There's a surprising resolution to MSNBC's effort to learn more about a photo of women fighting fires caused by the attack on Pearl Harbor: The picture wasn't taken during the bombing and the women aren't even putting out a fire in the photo. However, the real story is still pretty interesting.
Through tips and a good deal of digging, MSNBC tracked down 96-year-old Katherine Lowe, who's second from the right in the photo. The Hawaii resident is the only one of the women who's still alive, but she identified the woman at the nozzle as her best friend Elizabeth Moku. In 1941 the women were both married with children and worked at the Dole pineapple factory. Lowe was a church during the bombing, but shortly after the war started she and Moku applied for civilian jobs in a storage facility in the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. "We were rugged," says Lowe. "We carried heavy stuff, oil drums, bags, anything that needed to be stored."
The women were trained in firefighting and put out fires in the storage areas, which were a serious problem. It seems the photo was taken by the Navy to highlight women contributing to the war effort. All of the firefighters who worked during the attack were male (including three who died), but there were women serving in the military at Pearl Harbor during the bombing. The picture has been mislabeled in various publications for decades, but now thanks to Lowe we know it actually shows how civilian women pitched in throughout the war.