Unfortunately for most of them, that one “moment” never comes for them.
On Monday, December 1st, 1941 LIFE reporter Richard Wilcox and LIFE photographer Bob Landry reached Pearl Harbor aboard USS Henderson AP-1. The transport moored inside Pearl Harbor at 0836. They had just spent the last 9 days aboard the old transport from San Diego, CA.
After disembarking the Henderson, Richard and Bob settled in somewhere on the Island and Richard finished writing his article detailing their trip across the Pacific. He then gathered the few photos that Landry took of the trip and promptly airmailed his article and the photos back to LIFE headquarters in California to be published in one of the upcoming editions of LIFE magazine.
Richard and Bob had no idea that the one “moment” for them both was staring them right in the face! They were at the “right place”. They just needed to wait a few days for the “right time”.
Richard’s article was published in the December 22, 1941 edition of LIFE. The article is titled “ Transport to Hawaii”.
The next few days they spent their time on the Naval base planning their next assignment. Bob Landry took an opportunity to go aboard USS Lexington on December 4th to take a few photos of some members of the crew on Lexington’s flight deck. By this time, their next assignment was finalized and they both reported aboard USS Portland late in the evening of December 4th.
Their assignment was to document a taskforce’s trip to the Midway Islands. Early on December 5th, that taskforce sailed out of Pearl Harbor with Richard and Bob riding along. Richard wrote another article about this trip and Bob snapped over 200 photos of the experience.
Richard and Bob missed an opportunity of a lifetime to document that one “moment” by just two days!
Instead of writing an article about a mostly uneventful trip to Midway, Richard could have written one about what he witnessed during the attack. Instead of taking over 200 photos of a few ships at sea, Bob could have taken over 200 photos of the attack. Unfortunately for both of them, it was not meant to be. They did eventually arrive back in Pearl Harbor on December 12th but by that time it was no longer a breaking story. Bob did take a few photos as they arrived back at Pearl but the smoke was already gone.