During a lazy Sunday around Christmastime in 1941, as Americans were listening to their musical programs, comedy routines, and New York Giants versus the Brooklyn Dodgers in N.F.L. football, radio broadcasts were interrupted to announce that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had confirmed a “sneak attack” by the Japanese on American servicemen stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

The following day, Roosevelt would deliver one of the all-time best remembered speeches of any major leader in the 20th century.


The American isolationist movement had prompted Roosevelt to keep the country out of involvement in the warfare of Europe, until two waves of Japanese bombers struck the Hawaiian Naval base in a fatal effort that took the lives of 2,335 servicemen and more than 60 civilians.

A ‘date that will live in infamy’

With no recourse but to harness the national outrage and declare war on Japan, Roosevelt’s speech was short and poignant. “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,” said the president.

“Hostilities exist,” he went on. “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.”

The Sleeping Giant

The impact on history of Japan’s attack on the U.S. cannot be underrated. It awoke a sleeping giant, according to historians, and enrollment to the U.S. Army hit a fever pitch as young women and laborers back home delivered the goods and ensured matériel made it to the hands of soldiers being deployed. American manufacturers roared into production efforts and set aside domestic market goals to supply the troops with firepower while all aimed for that elusive “more perfect union.”

For further reading, GateHouse has produced a commemorative 75th anniversary piece on Pearl Harbor that details the sound and fury of the war, and historical lessons of World War II that still run through the DNA of America in an age partisan political influence.

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GateHouse Media

GateHouse Media