Study Guide

Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation Quotes

By President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

  • Warfare

    […] Yesterday, December 7th, 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 (1).

    Japan might have thought it had a good business plan with this whole "attack America" idea, but they couldn't have predicted that the U.S. would eventually level several of their cities with ginormously powerful atomic weapons. Infamy indeed.

    The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu. (7-9)

    Before this attack, the U.S. had largely tried to steer clear of the whole World War II scene. They just didn't want to get involved; it wasn't their fight. But that all changed when Japan went all Terminator on American land and made it impossible for the United States to stay out of the fray.

    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. And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island. (10-15)

    So Pearl Harbor wasn't the only target on Japan's military itinerary on that infamous weekend in December. Their troops wreaked havoc all over the Pacific. Not mentioned here: attacks on Thailand and Shanghai. It took less than 48 hours for the U.S., Britain, and China to declare war on Japan.

    As Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. (19)

    That's right, Japan: Commander-in-Chief Roosevelt isn't messing around here. The U.S. isn't going to take a few measures, or a measure here and there. Nope, it's all measures on deck to deal with this underhanded shadery. Teaser: A-bombs.

    I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire. (26)

    This is where President Roosevelt officially asks Congress to declare war on Japan, and his wish is granted. Nobody puts Baby in a corner…or unexpectedly attacks an American military installation. Not on FDR's watch.

  • Betrayal

    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. (2)

    What the what, Japan—you asked us to talk peace, and now you come in here and bomb our military installation? How's that fair and friendly?

    Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack. (3-4)

    No, literally: one hour later. And again, literally: no mention of war, attacks, threats, et cetera. That memo went over like a lead balloon with Secretary of State Cordell Hull.

    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. (5-6)

    Deliberate deception? Premeditated hardcore bomb attacks? We don't remember either of those making it onto the Top Ten Ways to Make and Keep Friends list…

    Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. (16-17)

    The facts may speak for themselves, but FDR has plenty to say about them, too. No mistaking it: he was one angry POTUS.

    I believe that 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 it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us. (22)

    Once bitten, twice shy. Fool us once, shame on you; fool us twice, shame on us. And any other colloquialisms we can think of to basically say that we'll never let you do us this way again, Japan. Consider yourself untrusted.

  • Indignation

    […] Yesterday, December 7th, 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. (1)

    That's right: suddenly and deliberately. No warning, no "you guys better shape up or else," nothing. Just a sudden and deliberate attack. We're all about commemorative dates here in the U.S., but we'd prefer it if "dates that live in infamy" didn't happen because we got sucker-punched.

    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. (5-6)

    True story: Japanese Ambassador Kichisaburō Nomura was *supposed* to give the infamous memo to Secretary Hull at 1:00 Eastern time, which would have coincided exactly with the beginning of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but he said he was delayed an hour because he was trying to decode said memo.

    The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation. (17-18)

    In other words, we got your number, Japan. We know how you roll. And guess what? We don't like it.

    But always will our whole nation 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. (20-21)

    Ever heard the expression "don't poke the bear?" In this situation, America was a great big grizzly, and Japan? Japan poked it. And FDR was not amused.

    I believe that 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 it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us. (22)

    Revenge is a dish best served cold…but it's also pretty effective when it's served up nice and hot in atomic bomb format. That definitely covers the whole "defending ourselves to the uttermost" thing, we think.

  • American Exceptionalism and Patriotism

    The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation. (18)

    Americans get it: someone (looking at you, Japan) set out to destroy them. And someone else (that would be America) most definitely isn't going to let that happen.

    As Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us. (19-20)

    FDR, as United States Big Dog #1, was the only guy with the authority to ask Congress to declare war. But even though this action was undertaken by just one man, the entire nation was going to hold onto its feelings of enmity for a long, long time.

    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. (21)

    The U.S. was totally in it to win it: anger? Check. Military might? Check. Solid allies? Check. The perseverance to see this thing through until its triumphant end? Check check double-check.

    Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger. (23-24)

    Property rights are a big deal in the U.S. They're a fundamental aspect of American life. And Americans don't take kindly to people messing with their property. This is true on the individual level…and it's also true on the national level. As Japan and its Axis buddies would soon find out.

    With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God. (25)

    Why is triumph inevitable? Because America is the greatest nation in the world, with the greatest military, and the greatest people, and we'll even have God on our side. Can't beat those odds, says FDR.