Unflinching Portraits of Pearl Harbor Survivors
Seventy years after the day that lives on in infamy, the soldiers stationed at Pearl Harbor recall their experiences
- By Megan Gambino
- Photo research by Brendan McCabe
- Smithsonian.com, December 05, 2011
(Marco Garcia / Wonderful Machine)
Michael “Mickey” Ganitch (above) was in his first of 23 years of active duty when he fought to defend the USS Pennsylvania at Pearl Harbor. The sailor, a farm boy from Ohio and member of the ship’s football team, was supposed to play the crew of the USS Arizona that afternoon. So it was in his football uniform that he manned the ship’s crow nest.
In the second wave of the Japanese air raid, a 500-pound bomb hit the USS Pennsylvania just 45 yards from Ganitch, significantly damaging the ship and killing about two dozen men. Ganitch escaped injury, even though machine gun bullets clipped the mast he climbed to get to his post.
While telling Garcia his story, Ganitch sprung into a three-point stance. “It was so natural, even though he was an 80-something year old man,” says Garcia. “I pulled back and snapped it. But it was one of those unexpected moments that I just couldn’t catch.”