Thursday, December 7

Pearl Harbor Address

On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, the Japanese military conducted a surprise attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, resulting in the loss of more than two thousand American lives and the destruction of the bulk of the Pacific fleet. The next day, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed Congress and the nation in a broadcast heard worldwide. He branded December 7 “a date which will live in infamy.” The speech was a call for a declaration of war against Japan--as well as its Axis allies in Europe. Later that afternoon, Congress passed the resolution:

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 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 Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague 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 had 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 unbounded 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 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.


Lawrence Underwood said...

If only we had national leaders with this sort of resolve today.

'. . .defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.'

Unknown said...

I believe Dr. Grant you have your history a little off. The December 8th resolution was only to declare war on Japan. On December 10 Hitler declared war on the US supposedly because of the obligations of the Tri-Partite Pact.

Amy said...

...and isn't this Oldest-Grandkid-Turns-Two Day?!

gileskirk said...

Tom and Bev: It was FDR's intention to declare war on all the Axis powers, as his correspondence with Churchill reveals. Congress only acted on the declaration against Japan on the 8th. They then took up the issue of Germany and the other Axis powers on the 10th, 11th, and 12th.

Mark Dolan said...

A vivid memory from my childhood is meeting Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese leader of the first attack wave, who immortalized the words, “Tora, Tora, Tora.” More profound than that was the moment I saw my father shake his hand. Dad was at Pearl Harbor on the repair ship Vestal, which was tied up to the Arizona at the time of the attack. What an impression it made on me to personally witness these two former enemies meet as brothers, for after the war each man came to know true peace and forgiveness in their Savior Jesus Christ. The amazing power of the gospel!

Unknown said...

Dr. G -- are you saying that there was a resolution before the Congress on December 8th to declare war on Germany?

I had never heard of that before. My understanding from all the histories that I have read is that the US only declared war on Germany after Hitler had made a declaration of war on the US (Which was on December 10).

Since Japan was the agressor Hitler really didn't have an obligation under the Tri-Partite Pact to declare war on the US. His declaration of war on the US is considered one of his "blunders" because it brought the US into the European war. It has been suggested that US involvement in Europe would have been avoided if Hitler had not declared war on the US.

gileskirk said...

Tom and Bev: What FDR was hoping was that his Democratic majority would bring a declaration against all the Axis Powers. They did not, disappointing him. So, you're right about the sequence of events in Congress. But, what I was referring to in my piece was what FDR had intended as the outcome of his speech. He was looking for a way to justify more direct US aid of the Brittish war efforts. FDR had a hunch that Pearl Harbor might provide the opportunity. As it turned out, he still needed the help of Hitler's "blunder."

Lawrence Underwood said...

I did not know that Fuchida became a Christian. What a wonderful majestic God we serve. That must have been a peculiar blessing for your father, Mark.

Mark Dolan said...

Laurence: Gordon W. Prange's book, God's Samurai: Lead Pilot at Pearl Harbor, is a very helpful documentation of his life and work. Among other activities, Fuchida had a successful Christian ministry in the US after the war.