Witness to Infamy: Pearl Harbor Veteran M1911A1
By Chris Eger
The destroyer USS Shaw, shown to the right at the center of a tremendous explosion, was all but destroyed on the Japanese surprise attack at Pearl Harbor. The photo is an iconic and well-known image of the event. (Photo: National Archives)
A handgun that survived the maelstrom of the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941, still endures in a place of honor today.
The quiet of that Sunday morning saw two waves of Japanese carrier aircraft swarm over the strategic Hawaiian island port that sheltered the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet. With the first planes coming over the harbor at just before 8 a.m.– at least an hour before the Japanese declaration of war against the United States– by 10 a.m. it was all over and 21 ships were left sunk or damaged in their wake.
One of those ships was the USS Shaw, a destroyer that joined the Navy in 1936 and was inside a floating drydock at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard undergoing routine maintenance near the battleship USS Nevada.
According to a report filed after the attack, Shaw was hit directly by three bombs at about the same time that as many as two other bombs landed between the destroyer and