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FDR's Pearl Harbor Address

FDR's Pearl Harbor Address


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Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounding determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

Additional information about the speech, as well as videos and full mp3 files, can be found here:


FDR`s Pearl Harbor Speech

The following famous speech took place on December 8, 1941, in a full session of the American Congress and was radio broadcast to the American people and around the world.

"Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives: Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack. It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace. The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu. Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island. This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island. Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation. As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us. Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire."


Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The most memorable phrase of this speech comes in its first line. The label “infamy” foreshadows the tone of the entire speech. Consider the very different tone resulting from the following alternatives:

  • Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a tragic date — …
  • Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a pivotal day for our country — …
  • Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which we experienced sorrow…
  • Yesterday, December 7, 1941, the United States of America was… [that is, suppose no labelling phrase was used at all]

None of these alternatives are consistent with Roosevelt’s goal.

Roosevelt continues to use vivid, emotional words throughout the speech, including:

  • “suddenly and deliberately attacked”
  • “deliberately planned”
  • “deliberately sought to deceive”
  • “surprise offensive”
  • “unprovoked and dastardly”
  • “premeditated invasion”
  • “onslaught against us”
  • “this form of treachery”

These phrases continue the “infamy” theme, and characterize the Japanese actions as duplicitous and dishonorable.

What’s the lesson for you on your next speech?

Choose words deliberately which match the tone of your speech. If your goal is to ignite polarizing emotions, then choose emotionally charged words as Roosevelt has done. On the other hand, more neutral words would be more appropriate if your goal was to heal wounds.


FDR's Pearl Harbor Address - HISTORY

At 7:53 a.m. on Sunday, December 7, 1941, the first assault wave of Japanese fighter planes attacked the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, taking the Americans completely by surprise.

The first wave targeted airfields and battleships. The second wave targeted other ships and shipyard facilities. The air raid lasted until 9:45 a.m. Eight battleships were damaged, with five sunk. Three light cruisers, three destroyers and three smaller vessels were lost along with 188 aircraft. The Japanese lost 27 planes and five midget submarines which attempted to penetrate the inner harbor and launch torpedoes.

Three prime targets the U.S. Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers, Lexington, Enterprise and Saratoga , were not in the harbor and thus escaped damage.

The casualty list at Pearl Harbor included 2,335 servicemen and 68 civilians killed, and 1,178 wounded. Over a thousand crewmen aboard the USS Arizona battleship were killed after a 1,760 pound aerial bomb penetrated the forward magazine causing catastrophic explosions.

News of the "sneak attack" was broadcast to the American public via radio bulletins, with many popular Sunday afternoon entertainment programs being interrupted. The news sent a shockwave across the nation, resulting in a tremendous influx of young volunteers into the U.S. Armed Forces. The attack also united the nation behind President Franklin D. Roosevelt and effectively ended the American isolationist movement.

On Monday, December 8th, President Roosevelt appeared before Congress and made this speech asking for a declaration of war against Japan, calling the previous day ". a date which will live in infamy. "

See also: Pearl Harbor Slide Show - 40 photos

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense, that always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt - December 8, 1941

Post-note: Three days later, December 11th, Japan's allies, Germany and Italy, both declared war on the United States. The U.S. Congress responded immediately by declaring war on them. Thus the European and Southeast Asian wars had become a global conflict with the Axis Powers Japan, Germany, Italy and others, aligned against the Allied Powers America, Britain, Soviet Russia and others.

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See an Original 1941 Transcript of FDR's Pearl Harbor Speech

S ometimes it takes years to know whether a piece of the day’s breaking news will end up changing history. Other times, it’s crystal clear.

Such was the case on Dec. 8, 1941&mdashthe day after the attack on Pearl Harbor&mdashas President Franklin Roosevelt addressed the nation and asked Congress to declare war. The nation was in shock, explains Kenneth Rendell, the founder and director of the Museum of World War II in Natick, Mass., and that included the reporters and editors whose job it was to keep the public posted.

At the time, “when a newsflash actually was a newsflash,” as Rendell puts it, one of the tools they used to do that was the teletype machine, which could print out messages that had been typed at another location. And, in a newsroom somewhere, somebody received a teletype transcript of President Roosevelt’s speech. That person decided to save the artifact, which is now in the collection of Rendell’s museum.

This particular message, under the headline “Roosevelt Asks Congress to Declare State of War Exists Between United States and Japan,” is part of a bound set of about 100 sheets, each over 30 inches long.

But the importance of this artifact isn’t just about saving a piece of history, Rendell says. It’s also a reminder that things can look very different as they’re happening than they do in hindsight. Though it was no major surprise that the U.S. would eventually join World War II, many thought the first move would come in Europe. (“I&rsquom not sure all that many Americans even knew where Hawaii was,” Rendell notes.) The surprise attack in the Pacific shocked the public. The fact that someone in that newsroom thought to keep the teletype is evidence that the person was affected by the news.

