Study Guide

Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation

By President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation Introduction

One of the things we love more than anything else in the entire universe is the Olympics. Between awe-inspiring opening ceremonies; super-cool events we didn't even know were sports; and the loves, hugs, and smiles being shared by athletes all around the world; we simply can't get enough.

Summer or winter, when the Olympics start, consider us glued to our TV for the duration. We wish it happened every year.

But if there was ever anything that was, essentially, the complete opposite of the Olympics, it was the 1930s–'40s here on Planet Earth.

Instead of opening ceremonies, we had angry speeches and declarations of war. (Though maybe a declaration of war counts as an opening ceremony of sorts…but not really the kind that leaves us all warm and fuzzy inside.)

Instead of skeet shooting and snowboarding, we had basic training and air raid drills. Instead of international cooperation and camaraderie, we had cliques and alliances and squabbles and death and destruction and lots of hurt feelings.

And for the United States, it was Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii that dragged it into this whole commotion.

The "Infamy Speech," delivered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt the day after that sneak attack, pretty much sums up how America as a whole was feeling about what had gone down the day before: angry, betrayed, still a little shocked, and totally ready to fight back.

This speech set off a chain of events that completely changed the World War II game…and ended up completely changing Japan, the United States, and the entire world order in the process.

It's no Beijing 2008 Opening Ceremony, but we still say this speech launched some fireworks of its own.

Which was good, because the Olympics themselves were canceled for the duration of the war, not resuming until the London games in 1948.

War: what is it good for?

Definitely not the Olympics.

  

What is Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation About and Why Should I Care?

Japan and the United States: like two peas in a pod?

Uh, no, not really. Maybe more like two very different vegetables inhabiting the same salad, each bringing their own unique je ne sais quoi to the dish.

Japan and the United States: like cucumbers and jalapenos? Those veggies work pretty well together.

And so do Japan and the US of A—ever since the end of World War II.

Sure, there have been steps forward here, and steps backward there, but overall, those cucumbers and jalapenos have done a bang-up job of navigating the world as friends despite their differences.

But…how?

How did these two international VIPs get past their dissimilarities and get to the point where they could be in a salad together?

Well, strangely enough, it all started with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Japan and the U.S. had had a relationship before December 7, 1941. It just wasn't a very good one. Not that they hated each other or anything, but they had some serious communication issues and, really, they were just coming from different places (literally and figuratively) every time they tried to have a serious conversation.

But Pearl Harbor changed all that. And not in a good way at first, as one might imagine.

But as the war dragged on, and Japanese and American troops went at each other's throats, and bombs were dropped and harsh words were said, the seeds for future cooperation were being planted.

And when that war ended and the U.S. went from Angry Bomb Dropper to Benevolent Occupier, those seeds eventually blossomed into beautiful flowers of friendship.

But we can't understand how this relationship came to be where it is today, without looking at where it's been. And we can't understand where it's been without taking a good, long look at the attack on Pearl Harbor and the rest of the Pacific War.

Luckily, when it comes to understanding complex and complicated topics that have evolved over the last, like, hundred-plus years, Shmoop is here to save the day. This guide will provide you with everything you've ever wanted to know (and more, of course) about the relationship between Japan and the United States…and how a guy we call FDR set the wheels in motion for the two to hate each other, love each other, and make beautiful salads together.

Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation Resources

Websites

World War II Database
Ever wish there was an online repository of everything you ever wanted to know about World War II? Well…there is. And it's called the World War II Database. Timelines, profiles, book lists, photos: it's all here, and it's definitely a good time.

U.S. Army Center of Military History
Want to know more about those battles and campaigns during the Pacific War? Dying to get more info on General MacArthur, Admiral Nimitz, and the rest of the gang? Better question: who doesn't? This website gives every aspect of World War II the royal treatment—and there's plenty of other really stuff on there, too.

FDR Presidential Library and Museum
Never have we ever…seen such a complete collection of everything FDR. Wanna know more about his childhood? Done. Itching to delve deeper into the New Deal? Got it covered. Thinking the name Eleanor Roosevelt rings a bell and want to know why? That's here, too. Oh, and it's also got information on the actual museum and library, which is located in FDR's hometown of Hyde Park, New York.

