Study Guide

Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation Compare and Contrast

By President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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  • Japanese Government, "Fourteen Part Message," December 7, 1941

    By the time this memo found its way into the hands of U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull at 2:20 PM eastern time on December 7, 1941, it had become pretty clear that Japan and America's dog days of diplomacy were behind them.

    Because like…Pearl Harbor had already been under attack for over an hour by then. The U.S. had kind of already figured out that Japan was up to something malevolent.

    That ship had sailed. (Pun intended.)

    But even so, it's always good to know what the enemy is thinking while they're bombing up the joint, and this memorandum gives us quite a bit of insight into Japan's frame of mind at the time.

    The gist of it is that Japan felt there was nothing more to be gained by continuing friendly conversations with the United States (which was, again, kind of made clear by the whole attack-on-Pearl-Harbor thing). But the specifics listed here paint a very detailed picture of Japan's needs, wants, and feelings.

    Of course, by the time President Roosevelt got his mitts on the memo, he probably wasn't all that concerned with what Japan needed from its relationship with America. Probably, he was ready to throw that memo into the Oval Office fireplace and light the Duraflame.

    Part declaration of war, part Dear John letter, this memo has it all.

    The only thing it lacked was an on-time delivery.

  • Emperor Hirohito, "Accepting the Potsdam Declaration," August 14, 1945

    Also known as the "Imperial Rescript on the Termination of the War" and the "Jewel Voice Broadcast," this petite but powerful speech is probably the first time ever that a Japanese Emperor addressed the common people of his empire.

    Crazy, right? And even more crazy is that the cone of silence was broken for the express purpose of conceding victory to the Allies and ending World War II.

    And what's even more crazy than that is that, even though this is a concession speech, there is absolutely no mention of the words "surrender," "defeat," "concede," or any other terms we typically associate with addresses like this one.

    And it was delivered in an uncommon Japanese dialect across an iffy broadcast signal, a few days after General Anami had pretty much vowed that Japan would never surrender; this further added to the confusion around the whole thing.

    Basically, this entire speech and everything related to its delivery was kind of a cluster. It was kind of the opposite of FDR's own Pacific War kick-off speech, which was uber-clear and served to unify the country.

    But this speech did end that Pacific War, it turned the traditional role of the Emperor on its head, and it totally changed the way Japan went about its business.

    So for all those reasons and more, this brief little homily is definitely worth a read.

  • General Douglas MacArthur, "Today the Guns are Silent," September 2, 1945

    You know you're kind of a big deal when one of your job duties is to literally oversee the surrender of Japan and, basically, the end of World War II.

    And General Douglas MacArthur was kind of a big deal.

    This speech was tuned into radios all over America, delivered while the ink on Japan's surrender paperwork was still drying. In it, MacArthur talks about how awesome it is that the war is over and pontificates about the future of Japan and the world as a whole.

    It's big, it's bold, it's brief, and it's a nice little window into the brain of one of the United States' most celebrated military servicemen.

    Sounds like FDR knew what he was doing when he picked this guy to run the Japanese Reformation Show.

  • Winston Churchill, "Address to Joint Session of U.S. Congress," December 26, 1941

    There ain't no party like a west coast party, but British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was anxious to remind his American BFFs that there were quite a few activities taking place across from the U.S.'s east coast as well.

    Big activities, like Hitler and Nazis and stuff.

    And while Churchill was super bummed that Japan decided to go all Angry Attack Mode on Pearl Harbor and the rest of the Pacific islands (including some British ones), he was kind of stoked that the U.S. would finally be officially participating in World War II.

    For one, yay American money and military might?

    For two, now Winston and bestie FDR could get more hang-out time while chatting about the state of affairs in their bestie countries.

    Read all about it here, and get a nice dose of the British Bulldog's famous oratorical skill (definitely a far cry from FDR's twenty-six terse sentences in the Pearl Harbor Address!) while taking it all in.

  • Harold Ickes, "What Is an American?," May 18, 1941

    In the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States was in the middle of quite the identity crisis.

    On the one hand, America had always prided itself on keeping its fingers as far out of other countries' pies as possible, and it felt like it should keep on keepin' on with its whole noninterventionist thing.

    On the other, it was becoming increasingly clear that there were some spectacularly bad dudes out there (looking at you, Hitler and Mussolini), and some folks were starting to feel like the U.S. ought to step in and do something about it, especially since some of America's besties were really starting to feel the heat over there in Europe.

    Harold Ickes, FDR's Secretary of the Interior, let his own feelings on the situation be known with this lovely little lecture, which he delivered in New York City's Central Park.

    Secretary Ickes (and, for that matter, President Roosevelt) probably had absolutely no idea just how much support his ideas would get in just a few short months.

  • J. Robert Oppenheimer, "Speech to the Association of Los Alamos Scientists," November 2, 1945

    We're thinking of something that is terrifying, powerful, incredible, and awe-inspiring, all at the same time. It was a game-changer in a seriously mind-blowing way, and debates about the ethics and morality of its use have gone on for several decades and will likely continue for at least several more. It's big, it's bad, and it was born in the high desert of New Mexico.

    Can you guess what it is?

    If you guessed "atomic weapons," you'd be right.

    If you guessed "World Shovel Race Championship," you'd be wrong.

    Anyway, here's a chance to hear from the lead dude responsible for the H-bomb's creation, just a few short months after the United States dropped Little Boy and Fat Man on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and gave a whole new meaning to the concept of leveling a city.

    FDR strongly approved of and encouraged Oppenheimer's work, and it was President Truman who authorized using said work, but "Oppie" (as he was known to friends) is often the man considered responsible for the devastation his weaponry brought to Japan.

    This speech is part explanation and part pontification, and it shows a very human side to the guy many regard as World War II's mad scientist extraordinaire.

    It also provides a nice before-and-after contrast with FDR's Pearl Harbor speech. In FDR's speech, it's all, "Now we're mad and we're gonna fight back." And in this speech, it's all, "We got mad, we fought back, and now we need to reflect on our actions and let them guide our future."

    Deep stuff…and totally worth a read.

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