POLITICS

Pearl Harbor Women Firefighter Photo Mystery Solved

12/13/2011 06:29 pm ET

A photo of female firefighters believed to have been taken during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has been shown to have been mislabeled.

In his effort to learn more about its origins, MSNBC investigative reporter Bill Dedman found that the photo, which was supposed to have been taken on Dec. 7, 1941, was actually shot during a training exercise.

LIFE magazine's original caption for the photo indicated that the women pictured were in the process of fighting a fire that resulted from the Japanese attack:

Far from being solely passive witnesses to -- or victims of -- the fighting in World War II, women were on the front lines from day one. Above: Fighting to contain the blaze during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

But when Dedman tracked down one of the women in the photo, 96-year-old Katherine Lowe, she said the snapshot could not have been taken on December 7, 1941, because she was in church at the time of the attack.

Lowe, who is second from the right in the photograph, said it was taken at the Pearl Harbor Navel shipyard during a training exercise.

So while the photo does depict female firefighters, it was not taken on Dec. 7 as the LIFE caption indicated.

"The picture has been mislabeled in various publications for decades," Jezebel notes, but now thanks to Lowe we know it actually shows how civilian women pitched in throughout the war."

Agreeing that the discovery in no way diminishes the importance of the photo, one Reddit commenter said the best part about the picture was the journey to unravel its mystery:

"They had a photo of some women, and they tracked them down and got the real story. That's the fun part for me - who cares what the picture is of, but who are the women and what happened to them?"

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