&ldquoThere&rsquos always the problem that when you look at things in hindsight, you know how they turned out. On Dec. 7 and Dec. 8, nobody knew how they were going to turn out,” Rendell notes. “You&rsquoll never know the anxiety of the people of the past, because you&rsquore not facing it.”


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Eleanor Roosevelt Pearl Harbor Attack Radio Address

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Bombing of Pearl Harbor Newsreel

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As part of a commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Daniel Martinez talked extensively about the topic,…


President Roosevelt learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor at 1pm, just after finishing his lunch in the oval study at the White House. Within three hours of hearing about the attack he was dictating the first draft of his address to congress to his secretary Grace Tully. In it he would outline the attack and ask for congress to declare war on Japan. Roosevelt wrote this speech like he wrote most – almost entirely without the input of speechwriters or advisors. After Tully typed it out Roosevelt made edits which changed the entire tone of the address. For example, in the first line Roosevelt changed ‘world history’ to ‘infamy’, resulting in a much more impactful opening line. This first draft is just one of over 42,000 pages written by the President and made available digitally by the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library’s archives.

‘Yesterday, December 7, 1941— a date which will live in infamy— the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.’

In addition to a call to arms for Americans, Roosevelt’s short, influential speech can be seen as a turning point in both his presidency and the relationship between America and the world. In addition to bringing the US into World War II the speech, according to FDR Library Director Paul Sparrow, “represents…the actual moment when the United States was transformed from an isolationist nation to a global superpower and leader of the free world. Its message is of resolve and determination.”

President Roosevelt’s speech to Congress

Although many will recall President Roosevelt’s address on 8 December the First Lady Eleanor was in fact the first to speak to the nation after the shocking attack. On Sundays she hosted a short radio programme, and, in a similar vein to FDR’s ‘fireside chats,’ she spoke to citizens about the state of the nation over the wireless. Eleanor used her airtime just hours after the attack to reassure Americans, especially wives and mothers, and to resolutely show solidarity with her fellow citizens in the wake of violence:

For months now the knowledge that something of this kind might happen has been hanging over our heads. And yet it seemed impossible to believe, impossible to drop the every-day things of life and [undertake the] one thing which was important: preparation to meet an enemy, no matter where he struck. That is all over now, and there is no more uncertainty. We know what we have to face and we know that we are ready to face it.’


FDR’s First Draft of His “Day of Infamy” Speech, With His Notes

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt drafted his Dec. 8, 1941 speech to Congress without the aid of his speechwriters, dictating to secretary Grace Tully. This draft shows the quick annotations and edits that the President made on a first pass an article in the National Archives’ magazine Prologue contains pages from later drafts, as well as the final version.

The famous “date which will live in infamy” line was first drafted as “date which will live in world history.” As historian Emily S. Rosenberg writes, this substitution in the first line of the speech was telling. After a decade of isolationist sentiment, Roosevelt could not do what Woodrow Wilson did during World War I: advance a multilayered argument for American involvement, “agoniz[ing] over the violence of war,” and “advanc[ing] idealistic and lofty goals to justify participation.”

Instead, as Rosenberg argues, FDR stressed a simple, powerful narrative, tapping into past American legends. He juxtaposed the “treachery” and deception of the attack with the “righteous might” of the people who would respond, keeping the message short and simple, and asking for immediate action.

The President also edited the speech so that the assault on America was front and center, striking mention of the concurrent attack on the Philippines from the first page and, in a later draft, identifying Oahu as an “American island,” for any listeners who might not be familiar with the relationship between Hawaii (which was not yet a state) and the United States.


Information Available

As we have mentioned elsewhere on this site, it is important to look at the speech from the perspective of the time. Information was not as immediately or widely available. It was also not entirely accurate.

On Sunday evening, it was reported in Washington DC that the Japanese sent in a third wave of attack. They reported that the Philippines had not been bombed. There was so little hard information that the public was coming to their own conclusions.

The American people were confused. FDR’s Day of infamy speech had to relieve confusion and motivate Americans.

It is important to listen to the intonation in President Roosevelt’s voice during the Day of Infamy Speech. You can play the video below. As FDR continues you can begin to hear his indignation as he begins talking about Japan:

“The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.”

He outlines the deception by the Japanese Government:

“Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to the Secretary of State of form reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.”

“It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government had deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.”

FDR mentioned the damage only briefly, presumably because information was still being gathered.

“The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.”

An important part of the speech was the list of the targets during the same period of time that Pearl Harbor Was attacked.

“Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.”

The next statement in the speech was very accurate. Americans had opinions about the strength of the Japanese Navy and of the US Armed forces. Opinions mostly assumed a major naval superiority over Japan.

“Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our Nation.”

FDR knew that it is important to instill some fear in order to declare war. There must be a threat and we must act in defense.

“As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.”


Watch the video: Who is the Enemy? Fear Itself (May 2022).