Movie-or-TV-Productions

Tora! Tora! Tora!
An oldie but a goodie, this 1970 classic is all about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Throw this one into the mix at your next Oscar Winners Movie Binge Party.

Bridge on the River Kwai
Japanese soldiers want their British POWs to build a bridge for them, and high jinks ensue. It's over sixty years old, but this is a great Pacific War flick, and it's got classic A-listers like Alec Guinness and William Holden in it to boot.

Pearl Harbor
Warning: it's a love story. With some war stuff going on in the background. But we'd be remiss if we didn't mention it, and we think it's worth a watch. Plus, Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale, and Josh Hartnett, and what's not to love about that cast?

50 Years Later…
Tom Brokaw, George Bush, Sr., and early-'90s cinematography dominate this eight-and-a-half minute video commemorating the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It's touching as all get out (POTUS Bush even sheds a couple tears), so be sure this one gets the full 8:22 of undivided attention.

Articles-and-Interviews

Straight from the Source
The Friends of the National WWII Memorial group have put together a handful of video interviews with actual WWII veterans at the actual WWII Memorial. They're pretty intense, and totally awesome. Check them all out on the group's website.

A Man on a Mission
Learn all about Mishi Sharma, a SoCal dude who is dedicating his life to interviewing as many WWII veterans as he can. It's a big undertaking, and those veterans aren't getting any younger. Check out photos and videos, and read all about why (and how) Sharma does what he does.

Remembrances and Reconciliation
Seventy-five years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met on Oahu, toured the Pearl Harbor Memorial, and made some brief comments about repentance, condolences, and how to make sure nothing like that attack happens again between these two nations.

Video

A Speech That Will Live in Infamy
Watch FDR deliver his infamous Infamy Speech in beautifully low-def black-and-white. The cinematography might not be a stunner, but the content and the emotion totally are.

He Was There, Guys
Get goosebumps as USS Arizona survivor Donald Stratton takes us through his experience on his ship during the Pearl Harbor attack.

Camden County Hearts Its Veterans
37-plus minutes of video footage of local Pacific War veterans in folding chairs and talking about their experiences on a sunny day in the park? With photos and commentary? Bring it on; we love this stuff. Nice work capturing those stories, Rutgers and Camden County.

Audio

"Remember Pearl Harbor," the 1942 chart-topping version
It's patriotic! It's rousing! It's a great way to get those troops pumped up to go to war with Japan! Don Reid and Sammy Kaye unleashed this dynamo onto the American people just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

And it Wasn't Even Halftime
How did peeps listening to the New York Giants-Brooklyn Dodgers football game on the radio learn that Pearl Harbor had been attacked? Find out by listening to this snippet of game coverage.

Setting the Scene
Descriptive commentary, a play-by-play of who's doing what, and a sense of solemnity precede this audio recording of FDR's address to Congress on December 8th, 1941.

Images

Engulfed in Flames
This picture was taken as Pearl Harbor was being bombed. We like the composition with the palm frond at the top and the calm water in the foreground, but man, does that explosion look nasty.

Bird's Eye View
Here's an aerial shot of American military planes and hangars shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack. Check out the size of those smoke billows compared to the itty bitty buildings still standing.

Atomic Weaponry Comes to Japan
Ever wondered what it looks like when an atomic bomb goes off? Peep this pic of the atomic cloud as Little Boy decimates the city of Hiroshima.

Little Boy's Aftermath
Ever wondered what it looks like after an atomic bomb goes off? Here's a hint: it looks like complete and utter destruction.

They Look Like They Mean Business
Admiral Chester Nimitz and General Douglas MacArthur stride purposely across the deck of the USS Missouri on their way to oversee the surrender of Japan. We can almost hear "Eye of the Tiger" in the background.

This Isn't Posed at All
Emperor Hirohito of Japan and U.S. General Douglas Macarthur totally ham it up in one of the most iconic photos from World War II. Japan tried to ban this picture because of how itty-bitty it made Hirohito look, but just like embarrassing Facebook pics, it never really disappeared… and ended up showing up everywhere.

That's "Nimitz" with a "Z"
Admiral Nimitz signs Japan's surrender docs while General MacArthur looks on.