"A Date Which Will Live in Infamy”: FDR Asks for a Declaration of War
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 not yet 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.
Since that fateful day of 7 December 1941, America and its Allies in the Pacific experienced defeat across almost every front at a shocking speed. The defensive outposts in the Pacific crumbled before the Japanese juggernaut. From the White House to the Navy and Army war planners, a haunting question arose … how and when will we be able strike back? History would later record that the three fateful months, beginning in April and ending in June of 1942, would see the tide of war change in the favor of the United States and its beleaguered allies.
The total number of military personnel killed was 2,335, including 2,008 Navy personnel, 109 Marines, and 218 Army. Added to this were 68 civilians, making the total 2403 people dead. 1,177 were from the USS Arizona. The number of wounded came to 1,143, with 710 Navy, 69 Marines, and 364 Army, as well as 103 civilians. Total Japanese personnel losses were 55 men.
It has been 79 years since this day, but we do not forget. The Japanese had hoped that by attacking Pearl Harbor that this would prevent us from increasing our influence in the Pacific. They thought wrong and in fact this led to the escalation of WWII. The day after the attack the United States declared war on Japan. Shortly after that Germany declared war on the United States.
It is amazing when you look at the history books and find that the last 79 years has brought many changes around the world. In 1941 I highly doubt anyone thought the day would come that we would be such close allies with Japan in 2020. It was Japan that supplied our military during the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Since the 1960’s our trade relations with Japan has grown to include their cars, their electronics and now Japan is the world’s second economic power.
We now consider Japan to be one of our closest allies and partners. Japan has proven to be one of the most pro-American nations in the world. In recent years, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe has enjoyed good relations with U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, with several friendly meetings in the United States and Japan, and other international conferences. In May 2019, President Trump became the first foreign leader to meet the new Emperor Naruhito.
On Pearl Harbor Day, the American flag should be flown at half-staff until sunset to honor those who died as a result of the attack on U.S. military forces in Hawaii. Pearl Harbor Day is not a federal holiday – government offices, schools, and businesses do not close. Some organizations may hold special events in memory of those killed or injured at Pearl Harbor.
John A. Collier Sr.
VFW Post 4534
Sr. Vice Commander
House Committee Chairman