FDR asks war against Japan

December 08 1941
share with facebook
share with twitter

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 1941 (UP) -- President Roosevelt today in person asked Congress to declare that "a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire" as a result of Japan's "unprovoked and dastardly attack."

Members of Congress stood, waved and cheered wildly as the President declared, "We will win," and cheered again at the close of the speech.

The President made his request to a joint session of Congress, giving it a brief but detailed account of Japan's attack on American territory yesterday -- a date which he said "will live in infamy."

He predicted that the American people "in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory."

The President did not mention Germany and Italy -- Japan's Axis partners in Europe.

The text of President Roosevelt's war message to Congress said:

"To the Congress of the United States:

"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 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 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 recorded 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 of America have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications of 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 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 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."

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT

THE WHITE HOUSE

DEC. 8, 1941

Congressional leaders had awaited the President's message to decide whether to formulate a declaration of war only against Japan, or against Germany and Italy as well.

The President apparently was awaiting further information as to what Germany and Italy will do.

The President spoke to a tense, hushed joint session of both houses less that two hours after he had announced, through his secretary, 3,000 American casualties in the Japanese assault on the Island of Oahu in the Hawaiian group. Of these casualties, 1,500 were estimated to have been killed.

Mr. Roosevelt delivered his fateful message to the second joint session of Congress to assemble during the 20th Century in the House chamber to hear a president demand full-fledged war against this nation's enemies.

In the Senate, Chairman Tom Connally (D., Tex.) of the Foreign Relations Committee, had prepared a joint resolution for introduction, formally declaring the war which Japan has "thrust upon us."

The text of the proposed Connally resolution:

"Declaring that a state of war exists between the imperial Japanese government and the Government and the people of the United States and making provision to prosecute the same:

"Whereas the imperial Japanese government has committed unprovoked acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America: Therefore, be it

"Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that the state of war between the United States and the imperial Japanese government which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the imperial Japanese government; and to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States."

The president was particularly gratified this morning over the mounting reaction of the country expressed to the White House in hundreds of telegrams and telephone calls.

Secretary Stephen Early told a press conference that the tremendous volume of messages to the President "all express horror at this attack and pledge full loyalty to the President and the government."

The messages came from governors, mayors, religious leaders, heads of civic movements, newspaper editors and radio broadcasters. Many offered their personal services, including a Washington taxi cab driver named Smith, who telephoned the White House late last night saying he had just finished paying for his cab but that he offered it to the Government and offered further to drive free of charge any government official needing transportation.

Alf Landon, former governor of Kansan and Republican presidential candidate, wired the White House:

"The Japanese attack leaves no choice. Nothing must be permitted to interfere with our victory over a foreign foe."

Even as the American armed forces in the mid-Pacific and the Near East defended this country with their lives and blood against the Japanese blitzkrieg, the war and navy departments were assembling data for the first casualty lists.

There already were scattered reports throughout the country that relatives of dead or missing men had received private notification of the sacrifice.

Congress, meantime, moved on her fronts to speed every facility for the successful prosecution of the war. The House Military Affairs Committee scheduled a meeting for tomorrow to repeal legislation restricting the use of selectees and National Guardsmen to the Western Hemisphere and United States possessions.

The action would remove any doubt as to the authority of the President to do away with that prohibition. There had been some belief that he would dispense with it during the actual war.

Senator Claude Pepper (D., Fla.), told reporters this morning that the 3,000 casualties reflected the "vile character" of the Japanese attacks and urged immediate declaration of war on all Axis powers.

"We don't understand how it happened and don't want to pass judgment until the details are in," he said. "It all shows however the insidious advantage for a nation advancing under a flag of truce -- then treacherously attacking.

"It shows the vile character of the whole Axis camp and leads one to conclude that we should declare war today on the whole Axis, and with God's help, obtain righteous victory."

Symbolic of the unity which had swept a determined nation overnight was the comment of Representative William G. Stratton (R. Ill.), who hitherto has opposed President Roosevelt's foreign policy.

"There can be no question as to the stand that will be taken by every true American," he said. "This treacherous attack on the United States by Japan will be met and avenged by a united and aroused people. We will not be satisfied merely with victory -- Japan must be destroyed as a military power."

Mr. Roosevelt met first with his cabinet at 8:30 p. m. last night, then he and his cabinet received Republican and Democratic congressional leaders and chairman and senior members of the committees charged with responsibility for foreign relations.

Mr. Roosevelt told them he was not sure at the moment what he would propose -- that it would depend on developments and, specifically, whether Germany and Italy find themselves committed by the tripartite Axis agreement with Japan to declare war on the United States. He was awaiting information on an unconfirmed report that some of the planes that blasted Hawaii bore German markings.

The President already had ordered our armed forces to strike back and the war was on -- declared or not.

Police shooed crowds away from the immediate vicinity of the White House. But, in Lafayette Park, just across Pennsylvania Avenue, some hundreds gathered and they sang "America" and "God Bless America" as the conferees streamed out of the mansion.

Fitting neatly into the spectacular pattern of Sunday's events was Japan's final diplomatic move here, a request for an appointment with Secretary of State Cordell Hull. The hour was fixed at 1 p.m., just 25 minutes before the bombers zoomed low over Pearl Harbor. Ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura and Special Envoy Saburo Kurusu actually reached the department more than an hour later and some 40 minutes after the bombs fell on Hawaii.

The State Department immediately made public the American statement of basic principles, the Japanese reply and Mr. Roosevelt's Saturday peace proposal directed to Emperor Hirohito. There was speculation here whether the President's message ever reached the Emperor at all.

Except among the White House conferees who considered the legislative technicalities, practically every other utterance and development in this capital last night and during the early hours of today recognized that a war is on -- that we are in it, with great loss of life and tremendous damage to our naval and air forces already inflicted.

Attorney General Francis Biddle came out of the White House remarking that whether we declared war now or did not was merely "an academic question."

Those conferees were solemn men as they emerged into the night. White House police guards surrounded the mansion. It was no pocket pistol guard either, but big brawny blue coats who had rifles and Thompson sub-machine guns in the crooks of their arms.

Street lights dimmed at 12:48 a. m. today in a semi blackout and the District of Columbia officials called on all citizens to use a minimum of night lights.

In such an environment there could be few light hearts. But the cabinet members and congressional leaders were not spiritless. They told of a President who looked fresh and confident and full of certainty that there could be no other outcome but an American victory in the Pacific. But they said, too, that this would be no two-week engagement nor mere trials heat test of our men and guns.

Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories
Archive Photos
Vintage Hollywood
Vintage Hollywood