NORTH AURORA – As a Navy photographer stationed in 1966 on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Dick Hartkopp decided one day to look into a filing cabinet full of archived negatives.
He was astonished by what he saw – slides depicting the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and its aftermath.
“These were actual shots of what was going on at the time,” Hartkopp said.
Today marks the 71st anniversary of the attack, which killed more than 2,000 American soldiers and sailors.
At his home in North Aurora, the 68-year-old has close to 100 photos of what happened that day after taking the negatives that he found and blowing them up to photos.
“I had access to all the negatives,” he said. “I went into a dark room one night and printed them.”
Hartkopp said he is amazed at how close the photographers got to the action.
“It would have really been scary,” he said. “I don’t know how these guys were able to get around and take those photos, and see something like this going up in smoke in front of your eyes.”
While he was stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hartkopp had the chance to see the USS Arizona Memorial, which is built over the sunken wreckage of the USS Arizona, the final resting place for many of the crewmen killed that day.
He believes that everyone should take a moment today to reflect on what happened that day.
“I lower my flag every December,” Hartkopp said. “A short part of your day should be in silence to remember what happened. It was all by surprise, too.”