“A Date Which Will Live in Infamy”: FDR Asks for a Declaration of War
Saturday, December 08, 2012
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on
December 7, 1941, stunned virtually everyone in the United States
military. Japan’s carrier-launched bombers found Pearl Harbor totally
unprepared. President Franklin Roosevelt quickly addressed Congress to
ask for a declaration of war as illustrated in this audio excerpt.
Although he never mentioned Europe or the fact that Germany had by then
declared war on the United States, the Pearl Harbor attack allowed him
to begin the larger intervention in the European war he had long wanted. President Franklin D. Roosevelt:
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 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.
While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing
diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed
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.
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 as 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 Japanese forces attacked Wake Island. And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.
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
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. . .