documentary:

  • Audio recording of meeting with FDR and an advisor in Oval Office regarding Japanese threats, 1940
  • Live radio reports from Manila during the Japanese bombing the day after, on December 8 — it’s a part of the attack that’s almost always forgotten 
  • Radio broadcast of the Japanese general declaring war on the U.S.
  • Original draft of Declaration of War on Japan document
  • Written Navy dispatches regarding the attack

Other rare materials:

  • KGU (Honolulu radio) — the only known recording of a radio report made during the attack.  The recording is heard here in its entirety
  • Famed American folklorist Alan Lomax’s man-on-the-street interviews the day after the attack. These particular interviews have not been featured in any other documentary, although other ones from Lomax are online.
  • Original radio broadcast introducing Day of Infamy speech – A different part used on another documentary
  • Photos from Norfolk Public Library of Japanese people being held after attack
  • Don McNeill's Breakfast Club from 12/8 (rarely heard)
  • Harry Soria's Voice of Hawaii broadcast from 12/6/41 — last evening’s Hawaii variety show broadcast before the attack. (rarely heard)

Future episodes of the series (airing in 2017) will examine the 1977 Son of Sam killings in NYC, the 1975 kidnapping of heiress Patricia Hearst and the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

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